This week, we spoke with Nicole Bookman, who is a San Francisco-based mom, avid traveler, and the founder of Go Happy Kids. Her company created a travel tray designed to take away the stress of traveling with young children so everyone can enjoy vacation time.
Q.Congrats on launching Go Happy Kids! What inspired you to create this business? What is your Mompreneur story?
A. In February 2017, while on a short flight back from Park City, Utah, I finally hit my limit after picking up another 500 Legos off the airplane floor. I looked over at the Legos, thought about all the times I wished I had a simple little tray to help keep all things kids off the floor while flying, and decided it was time to make my own. I immediately got excited about designing what would eventually become the Go Happy Travel Tray. Fast forward a year and a half — after meeting with 2 manufacturers, months of working with lots of amazing folks, and 4 trips to China (3 solo!) – the Go Happy Travel Tray hit the market. I had no idea what I was doing at the time, but I am thrilled that I took the risk and went for it.
Designing the Go Happy Travel Tray and building the Go Happy brand has been a dream come true. I love kids, creativity, connection, and travel. It’s been such a treat to bring this all together through Go Happy Kids. I am also grateful to have a platform to promote raising global citizens who care about making the world a better place, something I am very passionate about. I will do my best to amplify this message
Q.Where do you live and do you recommend your city as a family travel destination?
A. San Francisco. Yes! San Francisco is a world-class city that has so much to offer.
Q. What’s your insider tip for families coming to your hometown? What are your favorite family-friendly hidden gems?
A. Rent a flat in a neighborhood that is walking distance to one of the many parks and great commercial streets, so you can explore the city on foot like a local. Neighborhoods like North Beach, Mission Dolores, Cow Hollow, Lower Pacific Heights, and Noe Valley are all great for families. Check out Lands End, an awesome hike on the coast that starts near the Golden Gate Bridge, walk along Crissy Field, take the cable car through Chinatown to Union Square, book ahead for the Alcatraz Tour, head to Marin for a beautiful hike or ride bikes along the Tiburon Peninsula!
Q. What is the most memorable trip you took with your kids?
A. There are so many! I can’t pick one, but some of my favorites are: Amalfi Coast, Sicily, Spain, exploring La Ventana area in Baja, London, Hong Kong, South of France, Mexico City, Jose Ignacio, and Uruguay. I can’t wait for more!!
Q. What’s your best advice for traveling parents?
A. Just go, even when it seems like too much work, and start when the kids are very young. Ask friends/family who travel a lot with kids what works best for them. There are a lot of things you can do to make it easier. It’s never easy, but always worth the effort!
Q. What is your favorite family travel product or service?
A. When my kids were young we loved the Bjorn travel bed and took it everywhere. We also loved BabyQuip for stroller rental. They were lifesavers!
Q. What item do you always pack in your carry-on?
A. Sketch pads and markers (for kids ages 5 & 8) and the Go Happy Travel Tray, of course!
Q. How do you tackle the work/life balance (e.g., daycare, babysitting, schools, etc.)?
A. Not well! Before my kids were in school full-time, I had a part-time nanny to help. My kids are in school full-time now, so we have started hosting au pairs which has been very helpful, but I am still trying to figure out how to balance everything…I want to be connected and involved with my kids in addition to working on all things Go Happy (it’s just me), but even with childcare help, the days fly by and I can’t seem to figure out how to manage things well.
I always feel pulled in different directions and wish I had more time and energy for my kids while taking Go Happy to the next level. School and work are just two of the many things moms have to manage and hold mentally and emotionally for the family. Our load is very heavy! Some days are much easier than others. Self-care helps. Traveling by myself for a few days here and there used to help me decompress and find my center the most. Looking forward to the day when I can do this again.
Q. What are the advantages of being a Mompreneur while raising children vs. working for an outside entity? Disadvantages?
A. I don’t have to apologize to anyone for being so all over the place and I can work at my own pace and I also love the freedom to do what feels right and authentic when it comes to building a brand. I love community and collaborating with others, though, so not having a team of folks I interact with regularly can feel isolating at times. It’s a delicate balance and I have to work hard to stay connected to other mompreneurs/peers and know when to bring in contractors to help me with marketing or PR, or just check my thinking on things. Finding the right people to work with is very important; they have to be able to put up with me and my scattered brain!
Q. What’s your shameless plug?
A. Make things less stressful when flying with kids – offer them the clean, contained Go Happy Travel Tray for eating and play. Think simple and go happy in the sky with your littles, especially given the future of travel!
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