Champneys Forest Mere

First Time Spa Guide

Everything you need to know for your first spa experience

Our first time advice

Part of the Guides

Going on a spa break is often seen as a luxury, and of course it can be just that. However, it can also be an essential part of wellbeing. It can be a time for indulgence, for peace and quiet, to address a skincare issue you have been putting off for a long time, a semi-regular way of resetting in a busy working world, and it can also be a really restorative time of healing. The impact that a massage can have on a body that has been through the rigours of surgery, cancer treatment or simply the stresses and strains of everyday life - looking after kids, sitting at a desk and worrying about the world around us - can be phenomenally healing. For those who have never been on a spa day or break before, it can be intimidating, exciting, or you might not really be sure what all the fuss is about. For many first time spa goers, there are a lot of questions, from what to wear to what you actually do all day, so here’s our guide to help you feel confident, relaxed and get the most out of your first spa break. To demystify the spa indsutry jargon, check out our spa glossary.

Poultice Massage

What do you need for a spa day?

There’s not a lot you need to take with you on a spa day, but a few essentials will help you to make the most of it, feel comfortable and ultimately be relaxed.

One of the most common questions we get is what to wear. We’ve answered this more fully in our What to Wear on a Spa Break guide, and to some extent it depends on the details of your spa break and whether you’re staying overnight or just for the day. After all, if you’re staying overnight then you will need your sleepwear, anything else you would usually bring to a hotel, and perhaps something to dress up in for dinner in the restaurant in the evening.

When it comes to the spa experience itself however, here’s what you need to bring:

  1. Wear something comfortable to arrive in, and to change into later in the day or if you need to dress for lunch.
  2. Take two swimming costumes - one for using the wet facilities and one to have your treatment in.
  3. Bring a pair of flip flops.
  4. Find out whether the spa provides robes, towels and slippers before you go and bring them if necessary.
  5. If you’re staying overnight, bring a small bag that you can take to the spa with any bits and pieces such as a book, skincare products etc so you don’t have to keep returning to your room.
  6. Take a magazine or a good book - Don’t forget to bring your booking details.
Celtic Manor

How do you prepare for a spa day?

There’s not a lot you need to do in advance of a spa break, but there are a few things that will help you to make the most of your day or break when you get there.

  1. Let the spa know about any allergies or health conditions in advance
  2. Arrive early
  3. Plan how you want to spend your day
  4. Think about when you want to have your treatment
  5. Think about when you want to eat
  6. Plan what to take with you
  7. Remember to relax
  8. Remember to drink enough water
May Fair Heated Loungers

Do you wear make-up at a spa?

The big thing about going to a spa is to do what makes you feel comfortable. So if you want to wear make-up to go there, then feel free, but you absolutely don’t need to. Spas are all about helping you to relax and unwind - it’s not about presenting your game face.

That said however, it’s best to remove make-up before using the spa facilities. This is partly because it will likely come off in the pool, sauna and steam room anyway and it’s better for everyone if it isn’t in the pool. However, it’s also better for your skin not to have products on it so that the facilities can work their cleansing magic rather than clogging up those pores.

If you have a facial as part of your spa day, then your therapist will cleanse your skin and remove any make-up or make-up residue before commencing with your facial. That’s in order to let the products work and to really give skin a proper cleanse.

After you have used the facilities and had a treatment, it’s best not to apply make up for several hours, in order to let the products continue doing their job, as well as to let your skin settle for a while.


What is a spa day?

A day spa is a spa destination that has all the rest, relaxation and treatment facilities you might expect from a spa experience, but without any option for overnight accommodation. Of course, the specifics of facilities will vary from one destination to the next. Some have a lot of facilities and experiences, some are designed for short visits perhaps with a dip and workout and a manicure, and some are mostly about pampering, with a heavy focus on treatments themselves. Some day spas will even have their own cafe or restaurant so you can enjoy a whole day including lunch or afternoon tea. Some will be focused on pampering, while others are more focused on health. A day spa is however different from a salon, in that it is not simply about visiting for one treatment - it is still about an experience to be savoured and enjoyed.

Rf 1326

What’s included in a spa day?

The thing about a spa day is that in its broadest sense, it can include just about anything that you want. There are two main parts to a spa day: the facilities and the treatments. Facilities vary enormously from one spa to the next, but tradition has it that there’s a pool and a thermal experience of some description. That might be a sauna, steam room and Jacuzzi, or include a wider variety of heat experiences that help you relax, unwind and prepare the skin and body for spa therapies. Spa treatments meanwhile, range from facials and massages to body wraps, scrubs, manicures and pedicures. Spas also often offer beauty treatments and finishing touches such as waxing and tanning.

Alexander House   Hot Tub

How much does a spa day cost?

A spa day or break can range anywhere from £30 to thousands of pounds, depending on where you go, how long for and what’s included. From all the criteria that you may have for your spa break of course, price is one that you can make central to your decision making proces.

To really get the most out of a spa day or break, it’s important to think about what you want from it and that way your budget can be targeted towards a package that’s geared towards the things that are important to you. As a rule of thumb, we recommend opting for a spa package that includes something to eat (whether it’s afternoon tea, lunch or dinner), a spa treatment and use of facilities.

What Facilities Does A Spa Have?

Each spa is different and has different benefits and characteristics to offer. Some will have a pool, sauna, steam room and gym as well as offering treatments. Some might have extensive thermal facilities. Some may have spa gardens. And some might be all about the treatments, but not have a pool or other wet areas.

That said, when it comes to possibilities, there really is a wealth of facilities ready and waiting for you to find and experience them in the abundant spa world. For many, spas are defined by their wet and thermal facilities. That may be a pool, sauna, steam room and hot tub, or it may extend to a full thermal suite, which can have include a combination of any or all of the following:

  1. Caldarium - a heated room which provides an even heat that stimulates the circulation and regenerates the body’s natural energy. This effect has often been regarded as having healing benefits causing tense muscles to relax, making the skin smoother, and easing joint pain.

  2. Salt steam and crystal steam baths - these are beneficial for the respiratory system and for rheumatic complaints. The salt steam has the added benefit of a salt water atmosphere, which is great for cleansing and toning the skin and stimulating the circulation.

  3. Sanarium - which is an ideal way to recharge your batteries. The unique blend of heat followed by a stimulating shower boosts the body’s natural defences and promotes the circulation, shifting your metabolism up a gear. A Sanarium bath also cleanses the skin and tones the body tissue.

  4. Saunas - these are known to reduce incidence of the common cold and temporarily relieve symptoms and reduce stress levels. They help to clean and rejuvenate the skin, eliminating dead skin cells, exposing new, fresh, clean, healthy cells.

Ice caves - these are a great place to cool off after your sanarium or sauna. Grab a few ladlefuls of ice and rub it over the skin to provide instant cooling. Mix in a cold shower in the ice cave and you will have truly cooled down, contracting your blood vessels, stimulating your circulation and oxygen intake at the same time.

Furthermore, many specialised spas and luxury hotel spas are adding new and unique experiences all the time.

At, all of the spa destinations that we work with have their facilities listed on their description pages. However, if you are in any doubt about what facilities a spa has or what a particular facility is, just ask one of our spa consultants by calling, emailing, or getting in touch via our online chat facility.

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What are the different types of spas?

There’s so much variety available when it comes to a spa day or break. You can choose from spa days, spa breaks, afternoon tea, health, wellbeing, group getaways, romantic mini breaks, babymoons, babyshowers, hen parties and stag dos - the list goes on.

The spas themselves come in all shapes and sizes. Typically, at we break this down into categories that help define the destinations themselves. These are: leisure venues, hotel spas, day spas and destination spas or health spas. This is key to the type of spa day or break you are going on.

  1. Day spas: A day spa probably needs little or no explanation - it’s a spa that simply does not offer overnight accommodation - like The Spa at Dolphin Square in London. So enjoy it for the hours in which it is open, and if you want to go back for another day, you will need to find separate accommodation. The others may need a little more subtext...

  2. Leisure venues: A leisure venue tends to focus on essential wet facilities such as a pool, sauna and steam room as well as a gym, and will offer spa treatments, however it does not offer specialised therapies or wellbeing experiences. They may also have other people visiting in addition to spa goers, such as gym members. Often they are family friendly as well, which you may want to be mindful of when using facilities like the pool.

  3. Hotel spas: A hotel spa is of course a very good place to have an overnight spa break. They tend to be a little bit of a mix of dedicated or luxury spa as well as leisure (gym, exercise pool etc), depending on the hotel itself. Some will offer classes in the pools and have children's swimming times, but most tend to restrict them. Again, not everyone at the hotel is there for the spa, so it is not a dedicated spa in the purist sense of the word. They are often geared towards pampering but tend not to incorporate the full specialist health experiences that a destination spa might offer.

  4. Destination spas: If you’re looking for a pure spa experience, you are looking for a destination spa or health spa. This is where the whole experience is about the spa itself. It’s about health and wellbeing facilities, treatments and knowledge. Invariably, these are adult-only spas and there are definitely no children’s swimming times. They can also be either day spas, like Cloud Twelve Club in London or offer overnight experiences such as Grayshott Spa in Surrey (where you can also go for the day).

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