Member Stories

James Black Has Found the Easy Way to Travel with a Big Family

James Black and his daughter in Los Angeles before watching Demi Lovato and DNCE perform for Marriott Rewards members. (Photo: Marriott Rewards)

James Black isn’t the biggest planner when he travels. It’s hard to with five kids attending different colleges across the country Trying to keep the family together when everyone’s so spread out is hard enough.

But Black has one very valuable tip when exploring the world: ask the hotel concierge for help.

“We always (get recommendations) at the hotel because they never steer us wrong,” Black told Marriott TRAVELER.

Black has the experience, taking his seven-member family to Paris and London.

It’s also what they did in Sydney, right after checking into the Sydney Harbour Marriott Hotel at Circular Quay, which boasts “spectacular” views of the Australian city’s iconic sail-shaped concert hall and harbor, Black says.

“We had just flown in and I check in with the concierge and she immediately goes, ‘We’re having our our Festival of Lights and you don’t want to miss this!’ and boy, was she right,” says Black, a plastic surgeon, who lives in Los Angeles. “We loved it. She told us the route to take and everything.”

The annual Vivid Sydney light festival illuminates the Australian city’s monuments. (Photos courtesy of Vivid Sydney)

Vivid Sydney, also known as the Festival of Lights, is an annual 23-day outdoor attraction in which various multicolored light and art projects illuminate the Sydney skyline. The event attracted 2.3 million visitors in 2016, its biggest yet.

Over the years, Black has frequently turned to Marriott Rewards points to help pay for his family’s trips.

That included October’s Desert Trip, the music event in California’s Coachella Valley, affectionately referred to as “Old-Chella,” given its lineup of aging rockers like the Rolling Stones just outside Palm Springs.

His wife and daughter took advantage of their Platinum Elite status to book a room.

“They’re using the Marriott Rewards out there because there’s not a lot of rooms available and they can still go up and stay at the greatest place,” Black says.

“It’s kind of funny because my wife was asking, ‘I wonder if we’ll get to see any of the acts?’ and my daughter said, ‘They’ll probably be staying at the same place,’ so she’ll see them by the pool.”

Black and his daughter didn’t have to hang out by the pool to see one of her favorite music acts, Demi Lovato and DNCE, getting to meet them in Los Angeles, on Sept. 22, before they took to the stage to give a private concert exclusively for Marriott Rewards members.

The Black family doesn’t have their next trip lined up yet. No matter where they go, though, they know they’ve got some perks to take advantage of.

“The kids will love it because they get free breakfast!” Black says.