How do you start a business when you've just started a family? “No sleep,” says New York-based Henley Vazquez, laughing...
She should know. She’s the founder of Passported, a business which focuses on luxury hotel reviews, itineraries and online reservations for family travel. “On a serious note, I think that having children can make you a better worker. It’s hard to balance family life with a busy work schedule, but I am so aware of the hours I have to focus on each one that I am far more efficient with my time than I was pre-kids. That, and I work almost every night after the kids are in bed. I do it sitting on the couch with a glass of wine and the TV on so it doesn’t feel like work, but it helps me chip away at the things I didn’t get to during the day and makes the start of the next day less hectic. I also really try to put away my phone for the hours I am with the kids.” Read on to find out more about her tips for travelling with kids, work/life balance and more.
What do you do when you wake up?
I’m woken up most mornings by one or both of the kids jumping on top of me like they’re working on their WWE moves.
What is the best advice you’ve been given about motherhood?
Children and parenthood is a work in progress. Try not to stress yourself out when things are bad, because whether it’s sleep or homework problems or temper tantrums, this too shall pass. But don’t get smug when everything is going well; the roller coaster is bound to dip again at some point. Be supportive of your community of moms to get through the ups and downs together.
Can you tell us about your childhood? Where did you grow up and what was it like?
My childhood couldn’t be more different than the one my own children are having. I grew up on a farm in Virginia, where I basically ran free like a feral animal. At a certain point, my mom stopped hiring babysitters in the summer and my sister and I spent all day in the fields riding ponies, who were the stand-in responsible parties. We’d get lost, they’d find the way home with us sitting on their backs. It was a pretty simple and completely charmed life.
What was your inspiration to pursue your dreams?
I’ve always remembered what a high school teacher told me on the eve of graduation: do what you love and you’ll find a way to make the money part work. I’ve always wanted to build a successful career, but I also knew that I wouldn’t be great at my job unless I did something that I adored.
Where did your love of travel begin?
Most people assume I must have grown up traveling a ton. I didn’t. My parents were academics, so we didn’t have a big budget to travel as a family. But they traveled when they could, and I’ll never forget the day that they watched the Berlin wall come down and immediately hired a babysitter, bought tickets to Germany and spent two weeks driving around the Eastern Bloc. Even though I was young, I was old enough to understand that was a pretty badass move.
How do you approach travelling with small children – can it be stress-free?
Travel is never stress-free, with or without kids. Certainly the problems of lugging tiny children on planes can increase your stress level, but I try to channel my most Zen approach (I’m really bad at this) and focus on the good stuff: we’re going somewhere fun! My children are 6 and 9 now, so they are really easy to travel with most of the time, but we still have motion sickness or the occasional accident or just general grumpiness that can up the blood pressure. My mantra is, whatever this takes, it’s still going to be more exciting than staying home. And bring extra clothes, iPads and lots of snacks to mitigate the problems.
What inspired the launch of Passported?
Passported grew from my frustration with the way family travel was viewed, like the lamest leg of the travel industry. I am calling out the magazines and the agencies here. I believe that having kids doesn’t end your travel life but can expand it in some pretty magical ways when you include your children, but despite working in the industry, I was struggling to find a central resource that spoke to the huge amount of parents I knew that felt the same way as I did. We want hotels, guides, restaurants, that work for our kids but also are a fit for our grown-up tastes. At Passported, we take the parents’ preferences into account as much as the children’s. Guess what – anywhere from St. Tropez to Patagonia is awesome for families if you know the right way to do it.
What are your top tips for launching a new business?
Attack challenges one step at a time. If you try to solve every piece of the puzzle at once, you’ll go crazy. And as quickly as possible, figure out where you make your money and follow those customers. It’s tempting to chase the revenue stream you’d like to have instead of the one that actually exists. Follow the money and focus on creating an authentic service that caters to those customers. They’ll be the best supporters to help you grow your brand.
What has been one of your biggest career challenges? How did you overcome it?
I was a partner in another travel company, and I decided to leave to start my own. I struggled with feeling that I was abandoning something I’d built with a team I loved but also with knowing in my gut that it was time to go. The only way to overcome it was to take the plunge, risky as it was.
How has having children impacted your work life in positive ways?
No matter how lousy a day I had, coming home to the kids wipes away a huge amount of stress immediately. They don’t know and don’t care about whatever challenges I may be facing in the office; they just want to play something silly or read a book or have a snuggle or tell me some rambling and often pointless story about their days. If they weren’t there, I would be on a nonstop cycle of work, work some more, and they force me to stop, put all that away for a minute and focus on a completely different side of life. It’s a lifesaver.
Do you work a lot at night?
I do, and so does my husband, so it helps that neither person is feeling ignored by the other one. We make it a point to have dinner together after the kids are in bed so we have adult time to catch up before we get back on our computers. I honestly don’t mind the extra work at night—it’s been a habit for years, and it helps me stay on top of everything.
What has been the most challenging part of motherhood? How did you overcome it?
Not comparing myself to other moms. There’s always someone who seems to be holding it together more than you are: the prettier, thinner, happier, more successful, more organized mom. It’s easy to let your own insecurities get in the way when you’re struggling to build a business and build a family. I think it’s crucial to remember that every mom, every parent, faces her own challenges, and the best way to overcome them is supporting each other.
Where are you travelling to next?
I just came back from Cuba, and my next trip will be to Spain, Portugal and Italy.
Favorite social media platform?
No question, Instagram.
What is your approach to wellbeing?
I’m working on that one. Ideally, I’d exercise more, eat more kale and less pizza, drink more green juice and less wine. But I’ll get there.
What are your travelling essentials when travelling with kids?
It’s such a cliché, but iPads. I really have no limits on screen times when there are long flights involved. And snacks. The crappy stuff I won’t allow in my house is a-okay when we’ve got 10 hours and connecting flights to get wherever we’re headed. I loosen up on the rules and do whatever it takes to get there. A few other things: don’t give up the stroller until your youngest can REALLY walk. There’s nothing worse than lugging a heavy pre-schooler around on your hip in an airport and wishing like hell that you hadn’t left the stroller at home. Always bring extra clothes, for yourself and for the kids. Get a cute backpack so you have both hands free and don’t have an overstuffed handbag slamming you in the face every time you bend over to tie someone’s shoe.
How to you treat yourself?
Pedicures. I go even when I don’t need a polish change just so I can sit quietly and read US Weekly while I get a foot rub.
Do you prefer to text or call?
Text, always. I use the phone for actual talking as little as possible. I really should disable my voicemail too because I never check it.
Coffee or tea?
I used to be strictly tea but now I’ve fallen into a bad coffee habit. Laughing Man is around the corner from my apartment in Tribeca, and they make a mean latte.
Your role model is?
A blend of so many strong women in my life, from my own mother to the moms that I’ve met through my children’s school as well as through work, and my own daughter. I’m blown away by the intelligence, strength and grace that I see in all of them on a daily basis.
What is your definition of success?
If you can wake up on Monday morning excited to go to work, you’re doing the right thing.
What did your own mother teach you about life and motherhood?
She never talked about “having it all,” she just did it all. If you want something, go get it and don’t look back.
After you finish writing this, what are you going to do?
Catch up on the 87 emails that came in while I was writing this.
What makes you smile?
My family. And Flight of the Conchords.
Pretty much anything, especially any movie on an airplane. I’m always sobbing and embarrassing myself.
Are you messy or tidy?
Hmmm, I would say that I’m tidy, but my husband would say I’m messy. So I’m probably somewhere in-between.
A great holiday is filled with?
Great food, good people, new experiences.
Your dream destination is?
I’d spend my summer in Ibiza every year if I could. That plus St. Barts are my two happy places. In terms of dream destinations I’m dying to visit, Marrakech and Jose Ignacio are pretty much top of the list.
Henley's little list of loves:
Womenswear and childrenswear brand SMOKKS: I love the Izzie smokk dress.
Blue Stone Lane: a tiny coffee shop that makes a killer flat white, hidden in an office building the street from ours.
Catastrophe: binge-watched the first two seasons. I need more.
Hamilton: loving the book, saving my pennies to buy tickets to the show.
La Sirena: that outdoor patio, it’s the perfect place for a summer night.
Musical.ly: can’t stop watching the hysterical videos my kids are making on this app.
Church Street Boxing: a friend of mine introduced me to this place, and I’m obsessed with it. It’s the opposite of a fancy gym and pretty much the hardest workout I’ve ever done.
Retox: my friend Lauren Imparato’s book about wellness is basically the only one I’ve ever found compelling. She’s a rockstar entrepreneur, yogi, best selling author and health guru, and everyone should be following her.
Cuba: Passported just organized our first trip there for families, and we’re already scheduling two more. It’s an amazing country, and I can’t wait to go back.
Homepolish: I don’t have an ounce of decorating know-how in my body. Homepolish hooked me up with an amazing designer and my living room is about to undergo a total overhaul that fits my budget and will help organize the piles of toys we have lying around.