As I’ve been lucky enough to travel quite extensively so far in my life, one thing that I’ve noticed is that my fellow Americans don’t usually plan for or consider spas a part of their vacation activities. Let alone their day-to-day routine. Which, to me, is really unfortunate. Our culture will spend tons of money for food or experiences, but often pass up a spa visit because it may be classified as too elitist or “luxurious” for the money. Spas, or “baths”, have been considered a part of civilization for thousands of years, and were truly meant to be a part of routine health and well-being. Since working in a spa as an esthetician early in my beauty career, I’ve realized how important it is to plan spa visits for myself regularly, as well as into my trip itineraries whenever possible – it truly adds to the pure relaxation of your vacation, or can help you during stressful times of your daily routine to escape for a bit and unwind.
In 2016, my husband and I were in Assisi, Italy, and stayed a night at the Nun Assisi Spa, which is not only heartbreakingly beautiful, but also is the recipient of numerous awards as a travel destination. This small spa hotel is a historical site dating back to time of the 1st century, and the services, products, and staff are amazing. As my husband and I were planning our Italy trip, we made a point to devote a day to just relaxing at the spa, and receiving massage and nail services. The underground infinity pool is warm and calming, and is next to the traditional four rooms of a Roman-style bath: the Tepidarium, Calidarium, Sudatorium, and Frigidarium. These rooms range in temperature to help purify the body and soothe the mind and senses. The modernization of the ancient space was so intelligently designed – it kept parts of the original Roman columns, yet the treatment rooms and amenities are beautifully done. Robes are plush, and there’s a lightly scented aroma throughout the spa. The day we spent at this spa was so incredible, and our services were so comforting and well done – it was such a nice bit of relaxation within a busy trip of sightseeing and touring. Given the opportunity to go back to Italy in the future, we’ll make it a point to stay here again!
Last month, my husband was in Las Vegas for business, and I decided to join him at the end of the work week for an extended weekend getaway. We stayed at the Mirage, and even though I’ve been to Las Vegas several times, I’ve never been a guest there before. The Mirage actually houses an award-winning spa, and has a local following of routine clientele. I’m not a gambler, and seeing as though I was smack-dab in the middle of one of the most sought-after hospitality destinations in the world and had the time, I couldn’t pass up making a massage appointment to try out the spa.
The spa itself is beautiful, and is a welcome relief from the constant blur of lights, sounds, smoke, music and crowd moving through the casino floor. There is a private set of jacuzzis in both the women’s and men’s divisions of the spa, and the waiting rooms are quiet and pristine. My therapist was professional and fantastic in her technique – she was caring, attentive, and was obviously proud of her spa; welcoming me to enjoy all of the amenities and take my time. The robes here were some of the best I’ve ever used, not a one-size fits all, but sized appropriately for a woman’s body frame. My few days away felt like more a true vacation, being able relax for half a day in the spa. I’ll definitely come back to the Mirage Spa again, given the opportunity to return to Las Vegas.
So, now that I’ve talked about a couple of great spas and why to visit them, let’s chat about proper spa etiquette – which is applicable at ANY spa environment. Note: I’m giving you these recommendations not only as a person that used to work in a spa, but also as a patron of spas – I’ve seen some bad behavior over the years that definitely impacts other guests, and your ability to truly enjoy a quality spa experience.
- Be quiet!!! Seriously, you don’t need to talk that much at all. The technician is also not there to make small talk – they are there to focus on your comfort, and your treatments as scheduled. It’s YOUR time to relax, reflect, rest, and just be still. I’ve worked on people who have literally talked their entire way through a facial or a body treatment – that’s not relaxation, nor does it make the technician’s job easy to focus. Turn off or silence cell phones too, and keep them in your provided locker.
- Be mindful of other people’s space and relaxation. Especially if you are in a group of people, like a bridal party. The walls are only sound-proof to a point – I get that you are there to enjoy yourself, but laughing, shouting, and drinking excessively (usually champagne) is not appropriate behavior within a spa. Even in the waiting room or lounges before or after your services. Also, put your dirty towels and robes in the baskets provided, and dispose of used napkins or leftover snacks in the garbage. Unless you’ve rented out the whole spa for your own use, keep in mind that other people are paying to have peace and quiet.
- Understand that paying for services doesn’t just support the technician, but also pays for your amenities provided during the time you are there. That includes the jacuzzis, showers, products, towels, robes and staff that keep the spa running. Prices are not something to haggle over or complain to the staff about. Also, if you feel that a service isn’t being received as you expected, speak up immediately and not after the service is done – it’s much easier to fix or correct a service mid-way through, if you feel something isn’t right.
- Be honest and clear about any allergies or health conditions before your treatments begin. If you have skin sensitivities, or have an existing injury, talk with the staff to ensure that they take that into account before your services begin. As an example, I always explain that mint or peppermint essential oils can easily irritate my skin, and I request them not to be used during a facial, pedicure or massage. This eliminates any reaction for me, and also helps the technician understand what products are best to use in the treatment.
- Get over being “awkward” about your body parts. This one is always one that makes me laugh, because spa employees are very much like people in the medical profession – the body, to them, is not something to be prudish about. It’s just part of the gig, and they are used to working on various parts of the human body and studying anatomy in their training. For example, in Europe, the standard is for the person receiving massage treatments to usually be completely naked, with the exception of paper underwear. In America, our technicians are much more compliant with modesty, and will drape the body accordingly. Just a word of caution, as cultural standards for treatments are not necessarily the same in different regions of the world.
Most of all, enjoy yourself and the amenities provided. Spas take great pride in providing comfort, and the amenities are there to make your stay even better. Also, you can usually find fantastic spas pretty easily. If you are on vacation, ask your hotel concierge, or simply look at Google or Trip Advisor. I truly recommend giving this a try the next time you vacation, or even looking in your surrounding community if you are feeling the need for a quick escape. The health benefits of relaxation, and being able to feel comforted and treated, is totally worth it for all of us.