5 Tips for a Successful Spa Experience

Published in: Makeup Tips/How To, Spas

The Spa on the Plaza at the Portola Hotel and Spa in Monterey, California

The Spa on the Plaza at the Portola Hotel & Spa in Monterey, California

If I could, I would go to a spa every single day of my life. They’re quiet, they smell good, you get to walk around in a robe and slippers, and somebody takes care of you, instead of the other way around. For a good hour, you don’t have to worry about anything, and sitting around for long blocks of time is considered totally OK. You can just sit there and zone out…

Going to a spa is one of those treats I like to give myself once or twice a year, especially when I travel, and on my trip to Monterey last weekend, I popped on over to the Spa on the Plaza at the Portola Hotel & Spa for a prenatal massage (in a nutshell: it was great!).


Incidentally, when you’re a pregnant lady, the prenatal massage is pretty much your only massage option if you can’t lay flat on your tum, but it works most of the majorly sore spots, like your back, hips and feet.

The spa reception area

The spa reception area

If you go to the Spa on the Plaza, and I hope you do, ask for Ashleigh. She has amazing hands, and she’s super nice. Seriously, her hands were among the best parts of my trip.

Beauty products galore

Beauty products galore!

While I sat in the Relaxation Room (that’s actually what it’s called), I got to thinking about the things that make for a successful spa visit. If you have a spa day in your future, here are some things to think about…

1. Get there early

The relaxation room

The Relaxation Room…

Most spas suggest that you arrive at least 15 minutes before your appointment, but I suggest a full hour or two — maybe even three, depending on the spa’s facilities and how stressed you’re feeling.

Seriously. First of all, you don’t want to be stressed and rushing to make a spa appointment (kind of defeats the purpose, yo!). You want to get there with plenty of time to check in, check out the facilities, and give yourself some time to relax (possibly even take a nap).

Research the spa’s facilities online or by calling them on the phone before you go. That way, you can take advantage of any extra niceties they may have, like steam rooms and pools.

Steam room straight ahead!

Steam room straight ahead!

The women's locker room

The women’s locker room

If I get there early, I’ll use the steam room, if the spa has one (although I can’t right meow because they’re not advised for Baby Girl), take a dip in the pool, or sneak in a nap in one of the quiet rooms.

Most spas usually also have a fancy shower with, like, super jets of water that spray at you from all sides (OH, SO GOOD), and I’ll usually save those for after one of the spa treatments.

spa shower

One of the showers… There was also a showerhead above that didn’t make it into the picture

Baby Girl and I getting ready for our prenatal massage

Baby Girl and I getting ready for our prenatal massage

Point is, give yourself looooooooots of time to relax.

2. Figure out your food situation

What's the food sitch?

What’s the food sitch?

I feel like this is an often overlooked but highly important part of the spa experience, because I’ve been to spas and have been freaking HONGRAY AS ALL HELL, which dampens the experience. Trust me, achieving zen isn’t easy when your stomach is rumbling.

Hot tea and ice water with lemon

Hot tea and ice water with lemon

I think it’s very important to find out beforehand if the spa you’re going to has food, so you can eat accordingly. Some spas provide light snacks, like fruit and nuts, but some stick to drinks (like iced lemon water and hot tea).

Some bigger places have a menu and serve light dishes like salads and appetizers.

3. If anything isn’t working for you during your session, let your spa tech know

I learned this lesson the hard way: if anything isn’t working for you, be vocal about it. A spa visit is a special treat, so you should enjoy it. If you have to, walk out, even if it’s in the middle of a massage or other session, and ask to speak to a manager.

I used to accept poor service or other uncomfortable issues to be polite, but all it ever did was make me stressed out and grumpy, which is the exact opposite of the feeling you want when you go to a spa.

4. Check to see if you can use frequent flier miles

Some spas allow you to use frequent flier miles, so if you’ve got some on your card, use those bad boys to hit up a spa!


5. Leave your phone in your locker

Or, if you have to bring it with you, only use it to take silly selfies, not for answering emails or posting on social media. Really use the time to unplug for a while and relax.

spa on the plaza portola hotel spa sign

I hope these tips help you have a wonderful spa experience. 🙂 I’ll see ya at the spa!

Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,



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So far, 13 people have commented on this article. How cool is that?

  1. Heather L says:

    Just as a quick side-note that I think will amuse you – one place where I used to work had 2 “in residence” cats that my employer treated to a “spa day” sometimes (yes, there was a “kitty spa” in Boston!) I was so jealous!! But at least they had their priorities straight – the cats were more critical to operations than employees of course!

    I have been to the spa only a few times due to the expense and I’m absolutely dying to go back. I’m in the Metro Washington DC area and there are so many incredible spas there I’d like to try – for example, the Bliss spa! (So far I’ve had to settle for their products at home that I get at Ulta!)It is such an indulgent, relaxing experience that is enormously beneficial to reducing stress and improving overall health. I do have some self-consciousness about disrobing, but my first experience minimized that feeling as the staff went out of their way to make me feel comfortable. If I had the income for it, I’d be going to the Spa once a month!

    For now, I’m trying to recreate the Spa experience (as much as that is possible) at home, by allowing myself to splurge on products and tools for facials (GlamGlow is my fave!), luxurious baths (hello Lush!), “aromatherapy” candles (loving Bath & Body Works!)and proper manicure products. Of course, I can’t massage myself (I even bought a massager on Amazon but it’s not satisfying!) Luckily, I go to Atlantic City every few months and there’s cheap massage parlors all over the Boardwalk! (I know, not the same thing, but I have to improvise for now!) Upside, I can get my fortune from Zoltar and eat salt water taffy when my massage is over!

    It would make for a great post to talk about your favorite at-home spa experience routine unless you’ve already done that recently and I missed it.

    • Rosemary says:

      A kitty spa! That’s fabulous. I think Tabs should consider this as a business opportunity. He could head a franchise across the country! Spa with Tabs. Chill with Tabs. TabSpa. lol. 🙂

  2. Tulipthecat says:

    After my friends had their first babies we’ve been celebrating subsequent babies with a trip to the spa. One of the friends will host the baby shower where we meet for breakfast and all the girls go to the spa and the Dads have Daddy daycare where all the men watch all of the kids together. When we return from the spa we all have dinner and hang out the rest of the day. We frequently go to a spa in Napa. We go to the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn fairly often for our spa days. I heard they have a great pregnancy massage and there is a bathing ritual that you can do prior to your appointment. I totally recommend it!

  3. Chelsea says:

    I’ve never really been to a spa! It’s now on the to-do list.

  4. Kellie says:

    I lurve the spa! The last time I went to one was last year for my birthday, a present from my hubby. I got a massage and a facial and it was heavenly!!! If I had more income I would go once a month. What a great way to destress! Karen, I agree with Heather L above, I would love to know your at home spa routine with some product recs!

  5. Kelly B. says:

    This looks like an absolutely ah-mazing experience! I would totally love to run a spa one day, there’s nothing I love to do more than provide positivity and relaxation!
    Kelly B. recently posted … Inside my Minimalist Makeup Bag

  6. Amy says:

    You suddenly popped, Karen, at least since the last pic I saw! You look adorbs! I meant to send you my recipe for choco date balls. No refined sugar, just natural fruit sweetness from the dates, and super chocolatey! You basically toss dates, cocoa powder, and a little coconut oil in the food processor. Add anything else you want (black beans, nuts, oats, vanilla or peppermint extract, you get the idea). Roll the sticky mixture into balls and coat with a dusting of oat or nut powder (which takes two seconds to make in th food processor). Soooo satisfying and delicious!

  7. I haven’t been in a spa for ages, actually since before m daughter was born (she will be two in February!) I really need to put that on the agenda 2016.
    LindaLibraLoca recently posted … Alpha-H Micro Cleanse – Old habits die hard

  8. Aw man, I would rrrrrreally enjoy a nice spa day right now! My back is KILLING me, so I could use a good massage…
    Kiss & Make-up recently posted … Review | Hairfinity hair vitamins (+ international giveaway!)

  9. MonicaP says:

    Indeed – I’d spa it every day if I could too, but alas .. I can only fit in a facial .. maybe once a quarter 😛

    MonicaP recently posted … Blissmo Box No. 4 – More Snacks!

  10. Kalli says:

    Former front desk spa employee here! Schedule early to make sure you get exactly the services you want on the day and time that works best (doubly so for holidays like Valentine’s and Mothers Day). While walk-ins can sometimes be accommodated, it’s best to call ahead to make sure so you don’t waste your time. Communicate with your therapist/technician! I remember one instance where a lady getting a pedicure had a shoulder wrap that was heated up too much and she got burned as it sat on her shoulders during the service, but she was too shy/scared to say anything to her nail tech (it shouldn’t have been so hot to begin with, I know!).

    Also, for people who want to buy gift cards for spa services for loved ones – make sure that person would be interested in spa services. I had some very sweet and well-meaning teen kids come in to buy a gift card for services for their mom but they said she “didn’t like to be touched.”

    There’s about a gagillion other things I could type, but most of all remember that everyone there wants you to walk out relaxed and happy!
    Kalli recently posted … Sephora Beauty Class Review: Nighttime Smoky Eyes

  11. Natalye says:

    great tips! I have been wanting to visit a spa and I will definitely keep these in mind when I go 🙂

    Natalye recently posted … Anastasia: Shadow Couture World Traveler Palette Review and Swatches

  12. Erin says:

    I haven’t been to a spa day in 6 years 🙁 I also like to arrive early and take advantage of the amenities. I try to book at spas that have them because even if they don’t prices are never that different it seems. I’d rather spend $100 on a facial at some place that has them than $90 at one that doesn’t if you know what I mean.

    I highly recommend Aveda training schools for those that are strapped for cash. They may not have frills but you get a good service with great products for 1/3 the cost of the service in a shi shi spa.
    Erin recently posted … Great Lakes Gelatin Collagen Hydrolysate

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