Day spa in West Los Angeles?
March 17, 2017 9:57 PM   Subscribe

I offered my 70-something-year-old aunt a day's visit to a spa. Optimum outcome costs no more than a reasonable amount where she will get a break from dealing with her son's terminal cancer diagnosis. But I have no idea what a reasonable amount is - $100? $300? - or what a day spa actually includes.

Aunt said she'd ask friends for recommendations but I think it'd be simpler to gift her with something specific and let her use it - or not - as needed. Aunt has always been proud of being beautifully got together, with nails, hair, etc, done, and my idea is a day in which she gets as much of that as she wants plus a massage and a hot tub. But I do not know from day spas at all!
posted by goofyfoot to Health & Fitness (12 answers total)
Burke Williams in West Hollywood. Steam room (hot or cold), dry sauna, hot tubs. Tons of massage modalities, skincare, deluxe mani/pedi available. It's pretty great.

Use of the spa (steam rooms, sauna, hot tub) is unlimited for the day when you've booked any treatment (massage, skincare, mani/pedi, etc).
posted by erst at 9:59 PM on March 17

That shop closed. The one near Crescent Heights Blvd.? And their website isn't specific about what a flat amount includes for the remaining shops, including the one nearest her in Santa Monica.

Oh - your edit helped.
posted by goofyfoot at 10:05 PM on March 17

I'll second Burke Williams. The one in Santa Monica is great. And yes, you have full access to all of the facilities if you book a treatment. They have online booking so you should be able to see all of the prices on there. I can make fancier recommendations if you're looking for real high-end, but Burke Williams is very nice and I'd happily go there any time (indeed, I do).
posted by primethyme at 10:08 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]

Some general, non-specific to LA thoughts on day spas and gifting:

You will want to have a pretty good idea of what you're buying beforehand in order to know how much to pay. Sitting in the hot tub is often included free with another treatment, but everything else at a day spa is charged on a per-service basis (tips are expected and not included in the listed prices). She'll need advanced reservations for the specific services -- not before you pay, necessarily, but before your Aunt shows up.

Almost all day spas will offer some kind of (slightly discounted) package of treatments, or you can put together your own package from the list. They are sometimes called "packages" and sometimes called something incredibly vague and stupid like "journeys" or "experiences" on websites. Knowing that might make them easier to find.

There are basically three ways you can pay for this for your Aunt:

1. By pre-arranging the services -- time and type -- she is to receive and providing payment (usually by credit card) directly to the spa. Ask if you can pre-pay the tips, as well. 15-20% is normal. You'd obviously want to work with your Aunt on this to get the right services and time and place in advance.
2. By buying a gift-card to a particular spa. Look at their price list, figure out what the kinds of things you want to pay for cost, and give her a gift card. Then she can figure out exactly what she wants and supplement the gift card or not as her budget allows.
Some spas offer both $-value and pre-paid service options for gifts cards, as well -- which is better depends on how well you know what your Aunt wants. If you know she'd like X, Y and Z, you can pay for exactly that, and not have to worry about whether your gift card for $### is exactly the right amount or if she is going to end up paying extra or a few dollars will be left on the card or whatever.
A lot of spas don't allow gift card balances to be used for tipping, so keep that in mind in terms of your gift -- do you want to pay the tips or leave that for your Aunt to cover out of her pocket? If you want to pay, this may not be the best option.
3. By buying a Spafinder (or similar) gift card that can be used at many different places and allowing your Aunt to choose her own spa. Again, this allows her to figure out what she wants and where (or requires her, depending on her perspective on this kind of shopping). And almost no spas allow you to use these gift cards for tipping because they pay such a high percentage to Spafinder.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:44 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]

One further tip, if you're scheduling multiple services, it's often helpful to call the spa. Online scheduling is great, but the front desk people are better at knowing how close appointments can be, whether a stylist has a short haircut and can maybe fit you in (or a long prom updo and can't), if there's enough demand to bring in an extra masseuse on a particular day, etc., which the online booking portal doesn't know. If you're scheduling reasonably far out you can just pick your day and times, but if you're scheduling sooner (or during wedding season), talking to an actual person can be helpful.

I'd think in LA you'd be looking at around $2-3/minute ($120-180/hour) for spa services. (Little less for nails, little more for massage.) There will of course be a very wide range in pricing, probably from around $1/minute at less-expensive places or outlying places, to super high-end Hollywood spas where the sky's the limit.

Most spas have half-day and full-day packages. Most of them include some kind of lunch with the full-day package. (And many include snacks in half-day packages but in my experience it's either cucumbers and celery, or really rich stuff dipped in chocolate.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:03 PM on March 17

Be sure she is comfortable shooting down in-the-moment options or upgrades, that are very often not prefaced with the information that [thing] costs extra.

I once ended up with a $200+ facial that was supposed to be $75 because the esthetician kept "suggesting" things that I "needed" and I did not know enough to say No, or perhaps I just didn't realize they were add-ons. Regardless... Nothing ruins the experience more than being presented with a bill at the end that was so much more than I was expecting. And I was using a gift certificate, so all the extra was out of pocket.

Or maybe tell them up-front, 'please do not try to pad this bill' (you can say it in a nicer way of course). (I realize not all salons, or estheticians, are alike, YMMV, etc.)
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 5:09 AM on March 18

Came in here to suggest Burke Williams, too. I've been to a few different locations over the years and have always had a good experience. The website has a lot of good information about services and gift cards. The staff is also exceptionally nice, so they can help you and/or your Aunt figure out the best way to organize this, but I'd set a budget based on their menu of treatments.
posted by katemcd at 6:47 AM on March 18

I've been to the Santa Monica Burke Williams as well, and it was lovely.
posted by insectosaurus at 11:17 AM on March 18

Yes, I'd call the SM Burke Williams and arrange it with them on the phone specifically. They're very good there.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 1:40 PM on March 18

Thank you all. I know more about what I'm buying, and how to organize it so that my aunt can float through her day.
posted by goofyfoot at 12:37 AM on March 20

Just to add to this - I learned today that there's something called the Massage Garage in Culver City.
posted by goofyfoot at 4:07 PM on March 21

My aunt called me this afternoon to thank me. After a weekend of watching her son lose ground, she spent 6 hours at Burke Williams in Santa Monica today. Her voice was silky and she was satisfied. I had booked her a pedicure and the massage of her choice - careful to ensure she had to pay for nothing, including tips - and she took advantage of everything. It was a wonderful experience for her. Thank you for your help!
posted by goofyfoot at 10:49 PM on May 9 [1 favorite]

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