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Ruzwana Bashir wanted to spend her birthday in Istanbul with friends. When the research it took to plan such a trip spanned 20 hours, she wished there was a better way. But there wasn't, so she teamed up with a talented programmer and they built it themselves.
The Oxford and Harvard Business School grad launched Peek in 2012 with $1.4 million in seed money. The website lets you choose a city, then buy experiences—for example a NoPa food tour, a guided shopping trip in Union Square, or a Yosemite Day tour. Or, you can peruse "Perfect Days" from the likes of Diane von Furstenberg, Tory Burch and Suze Orman.
Bashir, a New York City transplant, is a protégé of Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, and Fast Company named her one of the 100 most creative people in the business this year. In 2012, Forbes named her a "30 Under 30: Technology" entrepreneur. In addition to all that fabulousness, Bashir is a style maven (bona fide: she's a Style.com contributor) who knows how to remain glamorous even while horseback riding through the Mongolian steppe and hang gliding in Rio de Janiero. Below, she let's us in on how she does it. Warning: spreadsheets are involved.
What inspired you to launch Peek?
"I was organizing a birthday trip to Istanbul with my friends. I spent hours researching what the best things to do there were, and calling these far-flung activities companies to try to book the cool experiences I'd discovered. The whole process ended up being lengthy and frustrating so I found myself wishing that there was a one-stop shop to book amazing activities online. It didn't exist, so I figured it was time to build it!"
What makes Peek different from other travel websites?
"When you're planning a trip you might use Kayak to book your flight or Expedia to book your hotel. Now you can use Peek.com to discover and book all the fun things to do in a new place, or even in your hometown. Whether it's visiting the MOMA, biking down a volcanic crater or heading to a film festival, we've tracked down the best activities and work with the highest-quality operators. We combine this with our 'Perfect Days'—itineraries featuring insider tips and hidden gems from tastemakers like Diane von Furstenberg and Wolfgang Puck.?"
Are you more likely to over-pack or under-pack? Or have you mastered the art at this point?
"I'm probably an over-packer, but that's normally because I always leave it to the last minute and throw lots of things in that could be useful. A few years ago I was headed on a 6-week trip with only a carry on, so I was forced to pack smart. My inner nerd shone through as I created a spreadsheet of everything I planned on taking, and removed any items that didn't have multiple purposes. My fancy cocktail dress stayed at home, but the maxi dress that could be worn during the day and dressed up for night made the cut. The actual packing after this planning only took 15 mins."
What are your top 3 packing tips?
"1. Roll your clothes, don't fold; 2. Take a cashmere blanket to guard yourself from the overly air-conditioned plane on your flight; 3. Make the most of your favorite beauty brand's gift or travel kits so you don't have to check your baggage but still get to use the products you love.?"
What's your go-to travel outfit?
"My typical travel outfit is silk trousers by Maison Martin Margiela, Lanvin sneakers, and a warm cashmere sweater."
Do you have any travel gear you can't live without?
"I carry my passport in a Smythson travel wallet, bring a neck pillow and eye mask so I can nap anywhere, and bring my MacBook Air on flights so I can take advantage of the lack of distractions to get some work done."
What advice would you give people traveling to the Bay Area?
"The Bay Area is unmatched in terms of the sheer diversity of experiences you can have, from olive oil tasting in Napa to kayaking in Half Moon Bay. My favorite activities in San Francisco are a seaplane tour over the Golden Gate Bridge, a food tour of the Mission district and a visit to the California Academy of Science and Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. Also, remember to always bring layers! Especially in the summer, you never know when a chill is going to roll in."
What's the next trip you plan or hope to take?
"I would love to go to the Okavango Delta in Botswana for a safari."
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