There are days when a glass of wine, my favorite dark chocolate or high-fashion editorial just isn’t enough. Often, I need to push reset on my insanely busy life and retreat to a slice of Eden. That’s right, it’s time for a spa day;).

 

But like that trip to a new hairdresser, spas generate a sense of excitement but also a significant amount of trepidation… Will the skin treatments accommodate my needs? Will the make-up applications compliment my skin tone? Is the 15-minute hot-oil head massage really a good idea with extensions or braids? And dare I say it: Will it be the warm, welcoming oasis I  so desperately need?

 

I travel a lot for work and pleasure and try to incorporate spa stays into my travel plans. From the most opulent spa offerings at resorts and hotels, to the hole in the wall gems. Everyone has an opinion, so I now use Yelp, Tripadvisor, Spaweek and Instagram as well as some good old-fashioned Colombo-style detective work to find personal reviews, photos and critiques that describe exact treatments and mitigate my apprehensions.

 

On my spa travels, I have come up with some tried and true guidelines to really maximize my enjoyment. Here are three tips for making sure your trip is satisfying and utterly relaxing:

 

 

  1. Arrive early and leave late:

Shape the day so that it provides YOU with what you need: I am a fan of stretching the day out as long as possible. So, I constantly ask for my treatments to be spaced out or I confirm the earliest I can arrive and the latest I can leave. This way, I really use the time to unwind and enhance the benefits. I am often disappointed with my experience when I don’t take the time needed to physically and mentally relax before or after pampering. I have had to accept that winding down, switching off and focusing in takes longer than it used to. Acknowledging that goes a long way in my wellness journey.

 

 

  1.  The utility of the spa packages:

As a self-confessed penny-pincher, I often pick a spa package as a great way to get an array of discounted services in one visit. The proverbial rub is when you don’t pay attention and realize that the aromatherapy massage is a paltry 25 minutes rather than the 50 minutes you really need. Make sure you know package make-up and the time slots for each session before going. A friendly call to inquire whether rules about substitutions are flexible can often reap rewards. I rarely have any utility for an hour-long foot massage, and am happy to forego that for additional time on another service……. Ask and see! Also don’t be afraid to bring your own blend of oils or skin treatments that you have found beneficial.

 

 

  1. When is bodywork too much work for your body?

I have learnt this lesson the hard and painful way…Become familiar with the difference between bodywork and massage, because bodywork can be far from a relaxing, stress-free experience. It is worth noting that although more intense than massage, bodywork affords me an incredibly deep sense of relaxation that often lasts for weeks, far longer than conventional therapeutic massages. Eliminate guess-work and communicate, be clear about where you prefer to be touched. Using a number scale to assess how you are experiencing pressure or temperature can be effective in building the rapport needed to really relax into a massage. “At the moment this feels like a 3 and I would prefer it at 6……”

 

All in all, spas have become an important part of my health and wellness practice. A way to restore harmony and focus inward when I feel harried and frazzled with external stimuli.