Want to know how to travel in style, just like the pros? We check in with frequent fliers to find out how often they fly, their favorite destinations and what they never leave home without.
Name: Leila Najafi
Occupation: Lifestyle + Travel Writer/Digital Marketing Consultant
Hometown: Hartsdale, New York
Residence: Los Angeles, CA
College: UCLA (Go Bruins!)
College major: Anthropology, B.S.
YouTube: Leila’s List
Short bio: Leila Najafi is a tech marketer turned lifestyle/travel writer and digital marketer. She launched the LA market for both Eventbrite and Lyft respectively, and after spending the majority of her career in marketing she decided to take a leap of faith and go off on her own as a freelancer. In 2016, she quit her job at Lyft to pursue writing where she has had the opportunity to travel the world and write about her experiences. While she still consults startups in marketing, her true passion lies in travel writing and sharing her finds around the world. When she’s not globetrotting the world, you can find her at Venice Beach, doing Pilates, or eating a Sidecar donut. Follow Leila’s travels at leilaslist.
How often do you fly? I try to fly at least once a month.
How many countries have you been to? 15
How many continents have you been to? 4
Earliest travel memory: I remember going to France and Germany with my family when I was a teen and I don’t think I appreciated the beauty of cities like Paris and Nice the way I do now, but in retrospect, I’m grateful that I had the experience to travel abroad and be exposed to different cultures at a young age.
Favorite American city: New York.
Favorite international city: Paris.
Least favorite country: Not sure I have one (yet).
I have no desire to go to: There’s nowhere in the world I’m not curious to see at least once.
Friendliest people in the world: U.S. Virgin Islands.
Favorite World Heritage Site: I definitely haven’t visited as many as I’d like to but from the ones I have, I would say Iguazu National Park was breathtaking.
Favorite airline: Singapore Airlines.
Aisle or window: Always window!
Favorite international airport: London Heathrow.
Favorite travel credit card: Chase Sapphire Preferred.
Favorite island: Île Sainte-Marguerite in Cannes.
Favorite beach: Trunk Bay in St. John.
Favorite fancy restaurant: Le Vallauris in Palm Springs because it reminds me so much of France. The food is phenomenal and the string-lit patio at night is really special.
Favorite hole-in-the-wall: Barran’s 2239 in Hermosa Beach. It’s tucked away in a strip mall and totally unassuming, but they serve the quintessential, farm-to-table cuisine that is one of the reasons I love California.
Favorite airport restaurant: Ink.Sack at LAX Tom Bradley. It has sort of become a travel ritual for me to pick up a sandwich before my flight.
Favorite bar: Hanky Panky in Mexico City was one of the coolest speakeasies I’ve been to tucked behind a vending machine at a hole-in-the-wall taco joint.
Favorite fruit: Raspberries.
Favorite food: Pasta.
Least favorite food: Anything with visible body parts. I don’t want eyes staring back at me when I’m eating!
Drink of choice (in the air and on the ground): Water (in the air to stay hydrated), a spicy mezcal cocktail on the ground.
Favorite travel show(s): I’m going to go back to the late 90s and would say Wild On! E! with Brooke Burke. That show definitely piqued my curiosity for travel.
Right now I am reading: “A Curious Mind” by Brian Grazer.
Top 3 favorite travel newsletters/magazines/blogs: AFAR, Time Out, Food & Wine magazine.
Favorite travel website(s)—besides JohnnyJet.com, of course! Scott’s Cheap Flights, The Points Guy, Departures.
5 things you bring on a plane: Eye mask, book, water, headphones, neck pillow.
What do you always seem to forget? My eye mask!
What do you like least about travel? The lines and the whole airport experience (despite having Global Entry!).
Favorite travel app(s): Not really a travel app per se, but I use Google Maps to plan my travels and it’s been life-changing. For starters, Google Maps allows you to download a city map so that you can access it whenever you don’t have Wi-Fi. I create a custom map of the city I’m traveling to and pin all the restaurants, bars, attractions, and places I want to visit and then map out my days according to proximity. It’s the best travel resource and I can’t remember what I did without it!
Most embarrassing travel moment: I booked a trip to Mexico with a friend only to realize the day before, that my passport had expired. I went straight to the Federal Building to renew my passport the next day and re-booked my flight for a red-eye that evening, except I ended up missing that flight too! Needless to say, my friend greeted me in Mexico with a cocktail (or two) in hand two days later.
I’m embarrassed I haven’t been to: The Amalfi Coast.
Worst travel moment: I was coming back from a two-week trip in Europe only to find out my luggage was missing! The only things I really cared to get my hands on were the bottles of wine I purchased from Piedmont. Luckily, JetBlue was able to find my bag and return it to me the next day. I still have one of the bottles I’m saving for a special occasion!
What’s your dream destination? Sydney, Australia.
Best travel tip: Always pack less than you think. At some point during my travels, I decided to see if I can only travel with a carry-on and that was the best decision I made. I don’t think I could ever fly with checked bags again. When you’re traveling, your time is valuable and you want to get in and out of the airport as quick as possible so flying with a carry-on is one of the best things you can do to be efficient. Besides, if you ever forget anything, in most cases, you can purchase it at your destination.