1. Pick a destination. Your spa choice should be in a location that appeals. Whether cost or luxury accommodation is the deciding factor, it means nothing if you don't like the place. Choose a locale that's fun to tour and visit to get good value from your vacation. Your spa may also offer local excursions that can be entertaining and informative. Location also plays a crucial role in treatments; natural hot springs and certain earth-based treatments are only offered in specific geographical areas.

2. Consider the reasons behind your spa vacation and reflect on the activities that compliment areas of interest. Different spa resorts offer a wide range of activities and services including fitness, stress management, tranquility, pampering, cosmetic, health and wellness. There are also variations in methodology, with some spas touting natural cures while others use cutting-edge science and technology for results.

3. Set an end goal. Once you've determined what you'd like to experience and the process of getting that experience, think of what you want to achieve by the end of your stay. Decide if the goal is to lose weight, change your lifestyle, or to learn about stress management strategies. Knowing what the end goal is will also help you narrow down your search.

4. Start searching sources of reputable spa information. There are sites that list spas with a trade union affiliation, like the International Spa Association, also know as ISPA. The site also has a search tool which a prospective visitor can use free of charge. Don't forget the benefits of asking family members and friends for their personal recommendations. Also check sites like Spa Finder and top-rated travel guides like Fodor's and Zagat.

5. Check professional affiliation. Not all spa resorts are members of a trade organization, but affiliation is definitely a plus. Since organizations have guidelines for member facilities, you can know in advance what to expect from a specific resort. With ISPA, a member resort needs to fulfill exacting safety, guest relations and service requirements. Some organizations also have a Code of Ethics for member spas. Membership in such organizations gives the consumer a level of security and trust in regards to the spa's level of quality.

6. Get in touch with the facility and book. If you've narrowed down your results to a handful of choices, either visit the resort's website or give them a call. Jot down any questions or concerns you have before talking to an agent. To get expert advice, you may also contact a travel agent who specializes in spa vacations. By gathering information from a variety of sources, you'll be able to find several contenders and eventually decide on one destination.