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: Marla Cimini
Occupation: Freelance journalist (covering travel, hotels, culinary adventures, features, music, art and more)
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA
Residence: Cherry Hill, NJ (I lived in the NYC area for ten years before returning to Philly and NJ)
College: La Salle University, Philadelphia, PA
College major: Communications and English
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Short bio: I’ve had a true passion for writing—and for traveling—since I was very young. After I spent a few years in the hotel industry, I decided to embark on an independent career and combine writing and journalism with my love for travel, art, music, and culinary adventures. An avid globetrotter, I have covered topics ranging from Italian and Portuguese wine trails; to Japanese cuisine, to luxury hotels around the world. I contribute to a multitude of publications—including USA Today, Destination Weddings and Honeymoons—and many others. I also co-authored the book, “A Century of Hospitality,” a historical exploration of US hotels (McNeill publishing, 2010).
How often do you fly? Several times each month….and some months are busier than others!
How many countries have you been to? About 55+.
How many continents have you been to? 5 (so far)!
Earliest travel memory: Growing up, I spent my summer vacation with my family in Ocean City, New Jersey. (Which I still believe features the best boardwalk on the Jersey shore). My family also lived near the Philadelphia international airport, so my parents would often drive me (along with my sister) down the street to a prime viewing spot with exceptional vantage point of the runways to watch the planes taking off and landing.
Favorite American city: Philadelphia, PA (I’m a hometown girl), and I really like Los Angeles, CA, too. (My sister lives there, and I travel to LA often.)
Favorite international city: Rome, Italy. I toss coins in the Trevi Fountain every time…apparently, it works like a charm!
Least favorite country: China (but I’m willing to give them another chance.
I have no desire to go to: Anywhere that’s too cold. Bring on the beach!
Friendliest people in the world: When I travel, I always find that most people are very friendly…but if I have to choose one country, it’s definitely Italy! Domestically, I think Portland, OR is friendliest. After all, the residents actually stop their cars for pedestrians who are crossing the street. Plus, their culinary scene is on fire!
Country with the meanest immigration officers: Canada.
Favorite World Heritage Site: The ruins at Ephesus in Turkey. Incredible.
Favorite airline: Although I love Turkish airlines’ business class, my go-to airline is American, since I usually fly in / out of PHL.
Aisle or window: Definitely aisle! I like to get up and walk around whenever I have the chance.
Favorite airport lounge: Turkish Airlines lounge in Istanbul, Turkey. It’s gorgeous—and offers a delectable selection of local cuisine and impressive open bar.
Favorite U.S. airport: PHL. It’s easy to navigate and most importantly, it is an optimal airport for stress-free drop-offs and pick-ups.
Favorite international airport: Venice, Italy. It’s small and has a nice lounge (the Marco Polo Lounge) with an outdoor rooftop terrace. Besides, when you land…well, you are in Venice!
Favorite hotel: The Four Seasons Gresham Palace in Budapest, Hungary. Simply stunning!
Favorite cruise line: Hapag-Lloyd cruises (beyond luxury!).
Favorite travel credit card: Amex Platinum.
Favorite island: The island of Crete. I adore the Greek islands and Crete is a fascinating destination. It offers wonderful cuisine, exquisitely restored ruins and boasts beautiful beaches. Besides, it is fun to swim in the Cretan sea!
Favorite beach: I love the wonderful Wailea beach in Hawaii, in front of the Grand Wailea Resort. It’s the epitome of Hawaii…tropical and picturesque. When I step onto that beach, I never want to leave!
Favorite fancy restaurant: It’s so difficult to choose just one…but a recent favorite is Chef Heinz Beck’s exquisite La Pergola, located at the top of the exquisite Rome Cavalieri Hotel in Rome. Three Michelin Stars without the pretense. Truly a standout for a memorable meal—the most “fun” fine dining experience I’ve ever had!
Favorite hole-in-the-wall: Monk’s Café in Philadelphia. The best beer selection in town…possibly in the country…along a great variety of mussels and not-to-be-missed French fries.
Favorite bar: The Flatrock Saloon in Manayunk, PA (Where I met my husband)! This little bar will always hold a special place in my heart.
Favorite fruit: It’s a tie: fresh California plums and fresh New Jersey blueberries—both the best.
Favorite food: My mother’s homemade lasagna! It takes several days to make, and I’m extremely appreciative.
Least favorite food: Sweet potatoes. (I think I’m the only one).
Drink of choice (in the air and on the ground): Water with lemon. (Otherwise, Champagne or Prosecco!).
Favorite travel movie(s): Two of my favorites: L’Auberge Espagnole and Midnight in Paris (They travel through time – plus they are in Paris).
Favorite travel show(s): Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown.
Favorite travel book(s): Although not a quintessential travel book, “Beautiful Ruins” by Jess Walter takes place in Italy and Southern California—two of my favorite destinations. I also love the classic “A Moveable Feast” by Ernest Hemingway.
Right now I am reading: Just finished “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt (loved it)! And re-reading “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” by Betty Smith. I’m never without a book.
Top 3 favorite travel newsletters/magazines/blogs: Departures, National Geographic Travel, AFAR.
Favorite travel website(s)—besides JohnnyJet.com, of course! FlyerTalk.com. Everyone is so helpful on that website. I always get answers to my travel questions right away.
5 things you bring on a plane: Laptop, lip balm, a scarf, bottle of water, iPhone with downloaded NPR podcasts.
What do you always seem to forget? My charger.
What do you like least about travel? Those people on overnight flights who insist on keeping their overhead lights on or window shades up, when it’s obvious that everyone on the plane is trying to sleep. Not cool.
What do you want your loved one to buy you from an airport Duty Free store? Locally made dark chocolate.
Favorite travel app(s): LoungeBuddy, FlightTracker, FaceTime.
I’m embarrassed but I haven’t been to: The Outer Banks, NC. (I’ve been trying to visit this destination for years. So close, yet so far…)
Worst travel moment: I prefer to block those from my memory :-)
What’s your dream destination? Fiji. I hear it is pure paradise there!
Favorite travel charity: Not necessarily travel-focused: Love, Hope and Strength. It’s a great organization that promotes music-related cancer outreach.
Best travel tip: Always pack light, definitely try new cuisine…and most importantly, remember that no matter where you go…it’s not about where you are, but who you’re with! That’s what makes the trip memorable. After all, travel is about the full experience.