How to Plan Your Perfect Ontario Spa Resort Vacation



Planning a spa resort vacation? I bet you can hardly wait to get away! But before you hand over your hard-earned dollars, you’ll need to choose among a number of different resorts in Ontario. How do you pick? What should you know before you commit?

Things to consider when choosing a resort spa

1.       What’s your goal?

Before you even start looking at listings of resort spas in Ontario, ask yourself: What is my main goal for this trip?

Above: Briars Resort and Spa, photo by Peter Sibbald - petersibbald.com

It varies from person to person, and even changes for the same person depending on where they are in their life at the moment.

You may be:

  • seeking relaxation or de-stressing;
  • looking for beauty or anti-aging treatments;
  • having fun with your friends on a great girlfriend getaway;
  • celebrating a special life event;
  • enjoying a romantic travel destination with your partner;
  • indulging in fine dining and luxurious surroundings;
  • kick-starting your weight loss or detox program;
  • getting some  spiritual guidance;
  • trying some popular alternative health treatments;
  • simply spending some time in nature and enjoying outdoor adventures.

These are all distinct, although sometimes complementary, goals, and some resorts are better at some services than others.

Write down some of your goals and look them over. Then decide which goals are most important to you now. You’ll use this list later when you’re comparing the offerings of various resort spas, to make sure their services match your needs.

2.       The Company you keep

Are you going to this spa on your own? With a friend? A partner? A group of friends? Your family? Do you want peace and quiet? Or do you want lots of social interaction? Who do you imagine sharing the resort with you?

Write down your preferences and when you contact the resorts on your list, ask them if they can provide an atmosphere that suits you best. Is their resort best for:

  • Individuals
  • Couples
  • Groups of friends/boisterous parties
  • Families with children

In other words, is it a place to mingle with other singles or a place for couples to canoodle?

3.       Location

A vacation won’t be relaxing if the drive there and back is stressful. Think about where you want to go, how you’ll get there, and if the transportation system is workable for you. Consider the:

  • Distance from home – is a long drive going to stress you out?
  • Access to restaurants and attractions
  • Surroundings – is it off the beaten track? Too close to a road? Will you hear traffic from your room?

 4.       Spa treatments

What kind of treatments are you seeking? If you’re not that familiar with the many kinds of treatments – it’s hard to keep up – you might want to do some research first. The Travel to Wellness web site has a helpful glossary of terms outlining types of treatments:  http://www.traveltowellness.com/spawellnessglossary.

Some other aspects of the treatments to consider and inquire about:

  • Cost – prices can really vary so shop around especially if you’re on a budget
  • Cancellation policy
  • Does the spa offer treatments for singles or couples as well?
  • Number of staff, training of staff for treatments
  • Timing – can you book ahead and are you guaranteed those times? Hint: it’s best to book your treatments the day you’re spending overnight, because if you book it in the morning before you leave. they could get backed up and it will be too late for you
  • What do the treatment rooms look like and how many there are?
  • Scents – If you are allergic to scents, you could risk an asthma attack. Know what triggers your attacks and ask if they use scents, both artificial and natural. Not everyone knows that the burning of essential oils  -- even though they are “natural” products –- can trigger asthma attacks in sensitive individuals. If they use products like that, ask if they can either remove them from the treatment room before you enter, or, better yet, ask if they provide treatments in the individual’s hotel room.
  • If at all possible, ask for a tour of the facility if you’re within easy driving distance. Then you won’t have any surprises when you go.
  • Are you looking for other services like Yoga or Health Lectures? Many spas offer these as well but inquire before you book.

5.       The bedrooms

When you call your spa resort, before you book, ask them about:

  • Cost  – high season and low season, and different levels of rooms
  • Size of the room (square footage)
  • Decor – when was it last updated? Are photos of the room you are considering available on the web site?
  • Number of rooms overall (is this a large resort or a small cozy place)
  • Views from the bedroom
  • Amenities in the bedroom – is there a fireplace, tv, clock alarm, coffee/tea-making facilities, fridge, etc.
  • Smoking/non-smoking – some spa resorts are smoke-free, while others permit smoking on the balconies etc. Ask beforehand, especially if you don’t want smoke wafting through your window.

6.       The property and activities

Part of the joy of going away is discovering beautiful new surroundings. What does the spa resort have to offer in terms of:

  • Scenery – is it by a lake? A forest? A farm with horses? How far away from your hotel is the beach/woods/etc.?
  • Appearance of the building or buildings? Is it ultra- modern or a well-maintained heritage building with historic charm?
  • What are the property’s amenities (fitness equipment, sauna, swimming pool, boating, board games, mountain bikes, horse riding, casino, etc.)? And how much does it cost to use them? Is it all inclusive or pay-per-use?
  • If your travel companion isn’t doing the treatments, is there enough to keep them entertained while you’re in the spa?
  • Common rooms - Is there a gym? a sitting room? Do they provide books or dvd’s to borrow? Is there a fireplace in the lounge? etc. What are you looking for?
  • Is there any live entertainment? When?

 7.       Dining

Food is hugely important for spa resort guests. Read the reviews on tripadvisor.ca and you’ll find a large percentage of the comments are praising or criticizing the food. To avoid nasty surprises, make sure you ask about the following matters:

  • Is food all inclusive or a la carte?
  • What are the operating hours of the dining room? (some close between meals which can be a problem if you’re out and about at odd times or you’re a late sleeper). If food is available all day, what kind of food and drinks are available outside of meal time? Does the resort provide snacks? What kind?
  • Is alcohol available or allowed on the property? (Some ban it.)
  • Does the spa resort cater to special dietary needs?
  • Are certain things OFF the menu at the resort? Some health resorts ban meats, dairy, wheat, etc from the service.
  • Is there a dress code for dining? What is it?

 8.       Other questions about the company

Management can make and break a business. How long has the spa resort been operating? How long under the current management? Experience doesn’t guarantee smooth operation, but it helps.

If you’re concerned about the environment, is this resort “Green”? How does it incorporate green practices into its operations?

 9.       Where to get info about the spas

First, of course, there is the resort spa’s own website and reception staff. What does the company say about its goals? What does it say makes it different from other spa resorts?

Second, you can check an industry association, Ontario’s Finest Inns and Spas. They don’t cover all spas in Ontario, but they do cover many: http://www.ontariosfinestinns.com

Independent Reviews – Spa Life Magazine reviews spas in Canada. It’s by paid subscription but you can check out sample issues online: http://www.spalifemagazine.com. You can also read reviews (for free) and check out rankings for Ontario spa resorts on www.tripadvisor.ca .

10.   Get it in writing

Even when you book over the phone, have the spa resort email your confirmation to you so that you have it in writing.

This list may seem like a lot of things to consider, but isn’t it worth it to ensure that your Ontario spa resort vacation is exactly what you want?

Ontario Travel Secrets > Ontario Resorts > Spa Resorts