Your Guide to a Relaxing First Spa Experience

Take the guesswork out of your spa trip with these quick tips.

Photo Credit: iStock 

Spa-ing. It is one of the world’s most luxurious, relaxing and blissful experiences. It can also be a bit intimidating — especially if you’ve never been sans clothes in a small room with a total stranger. Even if you have gotten a massage or facial in the past, you may need a refresher on the dos and don’ts of the hitting the spa.

Do your research 
The difference between a fabulous spa experience and a meh one starts before you even enter the building. After looking at the menu, call to make an appointment. Ask pointed questions about specific treatments and express anyconcernsyoumay have. For example, if you areclaustrophobicyou may want to pass on that full-body seaweed wrap, which could include a solid 15 minutes of being tightly wrapped in a heated blanket — arms included. Or if you plan to spend the majority of your honeymoon on the beach, an exfoliating facial peel may not be the best idea. Also ask about the spa amenities. Are there wet rooms — steam, Jacuzzis and the like? Are the relaxation areas co-ed? Can you reserve a special couples-only spot? And, if it matters to you, request the gender of your therapist now. It’ll be tough to change once you get there.

Arrive early
It’s a good idea to be at the spa 15 minutes before your scheduled treatment. That’ll give you ample time to fill out any necessary paperwork (most spas have questionnaires that alert therapists to your likes, dislikes, alergies and injuries), change out of your street clothes, sip the complimentary herbal-infused water and teas and get into a more relaxed state of mind. Note: Some spas won’t administer certain treatments to expectant mothers. Alert your therapist, so she can suggest an appropriate one. Bump up your arrival time if you plan on using the steam and sauna facilities prior to your treatment. Andbeprepared — some people prefer to steam in the nude. Co-ed areas, though, generally require folks to don swimsuits. 

Take it off
After you check in, you’ll be assigned a locker with a robe and slippers. Therapists prefer that you not have any necklaces, rings or other accessories on during your treatment. It’s a good idea to arrive without fine jewelry, so you won’t have to put it in your locker.And store your cell phone. If you are expecting an important call, alert the front desk. You’ll be given a robe to change into to wander around the relaxation areas. Unless you are getting a full-body scrub or water therapy, you don’t need to completely disrobe for a treatment. Although linens are changed between clients, some people prefer to keep their underpants on. Or, if provided, you may change into paper bottoms. Bikinis or swim trunks are encouraged for any services on the beach.

Speak up
While the intake questionaire should specifically target things like preferred pressure and desired areas to target, it’s a good idea to go over this once you meet your therapist. Tell her anything else she may need to know — your sports injuries or if you are especially ticklish, for example. If it’s your first time, let your therapist know. She can talk you through the treatment before she starts. Now’s also the time to use the restroom — having to hop off the table mid-massage is not only uncomfortable it eats into your treat- ment time! Most therapists ask about pressure and style once they’ve begun; let them know if it’s Ok. Also, if you’ve got a chatty Cathy and you’d prefer silence, say so.

Lounge some more
Now that you’ve been rubbed like kobe beef, you’ll want to extend that feeling of absolute calm and bliss. Take a dip in the Jacuzzi, spend some time in the sauna or kick back on a heated lounger. Some spas offer healthy-food menus. If you have the time, it’s a treat to sip green juice while relishing the tranquility. When you’re finally ready to face reality, remember that a 20% gratuity is customary for spa services.

Tip: Many resorts offer plush robes in guest rooms for use during your stay. If you have one in your room, you may consider wearing it to your appointment so you won’t have to change later.