Lia Batkin co-founded In the Know Experiences, a luxury travel company that improves upon the rigid and basic travel agency formula of the past. We spoke with Lia to understand the innovation she’s bringing to the travel industry, to learn what up-and-coming destinations will be popping up on our IG feeds soon, and to get an expert’s advice on traveling with kids!
How did your own travel experiences inspire you to start In the Know Experiences? What problem did you immediately set out to solve?
We created In the Know Experiences after a disastrous trip to Argentina. What we thought would be the best trip of our lives turned out to be the worst! We spent hours and hours on the internet doing research for this trip, but still we ended up going at the wrong time of year, staying in the wrong hotels, and planning to eat and shop at restaurants and stores that turned out to be closed for the season. We realized that we needed the same level of insider knowledge we were accustomed to in New York; we needed a local’s perspective to create a one-of-a-kind experience that would be truly personalized. So we set out to create a company that would leverage insider knowledge to provide clients with experiences tailored to their specific passion points.
How have your business and clientele evolved over the year?
When we first started, we really only catered to a younger demographic, mostly people in their twenties and thirties. Over a decade later, not only are those people still our clients, but their parents have also become our clients. They too want to travel in a more creative, personalized way. Prior to finding us, they were just booking online or working with more traditional travel agencies. So, now I would say our clientele is more about a psychographic instead of an age demographic.
What not-yet-trendy destinations do you think we’ll see popping up on our IG feeds in the next year or two?
Ischia in Italy, Paros and Antiparos in Greece, Bolivia, Tallinn in Estonia, Luang Prabang in Laos, Comporta in Portugal, Tbilisi in Georgia.
What are your favorite under-the-radar, kid-friendly hotels?
Grand Velas properties all over Mexico, Chileno Bay in Cabo, Ritz Carlton Cayman Island, Taylor River in Colorado, Lucknam Park outside of London, Zemi Beach House in Anguilla, Verdura in Sicily, Marbella Club in Marbella, Montage Palmetto Bluff in South Carolina, Hotel del Coronado in San Diego.
What do you find are the most common priorities among parents planning family trips? What kinds of experiences do families love most?
I would say connecting rooms or villas that are kid-friendly, a.k.a. safe. Everyone is completely different—some want a great kids pool, a swimmable and calm beach, a great kids club or activities like cooking classes, surf lessons, or local activities like pontoon rides through mangroves, going crabbing, dolphin experiences and more. Then you have families looking for more cultural destinations so that they can show their children how other people live, but that is usually for children who are a bit older. We’ve also seen a big trend in families wanting to include a day of giving back while they are in different countries.
Where have you taken your own daughter so far?
We took her to France for two weeks when she was three months old, as well as Florida three times, and the Caribbean once. I have to say she was great on all the flights but we do try to schedule them during her nap times so she sleeps a little bit. Of course the younger they are, the easier it is to travel with them!
What are your best tips for traveling with a baby?
Make sure you prepare and bring at least two changes of clothes, lots of toys that don’t make too much noise, snacks, and of course a bag of ear plugs for the people around you just in case! But my biggest one is actually for arriving at a destination. Make sure you think about your arrival time as it corresponds to naps, etc. If you are arriving at a hotel at 10 AM when regular check in is at 4 PM, always have a backup plan in case your room is not ready. You can ask the hotel if they have a hospitality room, or maybe book a cabana by the pool. If it will put your mind at ease and you are arriving very early, then maybe pre-book the night before so that you are not starting off your vacation stressing.
As a relatively new mama, how has motherhood changed your approach to your work life?
Of course now I have to fit a lot more into my day to day, so I might work from home in the morning in order to watch her play even if I am on calls. I try not to schedule as many evening events so that I can be home to put her to bed. But, to be honest, it’s made me a bit more efficient in what I do and how I get it done, which feels really good! That being said, I have had to become more comfortable with not being able to do everything I did before, like traveling as much, going to business dinners and parties, et cetera. I’m also learning to be okay with allowing my team to fill in for me and take the reins more when representing our company.
Tell us about your work with independent contractors…any work-from-home moms among them?
We have developed this amazing side of our business, a network of independent consultants, that empowers individuals who want to start or grow their own luxury travel business while working on their own time! It’s a great way to tap into an exciting industry—especially if you’re looking for a career switch or are wanting to get back to work after having a baby. As a host, we not only provide all the necessary training, tools and support that we’ve grown throughout the years, but we also give our consultants access to our exclusive rates, benefits, and an extensive network of preferred suppliers and vendors, which isn’t something anyone can just get overnight. It also helps that we all have a very similar clientele, so everyone is able to lean on each other for feedback and recommendations when unfamiliar with a hotel or destination, which makes growth that much easier.
And yes! We have a ton of moms who do this. I actually call this side of our business “Avon lady for travel.” Honestly, it’s the perfect job, as it allows moms to work from home (or really from anywhere) on their own hours, make some great money, and work in an amazingly creative and growing industry.
It takes a village—ask for help when you need it.
Take advice, but do your own research. Something that works for someone else might not work for you or your child.
Try to be present when you can, even if just for 10 minutes at a time. It makes all the difference for the kiddies and for you, too!