If Louise Hodges isn’t chairing a meeting in New York, you’ll find her filming for a top Channel 5 travel show or giving an interview on Good Morning Britain. As a travel industry expert and senior member on the European management team of Travelzoo, the global travel deals publisher, this ultra chic mum of two has mastered style on the go as she jets off around the world.
Tells us about what you do?
I sit on the European management team of Travelzoo – a global travel deals publisher. We scour the globe for the most outstanding travel offers and – provided they pass the Travelzoo Test – we share them with our community of 28 million travellers around the world.
It’s a much-loved brand that is often perceived as a bit of an ‘insider secret’ by those who discover it. As their Head of Communications I look after the brand globally and make people understand why they shouldn’t look anywhere else for inspiration about what to do with their free time.
I am based in Covent Garden but try and get out to our international offices as often as I can in order to understand what people from different countries look for when they go on holiday.
Recently I have been invited to be part of a well-known TV series on Channel 5. I can’t say what it is yet as the broadcast date for its launch has yet to be announced, but it is hugely exciting and is my first foray out of news interviews and into entertainment. This is fantastic as it builds the Travelzoo brand and positions us as experts in travel.
Where is home and who will we find there?
I live in Surrey. We took the well-trodden path of moving out of South East London (Balham) five years ago to get more space and crucially a larger garden where the children can roam free and grow up in a healthier environment. We are also very lucky to have my parents living close by as well – a godsend when we need extra help with childcare when I am travelling with work.
My husband Dan works for Vodafone and we have two children- Grace who is 11 (going on 17 some days!) and Ben who is 8.
What’s the best way you’ve found to balance family and a career?
I am very fortunate in that Travelzoo have always been very accommodating in terms of flexibility. I started work there after taking a bit of a career break where I explored other avenues such as creative writing and becoming a freelance brand consultant.
The job sort of came to me as I met the then-CEO’s wife on my writing course at the Groucho Club in London. She asked if I’d help her husband with some communications and media relations.
At first Travelzoo was my client and I worked just three days per week. Today I am on the European management team and hold a senior position, but I do this on four days per week and typically have my Fridays off.
We also have an amazing live-in au pair. If you want to try and pursue a demanding career and be the best mum you can be it’s important to have a great support network at home and also to choose a company that view parenthood as a positive and not something that will ‘take you away’ from the job.
What three items help you juggle everything?
My phone as it contains my life – contacts, diary, alerts for key events and things I just can’t miss. Whilst it’s of vital importance I am trying to limit how many times I look at it in the evening.
Automatic sign-ins to all my favourite websites where I do my online shopping and transactions. I hate remembering passwords and I have to do a lot of things online so having auto-logins set is essential!
My hair straightener. I have very curly hair and don’t feel on top of things when running around with a frizzy mop! How we look can have a major impact on how we feel we can cope with things. I have a set at home and a set at the office for those last-minute requests to do a TV interview!
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to face?
It hasn’t been one single moment but rather an ongoing quest for to get the balance right between motherhood and career. I have a job I feel very passionate about but I’m also incredibly aware of how fast the years are going now. I take a week away for a business trip and come home to children who seem taller and more mature than before I left. I find that amazing but also scary. I can’t imagine not working but equally I sometimes worry that I’m missing more than I realise. I’d like to have a magic super-power to freeze time occasionally and not feel like I’m running around from one thing to the next without pausing to just enjoy the moment.
What do you most enjoy about your role at work?
I love doing interviews on TV. It’s such a buzz – sometimes it’s very scary when the subject matter is challenging or not so familiar to me – but I always finish the interview and feel a rush of endorphins from the experience of getting out there and doing something slightly outside my comfort zone.
Interviews on programmes like Good Morning Britain are always incredibly high octane as you are being interviewed by well-known personalities like Piers Morgan or Susanna Reid.
It’s exhilarating to really feel like you are part of the news. I learn so much through this process about world events and current affairs and I love that aspect of the work as well.
Is there anything you struggle with and how do yo deal with it?
For me the biggest struggle in recent months has been the commute. Southern Rail has really let down all of us taking the train in to London from the South East region. Some days a 1.5 hour commute has doubled to over three hours and brought me to tears. I sincerely hope this can be resolved as it’s made me question if I can continue working in London.
How do you spend any precious me time you get?
I make time to exercise – it keeps me sane. My office is nearby Gymbox in Covent Garden which is a fantastic gym. The pilates and yoga classes there are superb and I feel like I can cope with anything – even the trains – if I make time to get to those lunchtime classes!
I also really enjoy a nice long soak in the bath with something frivolous like Grazia. It’s a guilty pleasure to put on a face mask, relax and read about celebrities in the hottest bath I can stand! I’m hoping to get my bathroom redone next year and create the perfect pampering space – it’s sort of like my female equivalent of a man-cave and it will be a child-free zone!
If your planning a family holiday where would it be?
I was really taken with Tulum in Mexico – it provided us with a fantastic mix of fun for both the children and my husband and I.
Tulum itself is stunning with beaches that regularly get voted as the world’s most beautiful. We stayed at Dreams Tulum – it’s quite a large resort and it’s the first time we have ever tried the all-inclusive route. The difference at Dreams however is there are around five or six fantastic restaurants to choose from as well as special events with local cuisine. We never got bored and it was truly five-star but we were able to tell the children they could have as many smoothies and ice-creams as they wanted without having to worry about an astronomical food bill at the end of it! The kids club was so good the children took some persuading to leave it and come and join us
How do you switch off?
By getting into a really good novel – often in the aforementioned long soak in the bath! I also find that immersing myself in a project with the children takes me away from thoughts of work. My son Ben is always encouraging me to do the things I used to do as a child – drawing for example. Too often I say ‘I’m too busy right now’ but sometimes he actually forces me to stop doing my ‘jobs’ and just sit down with him and draw. I love that as he’s so right – few things are as important as doing the things we love and it’s essential to make that time. The fact that it combines time with him makes this activity priceless.
What exercise do you do?
I am pretty disciplined about my exercise. When in London I do yoga on Mondays and pilates on Tuesdays. Both classes take place at Gymbox in Covent Garden during my lunch hour. The classes are 45 minutes long and the fact that I can do both classes without the need to wash my hair means I can be back at my desk in an hour with a salad to munch whilst getting back to work. That’s how I fit it in!
What are you wardrobe fail-safes?
For work I rely on fantastic dresses for TV appearances or when presenting. Red is my power colour and I have two favourites – a tomato red Antonio Beradi dress and a classic red Valentino number. Both make me feel powerful and feminine and I love the fact that I am defying all those who say redheads cannot wear red. We can – it just has to be the right shade!
In the office most Travelzoo-ers are fairly casual so when I don’t have meetings my fail-safe outfit is a pair of leather skinnies by Baukjen teamed with a sharp black Helmut Lang blazer and a silky blouse underneath. In winter I live in ankle boots that are not too high so I can commute without damaging my feet too much!
At home I live in my Seven for all Mankind jeans – blue or black – and a mix of tops from Zara, Vince and Top Shop. I have some gold high-top Bimba y Lola trainers that I wear religiously – my daughter hates them but I love them so they are staying!
And accessories you couldn’t be without?
I wear glasses in the office and love my white Max&Co frames – white is an unusual choice but I got so bored of black or tortoiseshell and people comment on them all the time.
For off-duty I love my Kate Spade denim shopper – it’s relaxed but still chic and I can put any number of snacks for the children in it and still feel put-together. I also have a lovely rose gold friendship bracelet from Kate Spade that seems to find its way into most outfits both at work and home.
To make a statement I have an incredible pair of Kenneth Jay Lane diamond drop earrings that really transform a simple black dress into superstar glamour.
For evenings I wear Serge Lutens ‘Feminite du Bois’ and daytime it’s got to be Diptyque Philosykos.
Your hosting a dinner party – what’s on the menu?
Having been brought up in Asia I find it hard not to revert to Asian-style cooking when I host a dinner party. Firm favourites include a starter of chilli prawns followed by monkfish and scallop green curry. I also make a great beef rendang (Malaysian).
Closer to home I find the Polpo cookbook fantastic for more European tastes. The slow-cooked duck ragu with home-cooked sundried tomatoes and olives is to die for!
If you’re going out where is your favourite spot?
My favourite restaurants for a special occasion would be J Sheeky in Covent Garden or the original London Nobu on Park Lane. J Sheeky always feels intimate and the seafood stew is legendary. Nobu is special as I met Nobu in my early twenties and was very inspired by him – plus there really isn’t a restaurant that serves better sashimi.
For drinks I just love The American Bar in The Savoy – it’s got that old school glamour lacking in so many newer, trendy places.
Is there a woman you really admire?
Nathalie Massenet the founder of Net a Porter. Working for an online company I respect and admire how she proved the naysayers wrong – those that thought women would never buy expensive clothing they couldn’t try on first. She focussed on exemplary customer service so that women could actually try things on at home safe in the knowledge that returning items would be a breeze. Too many brands get this wrong – punishing customers by either making the process of returns painful so you never get round to it – or charging people to return items. She looked at the whole experience of online fashion shopping from the customer perspective and I respect her courage and determination to be a true game-changer. I would love to meet her!
What’s the next big thing in your life?
My next big thing is building on the work I have done creating a niche for myself as a public face of the travel industry – I hope to pursue more opportunities on TV in 2017. Apparently there are too few women in my industry taking up public speaking and broadcast interviews and I intend to lead by example and change that next year and beyond.