Photo by Christine Sponchia

A guided journey to better spa experiences

Photo by Rune Enstad

The day spa – an experience that brings to mind luxury, relaxation, pampering, and a host of other feel-good descriptions. For me, not so much.

You can pipe in the soft sounds of bubbling brooks and flutes, it’s still a solid no-go. You can whisper as we walk through your tranquil surroundings and pamper me in luxury. Still, no.

For me, spa experiences were intrusive and a little like a cattle call. Head ‘em up, move ‘em on, Rawhide!

But all that changed recently at a luxury resort in Vail Valley, Colorado. I stepped across the Bridge to Serenity into Spa Anjali at the Westin Riverfront Resort in Avon.

Whatever your spa experience or preferences, I have an easy plan to get the most from these sometimes costly getaways. A spa offers too many benefits – physically, mentally, & even spiritually — for you to pass up the experience or struggle through it.

1) Planning makes the difference

I”m an expert at using the internet to plan trips, but it can take a significant time investment. I’d been reading that travel agents are on a comeback in a major way,  in part because travelers recognize the convenience and expertise that comes with using a professional.

I like personalized attention — a custom itinerary that fits my personality and peculiarities. I’m also a budget-minded traveler who loves luxury!  When it came to planning a special family trip to Vail, Colorado, I turned to Hillary at Zen Luxury Travel. She found us a private home to rent in Beaver Creek and booked a large group of us with Spa Anjali. Hillary was an expert at listening to our preferences and then finding a perfect fit. (And, no, this is not a paid sponsorship for a travel agency.)

Because my past spa experiences were mixed and I was planning a special occasion trip, I turned to an expert for help. If you go it alone, a word of caution – be careful about online reviews for spas. You really need to think about your specific preferences first and foremost.

2) Don’t be shy – communicate!

Thanks to the help of Hillary and women in my group, I learned that communication was the nexus of this whole spa experience. Previously, my focus was on relaxing, and as I tend to overthink, relaxing became a goal to stress out over!

Massages for me meant discomfort. But that’s because I wouldn’t communicate well with the masseuse. I’m not sure exactly why. Probably a combination of shyness and not wanting to be a bother with too many requests. Well, I tossed out that excuse and opened up a whole new spa experience.

For example, I don’t like to lie on my stomach, and I only enjoy massage on my shoulders, hands, and feet. I really dislike deep tissue massage. After a brief conversation, which started with me confessing that I have difficulty relaxing, the massage began. I relaxed almost immediately as a result of the trust the masseuse engendered in me with her compassion for my angst.

Once you are in the private massage room, you should expect to hear about “add-ons” that can enhance the experience. Add-ons may include special essential oils, scrubs, or lotions. Again, do not be shy about saying no.

How can someone improve their spa experience?

“Communication! I used to be shy about saying anything when it came to the amount of pressure they used or if I was uncomfortable on the table, but I finally have gotten around to speaking up for what I like and don’t like. Makes a huge difference in the experience!”

Sarah, R.N.

How can someone improve their spa experience?

Drink PLENTY of water! Hydration is key.

Reba, Chamber of Commerce

How can someone improve their spa experience?

“TRY to relax and not be self conscious!”

Bruce, Artist & Fabric Designer

How can someone improve their spa experience?

“For a full day at the spa, it’s more fun when you have a friend with you to share lunch, facials, mani’s and pedi’s.”

Kathryn, Accredited Home Stager

3) Solitude isn’t required

When I think back about previous spa visits, they were secluded encounters. But not everything about the spa experience has to be private. Quiet, probably, but lonely, no.

What I liked so much about the Spa Anjali was that we were able to gather in a beautiful common area to relax, giggle, and sip bubbly. We shared the best massage moments and talked excitedly about the newly engaged couple, Sarah and Layton, and their wedding plans.

The spa employees even shared a few quiet laughs with us as they checked in on our comfort.

Walking back over the Bridge of Serenity, I reflected on all the reasons this had been such an incredibly good spa experience — Planning, Communication, Community.

And, of course, the place itself. All together, it equaled one of my most authentic spa experiences yet.

I encourage you to experience the genuine customer-centered care at Spa Anjali, or at least recreate it for yourself at any number of amazing spas just waiting for us to discover them.

* Note from Tess: This is not a sponsored post.  I was not compensated in any way for this article.

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  1. These are great tips! And it’s interesting to hear that travel agents are coming back into favor — I believe it too! There are so many options nowadays, you could spend forever researching and still not plan a very great trip, ha.

  2. Will have to take these things into consideration during my next spa trip! I agree, I’ve been to a few and I don’t like the whole aspect of herding all the guests like sheep. It’s impersonal and almost ruined the experience. Will use your advice next time :)

  3. Really great tips! I think the one about communication is really important. It’s sometimes hard to speak up but I’m sure the masseuse would appreciate it and you’ll have such a better time. Thanks!

  4. Isn’t Colorado just the best. I haven’t been to this Spa but I have been to the hotel. I’m glad you finally had a fun experience. It sounds like you just haven’t visited the right kind of spa yet. There are some great one’s where you can just sit and relax all day in the hot tubs, cold pools and steam baths before or after a great massage. Next time you will have to visit some of the natural hot springs in and around the Valley.

  5. I just stayed at the Westin Riverfront in Avon last month – great hotel, although sadly, I didn’t have time for a spa treatment. I love including spa visits in my vacations, though, especially after a long hike!

  6. Great tips! Going to use this because I was just thinking today I need a spa break! That with some wine after of course. Going to make sure to properly plan this upcoming one.

  7. gosh, I love a Spa day, I’ve been to a few bad ones in my time though so researching more before I commit is definitely a great tip! I’d never thought about getting a travel agent to plan one!!

  8. I have to admit that I’ve only been to a spa once in my life, but they had amazing areas where it was for quiet relaxation and other areas for the bubbly chatting areas too. I really enjoyed this and would definitely go back to the one I went to. Nice tips regarding communication too – definitely important! :)

  9. The spa in Vail, that sounds like a great way to relax! Within a group setting much have been fun as well! If I’m at the spa I prefer it to be serene, but would love the idea of a ladies outing!

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