Naturally, Michelle Kennedy has mouse ears in her carry-on bag. You wouldn’t expect anything less from a tech entrepreneur who has made a business of keeping parenthood fun. Michelle, formerly of Bumble and Badoo, used her experience in dating apps to create Peanut, an app that launched last year to connect like-minded moms for meet-ups and chat groups. Through the app, women find common ground through similar interests and the ages of their youngsters.
Here, we found common ground with Michelle through a love of travel. Between trips to Switzerland and NYC, she walked us through her travel style, tips for flying with kids (she has one, a son named Finlay), and the destination she’s obsessing over at the moment. And though she’s the queen of social apps, she swears she’s not a talkative seatmate.
Most recent trip?
Ascona in Switzerland. I hadn’t been there before, but can’t wait to return.
Luggage of choice?
Rimowa cases and any rucksack. A friend bought me a Rimowa as a gift and I’ve never looked back. They’re so strong, Fin (my son) can sit on top and I can push him through the airport – talk about double duty.
Your packing style in three words?
Beauty product heavy (I hate not having my stuff)
The first thing you do after checking into a hotel room?
Check the hairdryer
An ideal hotel must have…
A decent hairdryer!
Uxua Casa Hotel in Trancoso, Brazil. The Beverly Hills Hotel is a close second.
A destination you’re obsessed with at the moment?
I’ve just spent a long weekend in the Swiss lakes and I was blown away. I was there for my mother-in-law’s 80th and had some preconceived ideas about how it would be, but those were totally toppled. The area was beautiful and had an understated elegance. I can’t wait to go back.
The best in-flight reading you’ve done lately?
I’d like to say it was something really high brow, but it was This is going to Hurt by Adam Kay. There were some real laugh-out-loud moments, followed by some really sad, touching ones. The NHS is such a critical organization, it really made me realise how far we have to go to try and preserve it.
The strangest movie you’ve watched on a flight?
I watched a series called The Girlfriend Experience (clue is in the title). I felt the urge to cover my screen every time the crew walked past.
Your all-time favourite souvenir?
Mickey Mouse ears from Disneyland in California. Taking my little boy there was magical and made me feel like a kid again.
What’s typically in your carry-on?
Phone charger, laptop, flat shoes (if you’ve got to walk from terminal to terminal, you need to be speedy) and my eye mask – I can at least pretend i’m going to try and sleep if I’m not working.
Do you leave an out-of-office message?
Nope, never. I’m always on. However, I’ll use an OOO only if I am going to be travelling without WiFi to explain the delay.
What’s currently on your travel playlist?
Audiobooks and podcasts – is that sad? How I Built This, Desert Island Discs and Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations…I love them all.
What’s your go-to emoji while on holiday?
Your ideal room-service meal?
Anything with fries and a glass of red. What a dream combo.
Any airport guilty pleasures?
American candy. I stock up on it, mostly for my husband. He loves it when I return home with an assortment of Jolly Ranchers and Juicy Fruit.
Any advice for parents flying with kids?
Do not apologise for flying with your child! I used to feel so anxious about the possibility that he would cry, but now I just think: he has as much right to be on a plane as anyone else. Most would agree that it’s important to expose our kids to the rest of the world, so having the occasional flight with youngsters is par for the course.
Any fail-proof carry-on items for parents flying with kiddos?
Bring more snacks than you could ever have thought possible…ooh, and stickers. As long as you remove them from everywhere when you leave, stickers can keep kids entertained for hours. Also, you should always have a change of clothes for both you and your little one. You just never know.
Any parenting horror stories from your travels (to make the rest of us feel better)?
YES! We went to Tuscany in June, and Fin vomited for the ENTIRE flight. The smell and the utter despair of not being able to catch it as it projected forward…it was horrific. It was doubly horrendous because afterward he just wanted to cuddle me and therefore I became covered in it, too. I didn’t have a change of clothes for us that flight and I felt awful for the rest of the passengers who had to inhale our scent. Thank goodness it was short haul.
Can you tell us how Peanut came about?
I was inspired to start Peanut for two reasons. The first was all about the emotional journey of becoming a mother. My girlfriends weren’t at the stage in their lives where they were having children yet, and even if some in my wider friendship group were, we all lived in different parts of the city (and leaving the house to go anywhere farther than 10 minutes from home with a newborn felt like a military operation). I suppose what I felt most prominently, which isn’t particularly comfortable for a 30-something woman to admit, is that even though I had lots of friends and was successful, professionally, I felt quite isolated. This was further compounded by the fact that I was working in an industry (dating), where it was my day-to-day to produce products people could use to find a match or a date, and I was struggling to find a woman who was like-minded for a coffee hangout.
The second reason was my frustration with the existing products on the market aimed at mothers. I didn’t recognize the tone of voice the products used or the UX/UI being used. They felt outdated, old fashioned and in some cases patronizing. To me, I didn’t feel like I’d suddenly aged or become less modern/less cool, just because I’d become a mother. And yet, the products seemed to make that assumption, which I found confusing. I still had an expectation of great user experience from products like Uber or Instagram, but I wasn’t getting that from the products for mothers that were out there.
Do you ever use Peanut to connect with moms while you’re traveling?
Absolutely! I recently used it in Los Angeles to ask about activities for my little boy whilst we were there. It was a godsend! How else would you know to avoid the soft play on a rainy day and that there was an incredible art day at the museum a mile from where we were staying? Women truly want to help each other, and Peanut women are the best at that.
Since you created an app all about socialising, do you chat up your seatmate on flights?
Ha! No, I’m not a talker in that way; I’m actually quite shy. I was on a flight to San Francisco once and Peanut was featured in the inflight magazine. I was desperate to tell the guy next to me; I was so proud! Instead, I grabbed as many copies as I could and took them home.
What’s the best career advice you’ve heard?
Always value your network. You never know when you may need that person you came across, so really invest in that network.
The best travel advice?
Do not eat or drink on a long-haul flight if you want to sleep. Try to eat a few hours before and then just drink some water.