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Spa Etiquette - Frequently Asked Questions about Spa Breaks

What to expect when you visit a spa


Whether you’re going on a spa break for the first time or are a seasoned spa-goer heading off on a spa weekend, it’s only natural to have questions about what to expect and what to do when you go to a spa. Here we have aimed to answer your most frequently asked questions and cover all the important things you need to know about going on a spa day. However, if you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to speak to a member of the Spabreaks.com team.

Frequently asked questions

Is it safe to go on a spa break if I’m pregnant?

In your first trimester, there are a lot of things that you should avoid at a spa, including the Jacuzzi, sauna and steam room. Steer clear of aromatherapy when pregnant and anything that puts pressure on the stomach. Massage, even pregnancy massage, is best avoided at this stage.

After the first 13 weeks of pregnancy, you can branch out a bit. It is always a little dependent on the individual pregnancy, but it should be OK to use most facilities at this stage. Nonetheless, still avoid over stimulating treatments like aromatherapy and deep tissue massages. Many spas have a dedicated list of prenatal treatments and pregnancy massages that will give you plenty of pampering and peace of mind as they are specially designed for mums to be.

For any special considerations consult your doctor before your spa break and if in doubt speak to your therapist before your treatment.

Can I go to a spa with an injury or an illness?

Most spas will advise that it’s best to avoid going on a spa break within a minimum of 12 weeks after surgery. Those time frames may vary depending on specific illnesses. If you have recently been severely ill or had surgery it is best to check with your doctor before booking a spa day or break. It is also advised that you mention it at the point of booking or that you speak to a therapist before your visit.

It is particularly important to mention if you are currently having, or have had, treatment for cancer (within the past two years). Due to the impact of cancer treatments, some treatments are not advised, others will need to be adapted for your comfort and some will have been especially created. Not all spas have the necessary training to adapt treatments in this way. It’s something we’re working on. However, it’s important for your wellbeing, and so that you get the best out of your spa day or spa break, that you mention this before booking your chosen spa. That way we can advise you on the best places to go, and arrange any necessary communication between you and the spa in advance of your visit. Your health and happiness is always the priority.

What should I wear on a spa break? Do I have to be naked?

Aside from checking whether the restaurant requires a dress code, for most of your day you will probably be in your swimming costume and/or a robe and slippers. In the UK, most spas do require you to wear at least swimwear or your robe in all ‘public’ spaces within the spa, including the sauna and steam room. At some international destinations, this may vary but will always be signposted clearly.

Lots of people worry about what to wear during a spa treatment. In many ways, it’s about what makes you comfortable. We recommend taking two swimming costumes with you so that you can swim in one and wear a dry one during your treatment. Some people prefer to wear underwear during spa treatments. Other people prefer to wear nothing at all.

Whichever you prefer, your modesty will be protected at all times. Your therapist will leave the room while you undress and get settled under towels/blankets, and during your spa treatment they will only uncover the part of your body they are working on, so whatever you’ve chosen to wear, you will always be covered. If you are not comfortable or are unsure what to wear or how much to undress, just ask your therapist, they will always be more than happy to advise.

Hygiene on a spa break

Of course, all spas operate highly stringent hygiene policies to ensure your health and wellbeing on a spa day or break.

To support that effort however, it’s generally seen as considerate for spa-goers to shower before using the facilities or having a treatment. It allows for the removal of skincare products in particular which can have an impact on the wet spa facilities (so, for this reason, it’s often better to have your treatment after using the facilities rather than before).

Avoid using your outdoor shoes in any wet areas of the spa to make sure you don’t bring dirt indoors. Most spas will provide spa slippers for your comfort and will have dedicated locations for you to leave used towels and robes to keep things tidy. If you aren’t sure, just ask.

What if I’m not comfortable having a therapist who’s the opposite/same sex?

That’s OK. Just let us know at the time of booking and we’ll request a therapist to suit your preferences. However, do keep in mind that there will be limitations on which therapists are available at any given time. Any therapist assigned to you will be professional and considerate at all times.

Do I need to talk to my spa therapist during my treatment?

Your therapist will follow your lead. If you’d like to chat during your spa treatment, go ahead, but don’t be afraid to be silent either. It’s your treatment so it’s all about what helps you to relax the most. That said, don’t hesitate to feed back to your therapist during your spa treatment. For example, if you’re too hot or too cold or you’d like the massage pressure adjusted, just say.

Am I supposed to tip my spa therapist?

This is not expected in the UK and Europe. In other countries this can vary, so check in advance if you’re venturing further afield.

Is it OK to bring my phone into a spa?

It’s good spa etiquette to leave your phone in a locker while you’re in the spa area. It will help you to relax and it is considerate of others who may find the noise, light from the screen or phone tapping a stressful interruption to their spa experience. If you absolutely must bring your phone into the spa area, it’s essential to have it completely silent to avoid disturbing others. It isn’t acceptable to chat on your phone in any part of the spa, and it certainly shouldn’t be used during a treatment.

Do I have to be silent in a spa?

Spas aim to be tranquil, restful places, so speaking in a low voice is preferred. However, you don’t have to be completely silent - part of enjoying the experience is often sharing it with friends. Just make sure you consider the comfort of other guests who have gone there to relax as well. Shrieking and splashing loudly in the pool won’t be welcomed. That said, some spas will have select areas that are designed for quiet - in particular, this often means the relaxation rooms where you can rest after a spa treatment.

Can I bring my dog on my spa break?

Some of our spa hotels are dog-friendly, which means they allow pets in certain areas (though not the spa facilities themselves). Some also offer packages that include dog toys, treats, and walks. Just let us know at the time of booking and we’ll do our best to find a spa to suit you, or you can browse pet friendly spas.

When should I arrive on my spa break and what time do I need to leave?

This varies from place to place, and you will be advised of check-in and check-out times when you book. It’s good spa etiquette, and also a part of helping you to relax into the experience, to arrive at your treatment at least 10 minutes beforehand to allow time for consultation and to get settled.

We recommend you aim to use spa facilities before your treatment rather than afterward because products used on your skin will end up coming off in the sauna/steam room and pool, which will make them less beneficial for you and potentially unpleasant for others.

Should I book a time for dinner or lunch on my spa break?

Again this depends a bit on the spa of your choice and you should discuss it with your spa expert at the time of booking. However, most spa restaurants do get booked up in advance, so it’s a good idea to book your meals in at the same time as booking your spa break.

If I have any special dietary requirements, can they be accommodated at the spa?

Yes, absolutely, just advise your spa expert at the time of booking.

Do venues have spa treatments for teenagers?

Most spas will operate a policy of only offering treatments to customers aged 16 years and over. In some cases, it may be aged 18 and over, and some locations will not permit those under the age of 16 to use the spa facilities at all. We will be able to advise you about this when booking. In terms of treatments, spas that do permit minors and young adults will offer teenagers under the age of 16 years old basic treatments such as mini-manicures or pedicures. However, anyone under the age of 16 does always have to be accompanied by an adult at all times.

Can I add extra spa treatments to my spa package?

Yes, of course! Just ask your spa expert about extra spa treatments at the time of booking.

If I’m not happy on my spa break, what should I do?

If you are not enjoying your treatment or if something isn’t what you were hoping for on your spa break, please speak up as soon as possible. A spa day is all about you and all spas would rather you told them about a problem at the time so that they have an opportunity to do something about it. If you would like to speak to a member of the Spabreaks.com team after your visit, feel free to contact us directly on customerservice@spabreaks.com.

What is a day spa?

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.

Common types of spa

On the face of it, lots of people think that there’s really only one kind of spa break and one kind of spa destination. At Spabreaks.com however, we know that the options are almost limitless, and our goal has always been to share that - pairing you with the perfect spa experience and destination at any given time, from spa days to spa breaks, afternoon teas, health retreats, group getaways, romantic mini breaks, babymoons, babyshowers, hen parties and stag dos - the list goes on. Adding to the range of spa package options, spas themselves come in all shapes and sizes. Typically, at Spabreaks.com 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. A day spa is a spa that does not offer overnight accommodation.

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, and often they are family friendly, which you may want to be mindful of when using facilities like the pool.

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 purest sense of the word. They are often geared towards pampering but tend not to incorporate full specialist health treatments that a destination spa might offer.

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.

What spa treatments are safe when pregnant?

The world of spa offers beautiful experiences for mums-to-be, but understandably there can be a lot of questions and confusion about what you can and can’t do on a spa break when you’re pregnant, and what treatments are safe to have. The majority of spas will veer away from offering most spa treatments in the first three months of pregnancy but will happily offer dedicated or adapted pregnancy spa treatments after that. This is because the first three months of pregnancy is universally known as the point where things are more delicate and there are a lot of changes going on in the body.

To some extent, what each individual spa offers will depend on the level of therapist training, and whether they can adapt therapies that are not dedicated prenatal treatments to mums-to-be. Many spas however, have dedicated pregnancy spa treatments, which have been designed to be safe in all respects including ingredients, products, movements and your position during treatment. They are also specifically designed to help support you through your pregnancy, which also means they add to your enjoyment of the experience.

Lots of people experience changes in their skin during pregnancy, so a fabulous facial feels like a real treat. However, most want a relaxing massage for all the aching areas. Pedicures are also extremely popular, particularly if they come with a calf massage, which is excellent for swollen ankles and sore feet.

The best thing to do if you have questions about treatments during pregnancy, is to let the spa know at the time of booking. Phone ahead and see what the treatment options are ahead of time. It may mean your treatment needs to be changed or adapted, and if that’s organised in advance it makes the day more relaxing for you and there’s less risk of disappointment.

Can spas help you lose weight?

In general, a spa day or break in itself is not going to help you lose weight. However, it can help stimulate healthy habits or, at health spa destinations, provide you with knowledge, information, recipes and ideas, in order to implement long term healthy living, which may include weight loss or management, after your spa experience. If you book an extended and dedicated health spa experience, some are designed with weight loss goals in mind. However, once again, these are generally aimed at empowering you with the tools and solutions for long term, healthy living and weight management, rather than rapid weight loss solutions.