Going to the spa for the first time can be a daunting experience. It's supposed to be relaxing and enjoyable, but when going into that change room on your own and having to prepare for your first massage can be stressful and confusing. So here's everything you need to know about Spa etiquette to ease the stress.
Dave and I have enjoyed many a luxury spa, unique spa and downright quirky spa treatment during our 16 years of travelling.
We've had every massage imaginable and we've learned a lot about Spa etiquette all around the world.
Some spas have been amazing and some were downright crazy, but the process for all of them was pretty much the same.
There were the Hammams in Morocco and Turkey. The painful reflexology in Penang Malaysia and there was a very uncomfortable Ayurvedic massage we had in Alleppey India where we didn't know what to think once it was over.
The hot cupping in China was definitely the most unique spa treatment we've ever had.
Once you are comfortable in your own skin, you'll find that the spa etiquette is pretty similar on every content. No matter how whacky and wild the treatment.
What to do at the Spa
Over the years, we've graduated to more luxurious spa experiences.
We have learned through trial and error what to do when entering every type of spa from a cheap hole in the wall to a 5 star service establishment.
I started thinking about those who have never had a massage. A lot of people won't go to a spa because they are intimidated or don't know what to expect.
But a spa is an awesome experience, that everyone should try once. If you do it right the first time, you'll be hooked.
So, here's a little something to help you understand what you need to do when you experience your first spa day.
Spa Etiquette Tips
1. Arrive Early
Depending on the facilities, you should arrive at least 15 minutes early to your appointment. When entering a spa, you will need to fill out a form, taken on a tour of the facility and you will need to change.
But honestly a half an hour to 45 minutes early is best because that way you can enjoy everything they have to offer. Many spas have lavish sitting areas where you can enjoy tea and fruit infused water while listening to soft music.
Other times they have saunas, soak pools and steam baths that you can take advantage of before or after your massage.
It helps you get into that Zen state to truly enjoy your massage and you won't feel stressed about having to rush into your appointment.
We like to arrive 1/2 hour early to take advantage of that much needed quiet time and highly recommend that you try to do the same.
2. Ask Questions
Once you have filled out your paperwork, you will be taken to the change area by a staff member.
They will show you which locker is yours so you can lock your valuables away, show you where you need to go after you change, and where all the facilities are like the sauna and steam room are.
If you are unsure about anything, ask.
This is your time to feel comfortable and relaxed so if you have questions, don't be afraid. I remember having a difficult time with an electronic locker in the past and instead of stressing about using it, I went back to the front desk to have a staff member come and help me.
You don't want to be wandering around aimlessly, so ask where you need to go next and what you need to do after the treatment.
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Stripping – Go Naked in the Spa
3. Go Nude
A lot of people never know how much clothing they should or should not be wearing.
Do you bring a bathing suit? Do you get a massage in your underwear? No.
The answer is go nude all the way.
When you are taken in the back to the changing rooms, you will be given a robe and slippers to change in to.
If you are shy head to the private change room (most upscale spas have a private changing area) or go into a bathroom stall to strip down, put on your robe and head out to the waiting area.
The therapist will take you to your treatment room where they will show you everything and then leave you for a few moments to take off your robe and slip under the covers.
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During your massage, you'll be under blankets the entire time.
The therapist will only pull down the areas that he/she is working on at the time.
They keep you covered, so don't feel that you'll be laying on the table in the buff feeling awkward.
Massage therapists go to great lengths to make you feel comfortable. You'll be covered and feeling relaxed the entire time.
Note: This may not be the case in many spots in Asia, Turkey or Morocco. In spas there, you may be walking around naked, confused and they may just massage you in the buff on the table…and you just have to get used to it.
Relaxing at the Spa
4. Quiet Time
During Dave's latest massage, he had a chatterbox. When we came out of our sessions to relax in the common area, Dave told me that his therapist wouldn't stop talking.
I asked him why he didn't tell her that he didn't want to talk? He said, he didn't know what to do. That's when I said, it's your massage, you can do what you want.
If you don't want to have a conversation with your therapist, they should appreciate your needs.
Simply say that you were hoping to relax and enjoy the treatment and would prefer not to talk. They won't be offended.
5. The Massage is over
After your massage, your therapist will leave you to relax.
Take your time getting up and enjoy the moment.
Don't take too long though as there are people coming in after you, but you can have a few minutes to open your eyes, breathe in and stretch out those arms and legs.
Your therapist should be waiting outside with a glass of water and will show you to the relaxation area afterwards.
Tipping – What to do when the spa is done
6. Spa Etiquette – tipping
I used to stress about bringing a tip with me into my treatment room to give to the staff. Don't worry your pretty little head about it.
Therapists don't expect you to give them a tip in hand. Relax and enjoy, and if you want to give a tip at the end, put it on the bill on your way out.
Some spas have tips included, so be sure to ask. There is nothing wrong with asking a question.
Simply say, “is the tip included in the price?” If not, 15% – 20% is a good tip. But don't feel obligated, just like service in a restaurant, tipping at a spa is not mandatory, but appreciated.
7. Use the facilities
Before or after your treatment you will have a variety of things to keep you occupied.
Besides teas and water, there are usually healthy snacks like fruits and nuts for your consumption.
If the spa has a steam room and sauna feel free to use them before or after your massage.
We like to go after our massage to get heat into our muscles, but you can go early too.
You can even have a shower to really feel refreshed and clean for your treatment. Many spas have hair dryers, disposable razors, great lotions, shampoos and conditioners.
8. Steam room spa etiquette
many spas have a steam room and sauna in both the women's and men's change rooms.
When using the steam room, you can go nude. If a spa has a steam room, they will supply towels, you can wrap yourself in a towel and use it to sit on.
Make sure to sit on your towel, it's more hygienic than sitting in the nude on bare wood or marble. You can use one towel to sit and another to wrap around your body if you prefer.
It's perfectly acceptable to go nude in the steam room but if you feel uncomfortable, you can wear a bathing suit too. Just remember, you will probably look like the odd person out wearing swimwear. Most people will probably be in the buff.
Please do not do anything gross like clipping your toenails or exfoliating your heels.
9. Swimming Pools
Some places have a swimming pool. I always wear my bathing suit in a swimming pool. Usually if it is a large pool it's co-ed and they'll keep the saunas and steam rooms separate.
Even if the swimming pool is separated for the sexes to use, I still go in my bathing suit to swim. It just feels right to me.
So now that you have the knowledge of what to do in the spa and what spa etiquette entails, book a day of pampering and take some time to relax.
Do you have any tips for first time visitors to a spa?