How to Spa #LikeAJetsetter: Etiquette, Trends, and Everything In Between
Spa days aren’t a splurge, they’re a necessity—especially if you’re always on the road. Sometimes, though, the customs can be confusing, so we’re here to teach you everything from stripping to tipping etiquette as well as give you the insider scoop on all the best on-the-go body treatments for travelers.
Chelsea is Brooklyn-based travel writer, editor, and photographer. When not home eating her way through NYC, she's gallivanting across the globe, sailing the coast of Croatia or hiking the peaks of Peru. Her superpowers include booking flight deals and sleeping in small plane seats.
Spa Etiquette Abroad
Know When to Go Nude
Before you bare it all, make sure you know what’s appropriate depending on the destination. At onsens (hot spring spas) in Japan, for example, women and men soak separately and completely in the nude. Tattoos there are also taboo, so if you have a good amount of ink, you’ll either be refused entry or be given a cover to put over it. Similarly, if you’re going to a spa in any of the Nordic countries, you’ll be expected to wear your birthday suit and shower off (usually not in private) before getting in the sauna or geothermal pools.
Leave the Phone at Home
No matter how insta-worthy a spa may be (mosaic-tiled pools, Scandi-chic design, succulents on every shelf), nothing ruins the peace faster than a loud ringtone or a selfie-taking spa-goer. If you’re really attached to the tech and want a little mindfulness on the go, download a relaxation app such as Binaural, which uses beats, sound waves, and rain simulation to help you meditate, concentrate, or sleep—ideal for those long, jet-lag-plagued nights.
Tipping for spa services can be tricky, especially when you’re traveling abroad. For a seamless experience, use a handy app like GlobeTips, a tip calculator and currency converter for 240 countries around the world. Once you take a photo of your receipt, it will be scanned and broken down by service, where you can then choose to split the bill if needed and rate the service. The best part? The app automatically detects which country you’re in and gives you a full guide on the tipping laws and average amounts for services beyond just spas, including restaurants, porters, and taxis.
Cool New Spa Treatments
If you’re open to something a little—ahem—out there, try a forest bathing retreat. The serene, Japanese-inspired experience is all about spending time in nature to reduce stress and high blood pressure. We recommend booking a stay at the ultra-luxe Naturhotel Forsytofgut, Europe’s first forest wellness center featuring barefoot walking trails in the Austrian Alps, zen yoga sessions in a sylvan meadow, a private game reserve, an alpine infinity pool, a stream-fed rock shower, and a rose-quartz sauna. There’s even the Botanist bar, which uses hand-picked herbs in its organic cocktails.
It may sound strange at first, but this sensory-deprivation spa experience is becoming more and more popular. Flotation tanks (which look oddly like large, rounded coffins) are filled with 10 inches of body-temperature water and saturated with 1,000 pounds of Epsom salt. There’s no light, touch, or sound (the floater’s ears are just below the water, and many spas will offer waterproof earplugs)—just the sensation of floating in nothingness. In Brooklyn, Lift / Next Level Floats has two kind of tanks: a traditional float pod and a high-ceiling, vaulted room for those worried about claustrophobia.
Although sweat lodges have been around for centuries, originating with Native Americans who took spiritual steam baths in natural huts, heat detoxing is having a major revival. Today, modern sweat lodges use infrared beds (think sweltering sleeping bags) that wrap you up like a burrito to help promote clear skin, better sleep, and weight loss. The OG celeb-favorite spa that put this concept on the map is Shape House, which now has five locations around Los Angeles. Unlike typical spa treatments, you’re actually encouraged to use tech to distract you from the 55 minutes of discomfort. At Shape House, each room is hooked up with Netflix, so you can binge Parks and Rec reruns while you roast.
In the wellness world, there’s always a new ingredient on the rise—and thanks to more lax laws (this is 2018, after all), cannabis is the next high on the scene. Many glam spas from Colorado to California are using CBD oil without THC (the psychoactive component of marijuana) in their treatments. Bliss and bake with the CBD Vibe Facial (including electric stimulation, CBD oil hydration, and oxygen therapy) at celeb esthetician Ildi Pekar’s wellness studio in New York City, or head to San Francisco’s St. Regis Remède Spa for the CBD Healing Customized Massage, which uses high-grade hemp oil to calm anxiety and ease sore muscles. The St. Julien Hotel & Spa in Boulder also offers the Ultimate Colorado Bliss Experience—which follows up a rose sugar scrub and lavender-and-sage CBD-infused body butter wrap with a full-body massage. Note: You can even take hash baths with peppermint, chamomile, and Epsom salt in your hotel’s deep-soaking tub.
Best Wellness Products for Bringing Your Spa Experience On the Go
Coco & Eve Like a Virgin Nourishing Hair Mask
This coconut and fig hair mask is an easy way to give your locks some love on the road. In just 10 minutes, your hair will be shiny and hydrated with less frizz and treated split ends. For the best results, apply the mask after you shower and shampoo, then cover your hair with a silk scarf before you go to bed. Rinse it out in the morning when you wake up for a silky, soft ‘do.
Kitsch Jade Roller
It’s no wonder why jade rollers are all the rage lately: they work wonders to de-puff skin after a day of travel while also relieving stress and helping with circulation. Think of it as a little on-the-go massage for the face.
Summer Fridays Jet Lag Mask
This insta-famous product is an all-in-one mask, moisturizer, and primer perfect for long-haul flights. Plus, it can be layered with other sheet masks for an extra glow and a fresh face when you land.
Wicks and Stones Wanderlust Crystal Candle
Light a few candles and settle in a nice bubble bath for the ultimate at-home spa day. We love these hand-poured candles by Australian company Wicks and Stones. The Heart of Hayman candle (a blend of coconut, lime, and elderflower essential oils) is a favorite and comes with an amethyst crystal as an added perk.
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