Spa Etiquette 101: What To Know Before You Go

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Deal Expert, New York
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Never been to a spa before or getting a new treatment? Our spa deal experts have created this FAQ so you can make the most of your services.

What do need to know before you go?

  • Do your research! No two spas are alike, and you want to make sure the amenities fit the bill for what you’re looking for.
  • If you’re booking a treatment at a hotel spa during your vacation, make sure to book early, as appointments tend to fill up quickly.
  • When making the appointment, be sure to ask for a male or female aesthetician then if you have a preference, not when you arrive, as it’s likely too late to change day of.
  • Make sure to go easy on caffeine before your visit — it’s hard to relax on the massage table when you’re still jittery from your afternoon coffee! The same goes for eating a heavy meal.
  • A good tip is also to avoid poking and prodding your skin or nails in the days leading up to a treatment, as it may interfere with the technician’s services.
  • If you’ve booked any exfoliation treatments, do not shave less than 24 hours or more before your appointment.
  • You should arrive at least 15-30 minutes before your appointment to have ample time to get accustomed to the spa’s environment. However, if there are many free amenities on site, you shouuld arrive earlier to take advantage of them.

Once you’re there….

  • Once you check in at the front desk, let them know it’s your first time, and ask for a tour of the facilities. At larger spas and resort spas, the staff will provide you with a robe and slippers, so allow some time to get changed and get comfortable. You may also want to take a hot shower to loosen up muscles before a massage, or do some light stretching.
  • While waiting, you’ll also be asked to fill out a medical questionnaire — similar to one at a doctor’s office – that asks you to bring up any allergies, sensitivities and medical conditions. Also, food grade allergies are important to know (pineapple, etc.) as they are in many skin care products, especially natural or organic ones. If you are on any medication, especially one for your skin such as Retin-A or retinol, take the time to research beforehand any side effects that might occur during a treatment.
  • Before your treatment, take the time to go over any particular areas of the body you’d like to target – such as tightness in your back, or skin areas you’d like to clear up – so that the technician can customize your treatment as much as possible. Also, although it seems obvious, don’t forget to use the restroom beforehand!

What should I bring?

  • You’ll be given a robe, slippers, and towel as soon as you arrive, but you’re welcome to bring your own, if you prefer. Dress as comfortable as possible, though you may wish to bring a change of clothes for after your treatment, depending on the plans you have following the appointment.
  • If you plan on making use of the spa’s amenities, be sure to pack gym clothes, a swimsuit or toiletries like a toothbrush and deodorant. Bring a contact case and solution if you wear contacts and are concerned about product in your eyes or having a service like brow or lash tint.
  • You should try to unplug from the real world as much as you can – it is a spa day after all! – so bring some light reading while you wait. Most importantly, arrive with an open mind!

What can I expect from a nail treatment?

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  • A typical manicure is about 30 minutes long, while a pedicure is about 45 minutes. Try not to cut your nails before a nail appointment, as it is the technician’s job to shape them, and they might find them too short to file properly. Be sure to voice your preferences throughout the treatment – you can let the technician know whether to file your nails round or square, what color nail polish you’d like to use, whether the temperature of the water is too hot, etc.
  • Be careful not to shower or wash your hands for a few hours after your appointment so that your nail polish has ample time to settle — any hot water may deteriorate the polish. Also, if you accidentally smudge your nail after a manicure or pedicure, don’t be afraid to ask the technician to fix it, even if it’s the day after. In most cases, they’d be happy to.

What can I expect from a massage?

  • Perhaps the most daunting part of a massage for first timers is getting undressed. Your technician wants nothing more than for you to be relaxed, so undress to the point where you’re comfortable. The technician will always give you privacy and time to get ready. Once you’re on the massage table, there will be a sheet or towel for you to slip under. You’ll typically start the massage face down, but the technician will let you know if this is not the case. At some point during the massage, you will be asked to flip over.
  • Go over any areas you’d like to target during the massage so that the technician knows. During the massage, the technician may ask you about your pressure preferences, and if you’re feeling any pain or discomfort, be sure to speak up!
  • Don’t be embarrassed if you fall asleep during your massage, this happens often! Once the massage is over, don’t feel the need to rush out. Take your time to relax and allow your body to enjoy the moment.
  • Be sure to drink a lot water after facials and massages to help flush out any toxins that may be put into motion during massage.
  • Don’t be surprised if you’re feeling sore the next day, either – your technician likely hit muscles that haven’t been used in a while, so it’s normal to feel as if you’re recovering from a workout.

What can I expect from a facial?

  • Like a massage, you’ll be asked to a remove your clothes and slip under a sheet. Your aesthetician will examine your skin under a bright light, and go over any particular areas you’d like to target.
  • They will ask you what your current skin routine is like and what brands you use. Communication is key here – they want to determine the best possible treatment. If you’ve never had a facial before, let them know! Throughout the facial, you’ll find that they will always let you know what sort of procedure they are about to perform on your skin.
  • Your treatment will vary depending on your skin type. The aesthetician will clean and exfoliate the skin, followed by an extraction process – similar to what you’d find at a dermatologist. While this part of the treatment is slightly uncomfortable, you should let your aesthetician know if you encounter any pain. The extraction is typically followed by a mask. The facial then will wrap up with a massage on the face, neck, shoulders, and chest. The total facial time will be about an hour, depending on the type you have booked.
  • Your aesthetician should be able to tell you about all of the products they are using. At the end, they may suggest ones for purchase, but you are not obligated to buy.
  • You’ll find that your skin looks a bit irritated and red immediately after. Do not apply any makeup or wash your face until the next morning, as you’ll want to give your skin some time to rest. If you are getting a treatment before a big event, schedule your facial a few days earlier so that your skin is glowing by the time your big day rolls around.

What’s an appropriate amount to tip?

  • A good rule of thumb is to tip as you would at a restaurant – 18%-20% of the full price of the service is customary for good service. If using a gift certificate, be sure to ask the front desk whether tip is included. Additionally, if using a Travelzoo deal, you must always be sure to tip based on the full price of the service (not the discounted amount).
  • Make sure to hit the ATM before you arrive, as cash tips are almost always preferred (though many spas allow you to leave gratuity on a credit card). If leaving a cash tip, you’ll typically be asked to leave it in an envelope at the front desk. Take a moment to write your technician’s name on the front along with a quick thank you for a job well done.

Travelzoo has negotiated deals at spas around the country including an array of services discounted.

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