Utah-based blogger Rachel Parcell spends plenty of time at home—décor is a hobby she shares as candidly as her personal style on her uber-successful blog Pink Peonies—but she’s no stranger to plenty of travel. And she loves a leisurely beach vacation. We caught up with the clothing designer, Instagram star, and mom to Isla, 2, and Jackson, 1, after her first trip to the Hamptons with her family, including her sister (Ivory Lane blogger Emily Jackson) and her children, plus a nanny in tow. So does this entrepreneur know the secrets of traveling with kids while still looking incredibly chic? You bet.
LUXURY RETREATS: You recently returned from a trip to Southampton in New York. What did you think of the Hamptons?
RACHEL PARCELL: This was my very first time in the Hamptons, and it was magical. I felt like I was inside a storybook. The little town [of Southampton] is so cute, with all the boutiques and the cafes on Main Street. And the houses have so much character, house after house after house is just so beautiful. From the town to the beach, there’s a just a very relaxed vibe.
My husband Drew and I travel a lot, and we’ve been so many different beaches around the U.S.—Hawaii, California, Florida. Southampton’s was so nice because it wasn’t crowded or touristy at all. When there’s too many people around, beaches just aren’t relaxing. This one just felt like it was for the community, or for people with second homes just vacationing. I loved it.
My family and I had been in New York City for a few days prior, and while I was literally surrounded by all these tall buildings I kept thinking, where is there a place without buildings? Where is this place where there’s beach, and land, and homes? A few hours later as we pulled up to our villa, all I could think was, oh, this is so dreamy.
LR: Luxury Retreats provided a complimentary stay for you at the Infamous Hamptons villa. What was your first impression?
PARCELL: I immediately thought, this is a perfect Instagram shot. I love symmetry—my own house right now is very symmetrical—and I loved that this villa was too. If I ever build a beach house, I’m using it for inspiration.
When I’m traveling with my two kids I’d always rather stay in a house, as it’s so much easier than staying in a hotel room. Here, it was so nice to have a concierge service too, to help us set everything up. For example, we’d given our villa concierge service a list of groceries we wanted, and when we arrived, everything was already there waiting for us—which was amazing. I’ve never had a concierge option when staying in a home before, and I absolutely loved it. It became more of a relaxing vacation experience, instead of just us trying to figure out everything ourselves. So, when we arrived we unloaded and were then immediately snacking on hummus and sweet potato chips. Then we toured the house, which was incredible, with tons of room to spread out. We ended up all hanging out by the pool while our kids swam, making dinner, and then staying up for hours talking.
LR: Were there any other concierge services you especially loved?
PARCELL: We were bringing babies, so when we got there there were cribs and a highchair ready for us, and that was so nice—we didn’t have to bring our Pack ‘n’ Plays. When you’re traveling with kids, you have your strollers, your car seats, and your bags, plus the diapers, the wipes—it’s just one less thing to carry around, which was amazing. They also set up restaurant reservations for us, and arranged a catamaran rental for us, an experience that ended up being my favorite part of the trip.
LR: Tell us more about how you spent your time during your Hamptons getaway. What was your favorite moment of the trip?
PARCELL: One day we went to Sag Harbor to a fresh seafood place right on the dock, and got fish tacos and lobster rolls to go, then got on a catamaran that Luxury Retreats arranged for us to rent—something we wouldn’t have known to do ourselves. It became my favorite thing that we did. We got to a spot where we could jump off the boat, the kids were on paddle boards, we were dancing … it was so fun. It’s something we’d never really done before. And our kids loved being on the water, they thought it was so cool to be on a boat. We were out there for about four hours, and came back right around sunset.
LR: What else did you do outside the villa?
PARCELL: We went to the beach almost every day, as it was just about a three-minute drive away. And we went to Main Street, and went to J.Crew’s on-the-beach boutique, and the Aerin store, which is so incredible. I also loved The Golden Pear Cafe, where they’ll make you a fresh green drink and fresh salad. The best thing was, during the day we could have fun at the beach with our kids, and at night, we’d come back, then get dressed up and go out with our husbands while the kids stayed back with the nanny.
LR: How do you pack for a trip, especially as a fashion blogger who’s also a mom of two?
PARCELL: I definitely plan out my outfits. I try to pack as little as I can, but with plenty of options—and then I’ll bring things like a white t-shirt I can wear with two different skirts. For this trip I packed blues, yellows, whites, and pinks. That was my theme for the Hamptons.
For my kids, I like to roll their clothes instead of folding them. I feel like they fit better. And I always put them in cozy socks for a plane ride, and bring a few extra blankets. Sometimes I’ll buy an extra seat, carry on one of my kids’ car seats, strap them in, and they’ll fall asleep just like they were in the car. Another thing is people often don’t know that you can bring your stroller right up to the gate; you don’t have to check it at all.
LR: Do you have any packing tricks or tips you’ve learned over time?
PARCELL: I used to put my beach hats in the bottom of my suitcase and stuff them with swimsuits to help them hold their shape, but I finally got got a hatbox, and it’s absolutely changed my life. No matter how carefully I packed my hats before, they always got crumpled and I’d end up buying a new one. Now I arrive, unzip my hat box, and my hat is in pristine shape. Every time I go on a beach vacation I pack my hatbox and check it right alongside my suitcase.
LR: What are your main goals when you travel?
PARCELL: If it’s just my husband and I, we’ll go for a mixture of relaxation and adventure—so, maybe we want to go ziplining, or do something fun that’s out of the ordinary, but we also want to relax, get massages, have nice dinners, or just veg. When I travel with the kids, I don’t need to go ziplining. We just want plain, good, fun family activities, like going to the beach and building sand castles or going to a park, not over-the-top planned things. And I never jam-pack my day, especially with kids. I never want to feel like we’re just running from one thing to the next.
LR: What’s next for you, your blog, and your fashion line?
PARCELL: There’s always something new—right now there’s my clothing line, the Rachel Parcell Collection. It’s been a big success, but I was so nervous to launch it. So much time and effort went into it. But now when I’m walking down the street or at church and see a stranger wearing one of my dresses, it’s the most amazing feeling ever that other women really love and buy the things that I make. We’re launching something new with the clothing line that I’m excited about (but I really can’t say what yet) and I’m working on a new blog design too.
For a long time my blog was just fashion-focused, and now it’s evolving to a whole lifestyle thing rather than just fashion. I think for women especially, it’s good to spend a little extra time to make your life more beautiful, and feel a little more special. I want my blog to be about inspiring women to live and create a more beautiful life.
LR: What does “luxury” mean to you?
PARCELL: I think it’s something ordinary that feels just a little bit elevated, that feel special. I want our house to feel that way when someone walks in. I want to have candles lit and Michael Bublé or Frank Sinatra playing. If I have girlfriends coming over, instead of just offering them a water bottle from the fridge, I’ll use a glass dispenser and add raspberries to it, then serve drinks in my cute blush pink glasses. Or instead of eating on paper plates, I’ll get out our glass plates. Those little details make a big difference, and it’s things like that make your life more luxurious. It’s just about being thoughtful and doing it.
For myself, every night I take a bubble bath. I light my candle, put on Michael Bublé, get my Diet Coke and put in a wine glass, and then I have my little bath tray with a really good-smelling bubble bath. I get in and it’s so relaxing. Yes, it takes a little more effort to do all that, but when I’m in, I feel like I’m in a luxurious bubble bath rather than just a bath.
Bottom line, you don’t need to live in a mansion to have luxury in your life. You can create luxury for yourself, anywhere.