Because I suffer from a serious case of wanderlust, I have long been a fan of Stephanie Steinman’s site, Le Postcard, but didn’t get a chance to meet her until a recent trip to LA where she is based. We immediately hit it off. Stephanie has an incredible sense of style, an envious address book filled with finds from all the countries she’s visited, and is just incredibly warm and fun. In less than two months, Stephanie will launch her next venture, Le Paradis, a beauty brand based on her travels and her favorite time of year–summer. (Follow Le Paradis Instagram to keep up to date.) Here she shares what she packs, how she deals with flight anxiety, and why you should trust your gut when an airline attendant demands your carry-on.
Tell me how you started Le Postcard and what your background is. I’ve actually owned two companies, an apparel company and an online store. I sold both of them and I started writing about travel. I really wanted to delve into all the details about travel. It’s the little details that make travel so special. It’s something we all do. We all have to get on the plane. But we, in a way, all do it the same and we all do it so differently. People have their rituals, their superstitions. Some people refuse to drink alcohol in a plane. Others get on and that’s the first thing they do. Some people slather their face in a salve to protect them from the air. Some people put their mask on and go to bed the whole time.
I found it really interesting the more I traveled, all the quirky details about how we do it. Our favorite places around the globe. That was a big one for me. I would find out about a really cool sushi place in Tokyo where it doesn’t have a sign on the door. You have to wait in line but the line is really quick. The little owner will bring you green tea if it’s in the winter. All kinds of little fun stuff that doesn’t fit in as well when you’re writing editorial for a magazine.
I wanted to share those things and have people share all the stuff that they use when they travel. Their beauty things. Does everyone bring a hairdryer? Do some people not? I love hearing about other people’s stuff and I felt like other girls would too.
Me too. I’m so obsessed about it and I don’t know why. Exactly. Does it really matter if their hair doesn’t need a hairdryer? But somehow you’re like “Tell me about the lip gloss you bring when you travel. What’s the item you get from the mini bar?”
What do you love personally about traveling? I love being somewhere new. I love hotels. I’m a little bit of a hotel snob. I think it’s so fun to have room service and be in a new city and be out. I’m like a kid in a candy store when I’m traveling. I find it all exciting. Probably in an annoying way to other people. But it’s all fascinating to me.
I love to be home too. I love LA. I feel really lucky every time I get to go somewhere and I feel really lucky every time I safely come home. I think that’s something we all have in common. As much as we all love to travel, there’s something special also about being at home that’s equally wonderful. Being in our own bed, being back in our own city. Somehow landing back at our airport makes us feel comfortable again.
It makes you appreciate home when you return. It really does. Even if you were just somewhere wonderful that’s beyond your wildest dreams. You come home and you love where you live. I feel like wherever I am traveling there are palm trees. That’s my joke. I connect the palm tree dots on the map and I make it back home to the LA palm trees when I’m done. Kind of silly.
Do you travel often? I do travel a lot. I haven’t traveled as much in the last year because I’ve been really focused on creating my beauty line. But there was a time where I was on a plane at least every 10 days.
Dream destinations: I am dying to go to Australia. I’ve never been to Morocco and I would love to go there. My dream destinations that I’ve been to that I loved, are any place with a beach. I love Greece. Italy is my all time favorite. Being in Capri in the summer, Positano, all along the Amalfi coast, is a total dream. Down in Puglia, in the south, it’s incredible. The water is amazing.
I love India. I never really wanted to go there, but I was offered a trip to write about it. It did something to my soul and grabbed me. I equally love Tokyo, Switzerland and London. My last trip was to Turks and Caicos. The water blew my mind. It was absolutely incredible. I went to Parrot Cay and celebrated my birthday with some friends. I’m still dreaming about it. I’m like “How do I get back to the Caribbean immediately?”
Has there been a place that disappointed you or was not all it was cracked up to be? Not yet. I will say this: I’m very selective with the trips I take. I’ve been very lucky. I’m one of those people that can easily be let down because I have such huge expectations, which I guess could be maybe not such a good thing. But everywhere I’ve shown up, I’ve been really happy. I kind of go with the flow. I make the best of it when I’m there.
Favorite room with a view: Oh, gosh, there’s so many. The first one that comes to mind, is I was Evian, France, maybe two summers ago. I had the most incredible room at a place called Hotel Royal. When you would open up the windows, you would look out onto Lake Geneva. You could see all the lights of Lucerne. It was something dreamy about opening up the huge doors to the balcony.
At Villa TreVille in Positano, I had a gorgeous view of the sea and all the beach chairs down by the rocks and a beautiful patio. Those are probably the two that come to mind. Of course, the Plaza Athénée in Paris. I’ve had the room where you look right out onto the Eiffel Tower. You can’t beat that no matter where you go. That’d probably be the number one.
How do you seek out places? Do you research restaurants? Do you ask locals? What are tips that you think help plan a good vacation? I’ll do everything. I’ll ask friends. I’ll say “I’m going to be in Tokyo. Does anyone have any tips?” I’ll use Instagram. I screenshot so much stuff when someone else is traveling. They mention a restaurant or a place. I’ll screenshot it. I have notes in my phone by city. I write down restaurants or a hotel or a place for coffee.
Copenhagen is another place I’m dying to go to for some strange reason. I feel like a lot of people are going to Copenhagen lately. I’m making notes about restaurants and little places for coffee. I’ll definitely go online and look for places. Because there’s only so much time in certain cities, I cross reference everything. If one person tells me about a restaurant, I’ll Google it. I’ll go look it up on Instagram, check out photos. I definitely do my homework before I just appear somewhere.
I’m a huge foodie. There was a day that I was in Zurich. The way the days worked, I was going to be there on a Saturday and a Sunday. Everything’s closed on Sunday. I wish I was lying to you, but I had about seven places to eat that I really wanted to hit up on Saturday. I went to all of them by myself. I had a massive hot chocolate at one place. Then I got up and went and had a full Italian pasta, glass of wine. Then I got up and I had to go have bratwurst with mustard. Then I had to have a pretzel with mustard somewhere else. Then there was a place for beer. I 100% had to see what these places look like and check them off my list. It was a magical day. A little bit of a stomach ache at night, but I worked it out. I have no regrets.
Always on your to-visit list: I go into supermarkets wherever I’m visiting. Everywhere. In Tokyo, in Switzerland, in little beach towns. I find it fascinating to see different foods and how things are displayed. I always find some kind of cool potato chip or snack food or some weird flavor. It’s part of my foodie obsession. That’s probably one of the weirder things I do on vacation.
Carry-on or checked luggage? If I can at all do a carry-on, I will. I know that’s crazy. I did India for almost three weeks with a carry-on. I’m nervous about having my luggage lost. I’m 5’1″ and have a size 5 shoe. If my luggage is lost, I can’t just run into any shop to find an outfit. Despite the thoughts in my head, I am not Giselle. If things go wrong for me, I’m kind of in a pickle.
Luggage mishaps? I’ve been fairly lucky with my luggage. I’ve had two instances which were tragic. My luggage didn’t make the flight coming back from the south of France. I had been at the Hotel du Cap for maybe two weeks. I had everything that I owned and loved with me. My luggage was lost for maybe 10 days. I’m embarrassed to tell you how much I cared. They found it. It got returned to me. When I was leaving Croatia … Croatia is another place that blew my mind–the water and the people. That was a game changer for me. Anyway, I was coming back from Croatia on my way to Italy and had to connect through Germany. I had a weird exchange with the flight attendant. She refused to let me get on the plane with my carry-on. She said that all the overhead bins were taken. I knew I shouldn’t let this bag go, but I couldn’t argue with a flight attendant. So I gave her this bag. I walked onto the plane. All the bins were empty. All of them. My heart sank. I got to Rome and was watching a bag go around on the carousel with duct tape over the entire bag, not just a part of it, the entire bag. You could barely see what color the bag was. Pretty soon I was the only person still waiting for their bag. I was like “Is that my bag?” Sure enough, it was my bag. Everything inside was gone. It was a little traumatic.
What kind of luggage do you carry? When I started Le Postcard, Tumi sent me a set of incredible luggage from the Alpha collection. You can customize it with certain colors and your initials. Mine is black with blue accents. The good thing is, unless it’s covered in duct tape, I can always find my bag when it’s coming off the belt. I have taken this stuff with me all the time for four years, everywhere. It’s so durable. I love it.
I have some Louis Vuitton luggage that I’ve used for more weekend trips around LA. If I go to Palm Springs or Santa Barbara or up to Big Sur. Little trips like that.
Favorite travel outfit: I always travel in sneakers, no matter what. Even if it’s the middle of summer and I’m island hopping somewhere. It’s a weird superstition, safety thing. Also, if you have to run through an airport: sneakers. They’re nice sneakers. I make it work. I wish I was Victoria Beckham and someone was carrying my luggage, but I’m just like everybody else. I have 80 million things that I’m trying to take–my passport, tickets, my sunglasses.
Coming from LA, every flight is long so I layer. Usually a pair of vintage Levis, a plain white J. Crew T-shirt, and a Nili Lotan cashmere sweater–they’re so thick and sumptuous! I always bring a pashmina or a blanket to double for whatever I need it to and also it works great in a hotel.
Flight essentials: I should say this: I’m a very, very, very nervous flyer. I know I fly for a living but I’m definitely one of those white-knucklers. I always have a book with me and pick up a million magazines at the airport. Sometimes I can read them. Sometimes I get a little too nervous to concentrate on the book. I love to catch a movie on the plane I haven’t seen. I don’t sleep on planes, so there’s always something going on. I bring my computer, my iPad, and a pair of Beats by Dre headphones. Even if I’m not listening to music, they’re great just to cancel out all the noise.
I always have a lip balm with me, which is one of my new beauty products. I’m not the best with my face care, but I try to bring some kind of face balm. Your skin really does get so dry in the air. I have to travel with candy. I’m a total candy junkie, so there’s usually gummy bears and Sour Patch Kids. I also bring usually a big bag of pretzels. Then when I come back to the room between dinners or lunches, it’s nice to grab a handful of pretzels and relax for a minute. Sometimes a bag of pretzels will last me a week.
And I have a glass of wine as soon as I get on the plane. I don’t like taking pills.
Hotel room additions: I take a small Diptique candle, it has come in handy in certain hotel rooms. I brought a pair of Charlotte Olympia satin kitty slippers with me to London last time and they were great.
Summer plans: I really want to go to Majorca. That’s number one. And Jamaica. I haven’t been in a very long time. It has to do with one of my products I’m making.
Packing list: Pippa Holt caftans; dresses from Lisa Marie Fernandez; K. Jacques sandals; classic bikinis and one-piece bathing suits from Eres; swimsuits from Solid & Striped; Re/Done Levi’s jean skirt; a great basket bag; a great white dress; Kule striped shirts; Jennifer Meyer jewelry.
What is the first thing you do when you check into a hotel? I always go straight to the bathroom. I love a good hotel bathroom. I take a bath rather than a shower. I’m always praying that there’s some beautiful bathtubs. Sometimes there’s not. There’s just a beautiful shower. That’s okay too.
Always pack an extra _____ : Pair of shoes. They can really dress an outfit up or down. I never take heels. I see girls hobbling along on the cobblestones in the summer in Capri and different places. And sometimes someone’s like “It’s a beautiful walk to dinner”, but it’s 30 minutes. I try to plan every outfit out for every day so I don’t bring too much or too little. The last minute, I always throw in an extra pair of shoes. It’s so cliché. It makes me feel better knowing that they’re there. Even if I don’t wear them, I’m like “I have those Celine sandals with me and my trip will be better for it.”
Favorite souvenir shopping: I always go into little stores to look for cool beauty stuff and it’s kind of what started my beauty business. I went into like a hardware store in Capri on a tiny street. I don’t know why I went in there, but in the back they had this bronzing oil. Clearly it was homemade, some little Italian nonna probably whips it up in her kitchen, but it was such a cool find.
I feel like cool beauty finds are a little more special. Often times, it’s a body oil or a perfume oil. Sometimes it’s a really cool shampoo someone will recommend. Whenever I find something that’s different, I get so excited. Sometimes they get confiscated when I have a carry-on which is very tragic. There’s a cool brand of sun care called Collistar that they have in Italy. They have something called a bronzing water. I looked all over Milan for this. I finally found it in some little shop and was so excited and praying it didn’t get taken away at security. It was the very first thing to go. My bathroom and cabinets are full of lotions and potions from all over the world.
How do you create trip memories? I’m addicted to my iPhone. I’m like Ansel Adams when I go away. I love to document everything–my food, my room, pictures of my shoes on the gorgeous Italian marble when I’m in Italy. It’s like a diary in my phone. Addicted.
What does summer travel mean to you? There’s a freedom about traveling in the summer. The same way you had your summers off as a kid. It’s the smell of suntan lotion and that the sun doesn’t go down until 9:00. Cocktails hours and tan skin. Little sundresses. The things that you really can’t do the rest of the year. When the summer comes, it’s months of sunshine and happiness and sexiness and all the things that go with it. I look forward to it all year long.
You’re launching your beauty line: What it is? When is it launching? What inspired it? The line is called Le Paradis. It’s all beach, summer, sunshine, sexy inspired products. I’m launching with only three products, two lip balms and a body balm. I have a body oil that I’m working on that’s almost done but won’t be ready at launch.
I launch in about seven weeks. I’ve been working on the brand for two years. It’s all manufactured in California and it’s been a long time in the making. I wasn’t in the beauty industry. I don’t have any background in it other than being a consumer and loving certain products and packaging. It’s very much in line with Le Postcard. I don’t speak French, but I picked a French name because it’s kind of my ode to all the French pharmacies that kind of started my love affair with all the cool European beauty products. The packaging is metal toothpaste type tubes, which, again, is very European.
All the products are named after places. They all really go with the place and the feel of each destination. When I think of them, they’re products that you would use in the summer, in sunshine, but I still have this idea of this girl in New York, in the winter, putting on this lip balm, putting on this body balm, going to see her friends and smelling like vacation.
Not a bad way to smell. Exactly. That’s a big thing for me. I have a couple friends who every time I see them say “You smell like vacation.” That kind of inspired a little bit of this too. I love vacation. I love summer and sunshine. These products are like a postcard and love letter to all these places that I visit.
Follow Le Postcard: Instagram.
Follow Le Paradis: Instagram.