Martha Stewart Living Radio: The Radio Blog

Heading to the spa?

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Lisa Kasanicky, aka Spa Girl!

Going to the spa is a relaxing, fun experience-- but only if you're not feeling stressed about how to look and act when you walk in the door! Morning Living recently spoke with Lisa Kasanicky, founder of Arizona Spa Girls and author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Girlfriend Getaways, who gave us a lesson in spa 101. Check out some of Lisa's helpful tips below!

What types of questions should you ask before you head to the spa?

One, ask if the spa is running any specials or seasonal offerings. Go ahead and ask! It's hip to be a savvy consumer these days. The spa may also be offering a limited-time service that you may have not otherwise tried. Two, ask what type of fitness classes or workshops are available on the day of your visit and if you have access to the pool, exercise equipment, and so on. Make the most of your day! Finally, ask about the cancellation policy. If for some reason you need to cancel, you'll be prepared and in some cases, avoid being charged for not showing up.

How early should you arrive?

Arrive as early as you can to enjoy the amenities and get to know the lay of the land  before your treatment. Think of it as a mini-vacation. Definitely shoot to get there at least 30 minutes before your service is scheduled. You need that time to tour the facility, change into your spa robe and slippers, unwind with a dip in the hot tub or steam room and slip into a spa state of mind.

Do you recommend going to the spa with a group, or going alone?

The answer really depends on the type of experience you want. Are you craving some introspective, quiet time with absolutely no demands from anyone? Go alone! Do you desperately need time to re-connect with friends, family or your sweetheart? Get the  girlfriends together or book a couples' massage. However, remember to match the group size with the facility.

If you've never been to a spa before, what types of services do you recommend for your first time?

Massage therapy is by far is the most requested spa service and a great place to start.  A relaxing Swedish massage really can do wonders to relieve stress. If you're not a massage person, try the spa's signature facials. Facials are usually customized to your skin type and can help relieve stress in the facial muscles, where we actually hold a lot of tension – especially computer users. If you've never had a facial, you might break out afterward because the treatment can bring impurities to the surface that were there already. But think of it this way – Wouldn't you rather get those little suckers out of the way before a surge of stress hormones brings them to the surface at the worst possible time?

Can you request a male/female therapist?

Absolutely. But whether it's a man or woman, the best treatments come from the person's expertise, technique and experience.

The big question-- are you supposed to strip down completely at a spa?

Definitely the most common question I get, and the easy answer is that it depends on your comfort level. Truly, therapists spend a lot of time learning very nifty tricks with towels and sheets to keep you covered throughout the service so stripping down to your birthday suit is one option. Or, bring along a comfortable bathing suit and wear that under your robe. Some places even offer disposable undergarments. Bottom line, there is no wrong or right; it’s what you’re comfortable with.

What type of mindframe should you be in at the spa?

You really want to switch into a grateful state of mind as soon as you pull into the parking lot of the spa. Turn off your gadgets and fill your mind with thoughts of gratitude that you've given yourself this time to tune out the daily distractions of life and to tune into re-energizing your body and mind. And remember, not every spa treatment is going to change your life. Spa professionals are not miracle workers. They are there to attend to you mostly on a physical level – the mind part is up to you. So breathe deep, clear your mind and enjoy!

Can you actually get a good deal at the spa?

Absolutely! One way to save is to book your spa visit off-season. For example, the Phoenix/Scottsdale area in Arizona is a mecca of amazing spas but because of the high temperatures in the summer, you can find great deals from June through September. Also, if you love a particular spa and plan on visiting again in the future, subscribe to the email list to get notified of special offers.

How much should you tip?

The standard tip is 18 to 20 percent. At some spas, the gratuity is already included in the cost of the treatment, so be sure to ask. The tip may seem like a lot on top of what might already be a pricey diversion, but remember that a lot of cost goes in to your visit – laundry, spa attendants, reception staff, fitness professionals and so on. It's that one-on-one connection with your massage therapist or aesthetician that can make a difference in how you feel, so think of the gratuity as a personal thank you.

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