How to choose a good one - hmm. If you live somewhere where this is convenient, you could visit a couple of establishments to check to see if they look clean. Otherwise, I think they’re all about the same. Some offer more amenities – water, mints, music, they clean the bed, not you, etc. Of course, these places cost more too. I usually just look through the yellow pages and call to compare prices. You may want to ask them when they last changed the lights on their beds. They have to change them periodically, so if they answer, “I don’t know” their lights might be weak. I have no idea how long the lights last, though, so I don’t know that the answer will help you that much.
If they asked you what kind of bed you want, they may be referring to “high pressure” beds. The lights in high pressure beds are stronger and sessions are shorter. For instance, you might tan for 7-10 minutes instead of 20 (a fairly standard time).
They may also be referring to “stand-ups” as opposed to actual beds. A “stand-up” is what the name implies: a cubicle sort of place where you stand up the whole time. The lights surround you, so you tan evenly. These sessions are also usually shorter.
What you should expect when you go in:
They will ask if you’ve been there before. Since you haven’t, they’ll give you a form to fill out. It will ask about your skin type, if you burn easily, allergies to sunlight, etc., and will probably include a waiver of some kind that you sign. It may be the same form that you initial whenever you come in so they can keep track of your sessions.
You need eye protection. Some places supply it, some places make you buy it. Eye protection is either goggles or disposable sticker-like things that you put on your eyes. If you ask, “Do you have Wink-Ease?” they should know you mean the disposable things. I prefer these because they are least likely to give you a raccoon effect. I would say most places do supply goggles. You will almost always have to pay for the disposable ones. (They range from $.25 to $3.00)
They will probably offer to tell/show you how the beds work. If they don’t, ask. Probably they’ll take you to the room, show you the controls for the fan, the bed itself, and possibly the radio/CD player. These are pretty easy and vary from place to place. You may want to bring a CD in case they have a CD player.
Also, I highly recommend tanning accelerator. It makes a big difference and you can tan less often. It is pretty expensive, but I think it pays for itself because it saves you money on sessions. Generally they don’t allow products used for outdoor tanning - I’m talking about specific indoor tanning accelerator. I’ve only seen it at tanning salons and beauty supply stores. You should be able to buy it from them. Most places have samples (which cost about $5) as well as regular-size bottles.
You can tan nude or keep some clothing on or bring a bathing suit. Bring some water to drink afterwards - I always feel dehydrated. Often salons will have water available. If you will be lying down in a bed, turning from your back to your stomach halfway through will give you a more even tan.
Obviously I know way too much about this. I know it’s bad bad bad, but I still tan once every 2 weeks or so.