A trip to a spa should be a relaxing, rejuvenating experience, but if you're unsure of spa etiquette, it can be anything but. This guide will teach you how to make reservations, how to tip, what to wear, and much more. But bear in mind, each spa is unique, and you should always call ahead if you are unsure of anything. Also remember there are no "rules" when you go to a spa. Instead use these suggestions as a rough guideline to get the most out of your spa experience.
Resorts and hotels let you sample a little bit of everything-from golf to tennis to sightseeing to horse back riding to water sports to spa treatments. But sometimes these activities don't mix well, and so it helps to know some of the etiquette, even on vacation. The suggestions below will help you get the most out of your time at a resort or hotel spa.
Advance booking As resort and hotel spas often fill up fast, book as far in advance as possible. Some resort/hotel spas can accommodate you if you reserve treatments at check-in; others suggest booking prior to your arrival. Want to avoid the crowds? Try reserving a treatment during off-peak hours or during the week. If you do, you may also receive a discount.
Medical conditions If you have any type of medical condition, be sure to mention it when you book an appointment. Certain treatments may not be advisable for you. Also, tell the technician if you're wearing contact lenses before you have a facial.
Mixing activities and spa-going On the day of treatment, try to stay out of the sun and avoid alcoholic beverages. Also don't schedule a physically demanding endeavor after a spa appointment. When in doubt, contact the spa to ask whether it is advisable to engage in a particular activity prior to your appointment.
Valuables In order to avoid all worries and stress, leave all jewelry and valuables in the hotel or resort's safe and don't bring them with you to the spa.
Punctuality Ideally arrive 15-30 minutes early so you can enjoy an unhurried transition into the spa. If you are late, your treatment time will be shortened. After a treatment, it's customary to vacate the room within five or ten minutes, though you are welcome to spend additional time unwinding in the spa's relaxation or waiting rooms.
Exploring the facility Most resort and hotel spas have more amenities than the average day spa. On arrival at the spa, check out the activity schedule, so you won't miss anything that might be of interest, and ask for a tour prior to your treatment. The tour will acquaint you with your surroundings and introduce you to the spa facilities, such as saunas, steam rooms, and relaxation rooms. Generally, their use is complimentary if you are having a treatment, though there may be a charge at other times.
Therapists If you prefer either a male or female therapist, but the spa fails to ask, don't hesitate to let your choice be known. Also, if you have enjoyed the services of a particular therapist on a prior visit, feel free to request that person.
Nudity The idea of going au naturel is very scary to some people, but don't let that stop you from enjoying the spa. If modesty is an issue, call the spa in advance to discuss its policies and suggestions. Some treatments can be done while you're fully clothed, but others (such as hydrotherapy) are best received in the nude. Facilities such as the sauna and the whirlpool may be enjoyed either in a bathing suit or with no clothing at all.
Attire In addition to a swimsuit, bring attire for other activities you plan to enjoy: light, comfortable attire for fitness classes, gear and boots for hiking, and sneakers for exercise class along with another pair of comfortable shoes. At some spas, clothing and equipment (such as boots) are available for purchase.
Cancellation Unexpected things do happen, and sometimes it's impossible to keep an appointment. If you must cancel, give the spa as much advance notice as possible. Be sure to ask if your money will be refunded; cancellation policies vary widely.
Communicating your preferences Be sure to speak up. All aspects of treatment can be modified to your taste: amount of light, kind (or absence) of music, room temperature, and whether or not you choose to have a conversation or enjoy the treatment in silence. If you want the therapist to give you a deep massage, or be gentler, let him or her know. Also, feel free to ask questions. Your therapist will enjoy knowing your thoughts and clarifying any issues you may have. If any part of your experience is unsatisfactory, first tell the therapist. If the response isn't helpful, speak to a manager or the owner of the spa, if available.
Shaving If you must shave, do so at least two hours before your scheduled appointment, particularly if you're a man receiving a facial or a woman receiving any kind of scheduled bodywork.
Eating and drinking Try not to eat for at least an hour before a treatment, and avoid the consumption of alcohol on the day of a treatment. Drink plenty of water before and afterward, especially if you plan to take a fitness class or enjoy heat therapy, such as a sauna or the steam room.
Using shared facilities Before entering a soaking pool, swimming pool, or whirlpool, always shower. When enjoying the sauna or steam, always sit on your towel and wear the plastic shoes provided by the spa. Women should not shave their legs in the steam room.
Perfume Because the emphasis should be on relaxation and because others may be allergic, it's best not to wear perfume to exercise classes.
Smoking For the most part, smoking is not allowed at resort/hotel spas. If it is, there are usually designated areas where you can smoke.
Children A spa is a great place to get a little alone time, so it's best to not to bring children under 16. You can usually leave small children in the care of a sitter/nanny or under the supervision of the children's program-both of which many resorts offer-during your treatments. If children are with you, be attentive to their safety as well as their impact on the comfort and relaxation of others.
Pets Some animals are welcome at certain resorts but should not be brought to the spa. Be considerate of others by keeping your pet quiet and following the spa rules.
Cell phones Leave phones and pagers at home or in your room; or turn them off before entering the spa.
Conversation In the relaxation room and elsewhere, keep conversations at a low volume.
Gratuities Ask if gratuities are included, though that is not usually the case. If not, about 15 percent is customary, but you may of course leave more or less, depending on the quality of the service. Leave the tip at the reception desk when you pay your bill rather than giving it directly to the therapist. If you receive multiple services from different people (a massage therapist, a facial esthetician, etc.), leave a separate tip for each of them.
Eco-awareness Being respectful of your environment is part of the spa experience. Use only the number of towels necessary: washing them uses water and electrical, which are limited resources in some communities. If you spend time in nature, don't leave any trash behind.