Top 5 Tips for Choosing a Destination Spa

Getting Beautiful Skin Image Gallery So you've decided to spend a week at the spa -- question now is which one best fits your style and your budget. See more getting beautiful skin pictures.

Stress and the rigors of daily life can really take a toll on your overall health. Whether it's not enough time spent to stop and smell the roses or too many meals ordered out of car windows, a routine that falls short of perfect can really impact how well you feel.

The International Spa Association defines a destination spa as one that promotes a healthy lifestyle to its guests. During a traditional seven-day stay (although the length can vary), spa goers typically sample services such as spa treatments, wellness seminars, fitness activities and special interest programs, while dining on a healthful cuisine throughout their visit.

Destination spas aim to help their clients achieve a renewed sense of peace and purity, leaving them rejuvenated, relieved of stress and ready to put their newly acquired healthy habits into action. But the dizzying array of destination spas can make choosing the right one a challenge. According to the International Spa Association, as of 2008, there were some 18,000 spas in the United States alone [source: ISA]. People seeking rest and relaxation might soon find themselves bewildered and overwhelmed by the choices to be made when selecting the perfect spa for their particular vacation.

Luckily, someone on the hunt for a spa can employ strategies that make the decision less troublesome and tedious. On the next few pages, we'll walk through those tips, outlining the process of spa selection.

The Activities
You can get a soothing massage at most destination spas, but beyond that, the offerings can vary greatly.
You can get a soothing massage at most destination spas, but beyond that, the offerings can vary greatly.

Before delving into the nitty-gritty, it's a good idea to spend some time exploring the different sorts of destination spas available. The activities offered vary from spa to spa, so it's important to make sure the spas you're selecting from have everything you're looking for.

Outdoorsy types may want to zero in on destination spas that feature horseback riding lessons or kayaking expeditions. People looking for complete pampering may want to select a spa that offers multiple types of massages, body wraps and facials. Someone hoping to shed a few pounds will want to be on the lookout for a spa that highlights an assortment of aerobic activities and consultations with dieticians. If an overload of stress is the major issue, a spa that teaches meditation techniques and provides time for quiet soaks in a whirlpool could be the ticket.

Of course many spas offer a combination of services. Just make sure the ones you want are covered by the spas on your short list.

The Ambiance

On a similar note, try to get a feel for each spa's ambiance to make sure it lives up to what you're hoping to find. For example, are you looking for a regal retreat, a tropical paradise or a rugged resort? Do you want to be exposed to a new culture or just stick with what you're used to? Are you looking to socialize with other spa goers or relax in tranquil solitude? Considering questions like these will help you as you read through the descriptions of different spas.

Also, most spas are coed but some are only open to one gender or another, so make sure you don't accidently book a vacation at a destination spa that's not going to let you in the front door. Among other potential restrictions are age, and depending on the spa, children and pets may or may not be allowed. There are spas that cater exclusively to couples and it's also important to note that sometimes spas are clothing-optional, so more modest people will want to keep an eye out for that.

The Location
If you love the ocean, getting massaged near the water's edge could really enhance the experience.
If you love the ocean, getting massaged near the water's edge could really enhance the experience.

When evaluating spas based on their location, consider more than just what part of the world they're in -- although that's important as well. Apart from the rudimentary geographical positioning, destination spas can be found in a variety of spots, such as rustic wilderness settings, exclusive elegant locales and hip urban scenes. The environment surrounding a spa can have a big effect on the experience within, so determine which type of place will best contribute to your spa experience. Perhaps you want to get out of the city and savor some peace and quiet in the shadows of majestic mountains. Or maybe you want to relax at a chic spa that's in an upscale part of town and is all the rage among reviewers. Whichever you prefer, make sure your potential spas fit the bill.

Also, just because a picture is worth a thousand words doesn't necessarily mean all those words are true -- artfully taken photos can be misleading. A spa could appear to be nestled in lush woodland, when in fact it's only buffered by a thin ring of trees in the middle of a noisy city. Bottom line? Do your homework.

The Price
Facials and other services may cost extra.
Facials and other services may cost extra.

Price is of course another big factor in spa selection. You may want to choose a spa that fits neatly within your budget, or splurge to give yourself a really special treat. Whichever choice strikes a chord, keep the goals of your vacation in mind while you decide. After all, if you're going for rejuvenation and relaxation, you don't want to spend the whole week stressing out because you're not sure you're getting your money's worth or fretting about whether you should have shelled out a little more to get the unforgettable experience you were seeking. Choosing a spa whose cost you're comfortable with is important.

Destination spas vary greatly in price and they often run specials, so if money is an issue it helps to be flexible about where and when you choose to go.

The Rep

Last but not least, it's important to make sure the spa you're choosing has a good reputation. Ideally, destination spas should have plenty of knowledgeable and friendly staff members so each guest feel well attended to. The facilities should be clean and uncluttered, with visible signs that routine housekeeping occurs.

Once you've narrowed down your list to this level, check the grapevine to see if anyone you know has visited the remaining contenders and see what they have to say. If you're stepping into uncharted territory, you can consult a travel agent who specializes in spa vacations or try checking around online for reviews to get a feel for how other guests have rated each spa. Apart from an outside opinion, you can also call the spa directly to ask questions about their policies and facility.

Continue to the next page for links to more information about spas, saunas and stress reduction.


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  • Destination Spa Group Web site. (12/29/2009)
  • International Spa Association Web site. (12/29/2009)
  • Web site. (12/29/2009)
  • Watts, Ben. "Destination Rejuvenation." Dec. 21, 2009.