Mardi Gras is legendary in the United States. Few other events are so famous throughout the country. Not only that, but pretty much no other party in the US reaches the heights of this New Orleans tradition. Obviously, attending the biggest bash in the entire country usually comes with a hefty price tag. Travel, lodging, food, and fun will all add up to cost you both arms and both legs if you aren’t careful. Just like any other vacation, there are ways to maximize fun, and minimize financial burden. At such an overwhelming, city-wide festival, it’s easy to get carried away. Don’t fall for the trap; here are the top 3 thrift tips for Mardi Gras to keep your wallet safe!
Location, location, location. The French Quarter is death (financially) and you should avoid it. If you can, try to stay in a suburb just outside New Orleans. Prices surge around Mardi Gras, and this effect is magnified the closer you are to the actual festival. With that said, the type of hotel you go to also matters. As usual, Airbnb and Homeaway are terrific tools to avoid crazy hotel rates. You can also look toward smaller hotels/motels or even hostels if you can swing it, as the large chains around the French Quarter are inordinately expensive. If you must stay within city limits, as I said before, get lodging outside of the FQ during Mardi Gras.
New Orleans has some of the greatest food in the world. I will never tell you to go to Mardi Gras and now blow a little cash on some amazing food. Although, a lot of the inflated food costs comes from being stuck in a massive parade area and having to buy food from overpriced stands with so-so options. When you are heading out to the heart of the French Quarter for the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds and events, bring snacks in a backpack. Bring a whole lunch if you can, and save the splurge money for the must-try food joints later on in the evening. Another way to save money is akin to the lodging strategy; look outside the heart of Mardi Gras. Check out the less trafficked neighborhoods and towns nearby, and you’ll find hidden gems that won’t break the bank. Amazing food doesn’t end at New Orleans city limits, so don’t be afraid to branch out while you’re in Louisiana.
One of the best vacation tips I have ever gotten is that tours are overrated. While they can be an easy way to see the hot tourist locations all in a row, they are also pretty expensive. Tours can easily ring in at around $100-200, and they don’t typically give you all the time you’d want at each location. Instead, consider doing some research yourself and finding a few places you really want to spend time in. The Lower Ninth Ward can be traveled by cab, and there you can see the tragic outcome of Hurricane Katrina. The best way to explore the French Quarter is just to walk around and take it all in yourself. Find what you’re interested in seeing, and get there on your own. This will make sure you get as much time as you want at your desired locations, and you get to save all that tour cash.