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 and spa breaks specifically for men. We have even had spa stag dos booked through us. You think it, and we’ve probably got it. You can have a spa day for £20 or £2,000, and we have more than 900 venues and counting that are testament to that, not to mention over 1,000,000 travellers who have booked to date (more by the time you read this). So how do you know what’s the right spa break for you? How do you choose?
Spabreaks.com categorises spas in a number of ways: geographically, by price point and also by theme (that might be afternoon teas, group getaways, romantic breaks or spa breaks for pregnant mums-to-be). However, we also label spa venues as either leisure venues, hotel spas, day spas or destination spas, and this is key to the type of spa day or break you are going on.
A day spa probably needs little or no explanation. It’s a spa that simply does not offer overnight accommodation. 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.
A leisure venue tends to have a lot of facilities and will offer treatments. However, it is not a specialised spa and tends to be geared more towards exercise and beauty treatments rather than holistic wellness. Remember that there will be other people there who are not on spa days – gym members, families for example.
That’s not to say that these can’t be excellent experiences. Often they are more cost effective than more specialised facilities. They are professional, therapists are well trained and pools tend to be a proper size to really swim in. They are often very good at providing exercise classes to join, and they are great for first time spa experiences as they’re not too expensive and they provide a relaxed approach.
However, it is probable that pools will be busier than those at more specialised venues. More often than not children will have access to the pool. Children’s swimming lessons may take place, so it’s worthwhile being savvy with the timings of your day. Check any swimming times before you go, book your treatment for those periods, and if you want to avoid them entirely, then it’s best to avoid weekends, half terms and school holidays.
Take for example, the QHotel group’s Ashford International where they have a big pool, a sauna, steam room, Jacuzzi and an ice fountain. When we visited, we went during swimming times, but there was a dedicated swimming lane, which we had to ourselves. Children are not allowed in the sauna and steam room or in the treatment areas so that was extremely relaxing, and the treatments are top class. We felt really relaxed afterwards and went back to the relaxation room to maximise that feeling.
Our top tip when visiting a leisure venue is to plan when and where you spend your time in advance.
A hotel spa has a lot more to do with pampering than a leisure venue. Of course they are also very good places to have an overnight spa break. They tend to be a little bit of a mix of dedicated spa and leisure, depending on the hotel itself. Some will offer classes in the pools and have children’s swimming times, but most tend to restrict them.
Hotel spas tend to be slightly pricier (again, depending on the hotel itself), but once again, not everyone at the hotel is there for the spa itself, so it is not a dedicated spa in the pure sense of the word.
Hotel spas are often geared towards pampering but tend not to incorporate the full specialist health treatments that a destination spa might offer. They are perfect for romantic breaks, time out with friends, and some allow for the flexibility to have the children with you if they have creche facilities or family friendly facilities. Many of them are perfect for longer holidays as well, as you might expect!
A perfect example is Ramside Hall Hotel, a country house hotel in Durham, set in 350 acres of private grounds. Looking out onto the beautiful gardens, the spa has all manner of facilities including a thermal experience. It includes a herbal sauna, Himalayan salt steam, aroma steam, tepidarium, sunken amphitheatre, hydrotherapy pool, sauna and drench showers. However, they also welcome families and you can incorporate the spa experience as much or as little as you like into your wider stay.
If you’re looking for a pure spa experience, you are looking for a destination spa. This is where the whole experience is about the spa itself. It’s about health, wellbeing, pampering and treatments. Invariably, these are adult-only destinations where no children are allowed, and there are definitely no children’s swimming times.
Sometimes certain facilities will be separated for men and women. The expertise of therapists and health experts is always at an extremely high level. The objective at destination or health spas is always health and wellbeing. Nutrition often plays a big part as well as treatments, therapies and experiences which are frequently targeted and more bespoke than the average spa treatment. You will really get something out of these experiences beyond the aesthetic.
Destination spa breaks can either be day spas or overnight experiences. For example, Reynolds Bexley is a day spa with a destination spa ethos, while Grayshott is an oligarch of destination spas in the UK. It offers day spa breaks, but is at its most enjoyable when you stay overnight to really get the most out of it.
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