If you're thinking of getting mom a spa gift this Mother's Day but don't know the difference between shiatsu and watsu -- or how to choose from among the thousands of U.S. spas -- fear not. Finding the right place to pamper a special woman doesn't have to be stressful. Here's some help for your search:
If mom's a spa junkie:
She will probably be more adventurous and willing to try some of the newer treatments. One of the hottest offerings -- literally -- is a hot stone massage. Smooth stones are heated and strategically placed on the body to soothe muscles as the client is massaged from head to toe ($125 for 60 minutes at Grettacole spa in Boston).
Unique treatments tend to take longer and cost more. The "tsunami water massage" at the Kohler Waters Spa in Kohler, Wis., uses a powerful spray to invigorate muscles and stimulate the nervous system ($185 for 75 minutes).
If she rarely frequents spas:
Your best bet is a Swedish massage, which is designed to relax muscles by applying deep pressure. The average price of a massage is $70 an hour, according to the International Spa Assn. (ISPA). Women over age 60 might enjoy a more gentle aromatherapy massage using warm, scented oils. Another option would be a facial, which may combine herbal masks with deep-cleansing procedures to clean pores and refresh the skin.
If mom has plenty of time on her hands:
Sign her up for a day of indulgence at a hotel spa. More high-end hotels are opening their facilities to outsiders. In addition to an array of treatments, mom can take an exercise class, enjoy lunch, and use the pool, sauna, and jacuzzi. A full day at a hotel spa could cost $400 and up.
If she likes company:
When you're giving a package of services, such as a facial, manicure, pedicure, and massage, consider buying the same package for other family members. "A day of beauty is fun, but it's more fun with someone else," says Grettacole owner Gretta Monahan.
If she'd like to choose it herself:
Send mom a spafinder.com gift certificate and point her to the Web site. It lists 1,500 spas nationwide that have been vetted by Spafinder's staff, with links to each location, so you can check out services, treatments, and prices. The gift certificates can be used at any affiliate. (Late shoppers can even e-mail one on Mother's Day.) ISPA's Web site, experienceispa.com, also has good tips and recommendations.
If she likes to unwrap presents:
Most spas will put your gift certificate in a basket with a few of its body products. A scented candle or a salt scrub is always a nice touch -- and they help make mom's gift of relaxation last long after her day at the spa is done. By Lauren Young