Several times a week, spa director Jessica Nichols will field questions for The Spa at Kingsmill, a AAA Four Diamond resort in Williamsburg, Va., and get what she calls “the naked question.” A guest will say, “I’m uncomfortable taking off my clothes” for a body treatment. “Do I have to?”
Spa newbies, and even some veterans, are often unsure of spa etiquette. For those visiting Kingmill’s deluxe 5,000-square-foot spa, which offers more than four dozen treatments, here are some insider tips:
- Read the spa menu before booking. “Call and ask questions,” Nichols advises. “Do you have a signature treatment?” “What do you recommend for a bad back?” Request a detailed explanation of exotic offerings you might be interested in trying or ask which therapist might be best for your needs. If you have youngsters who may want a treatment, ask about age requirements.
- Reserve as far in advance as possible. Appointments can fill up fast, and if you wait till the last minute, you might be out of luck. If you have a preference for a male or female therapist, be sure to state your requests when making your reservations.
- Arrive at least 15 minutes early. You’ll need time to change into robe and slippers and shower (if having a body service). You could be asked to fill out a questionnaire about your health, allergies, and injuries. You might also wish to unwind in the relaxation room or use the sauna or steam room beforehand. Arriving late usually means paying full price for a shortened treatment so that the staffer can be ready for the next client.
- Remove jewelry and leave it home or in your room safe if possible. Spas typically have lockers with locks, but understandably don’t want any issues with missing or misplaced valuables. Also, treatments that involve massage are more effective and more easily given when fingers, necks, and ears are bare.
- Take off all your clothes to get the most benefit from full-body treatments. You will be draped so that only the parts being worked on will be exposed. “Where whatever makes you feel comfortable’, Nichols tells Kingsmill guests. “You’re in charge.” She says about half her clientele prefer to keep their undergarments on. Many spas, including Kingsmill’s, also provide disposable spa briefs.
Therapists are trained to take their cue from you and not speak except to give directions — unless you clearly desire interaction.
- Let therapists and salon workers know what you want. Speak up about what kind of massage pressure you like, and tell your therapist about injuries or sensitive areas. In the salon, discuss specifics for haircuts, manicures, and pedicures. “Speak up — you’re in the driver’s seat,” Nichols says.
- Don’t feel the need to make conversation. Spa time is downtime, and “the talking is up to you,” Nichols says. Therapists are trained to take their cue from you and not speak except to give directions — unless you clearly desire interaction.
- Leave all of your worries at home. Schedule a sitter (don’t bring children to the spa unless they, too, are receiving a service), turn off your cell phone, and speak in low tones. Be considerate of others to keep that tranquil feeling going,” Nichols says. “Be prepared to disconnect from the real world and allow yourself time to relax.”
- Expect to leave a gratuity. Tips of 18% to 20% are standard in the spa service industry. “Most of our patrons elect to leave 20%,” Nichols says. Some spa-goers prefer to hand cash directly to the therapist who served them.
- Make the most of your time at the spa. Plan to arrive extra early or stick around after treatments to use steam, sauna, and other relaxation amenities. Or just lie on a chaise in a robe, sipping restorative water or tea and leafing through magazines to prolong the serenity. Kingsmill serves lunch and wine on request, so there’s no need to step away from the spa’s tranquil atmosphere.
For more information, visit kingsmill.com/spa/spa-experiences or call 800-965-4772 or 757-253-8230; or for the salon: 757-564-5353.
For more travel experiences available from Xanterra Parks & Resorts and its affiliated properties, visit xanterra.com/explore.