This blog post was updated on February 6, 2020.
It’s one of the biggest and best parties in the world. Mardi Gras begins 12 days after Christmas and ends on Fat Tuesday, right before Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent. So now is one of the best times to head down to New Orleans and experience the excitement firsthand. Unfortunately, Mardi Gras isn’t world-famous for being cheap. In fact, it can end up being a seriously costly affair. So what’s a would-be reveler to do?
Luckily, we have some great tips and tricks for how you can enjoy the best of Mardi Gras without breaking the bank.
Laissez les bon temps rouler! – Let the good times roll!
While Mardi Gras may be called the biggest free party in the world, it isn’t always cheap. After you’ve purchased your flights to New Orleans, you’re going to want to save as much money as you can to pay for those hurricane drinks and all that Mardi Gras paraphernalia. One of the quickest ways to blow your budget is by trying to get around using cabs and car services. Trust us, everyone is going to be trying to grab a cab at the same time you are. Instead, use public transit to get around (a 5-day Jazzy Pass card comes in at just $15 and gives you unlimited rides on all buses and streetcars). Or better yet, walk. New Orleans is the perfect city for a stroll, and Mardi Gras guarantees you’ll never run out of astounding sights.
Snack on the Go
You’re going to want to try out the local New Orleans dining experience, but you don’t want to spend all your money chowing down. Restaurants often hike up their prices during this time of year, leaving your belly full but your wallet considerably lighter. The solution? Dine as you go; there are countless food stands throughout New Orleans offering a variety of delicacies for you to sample. Plus, eating outdoors gives you a bird’s eye view of the seemingly endless parades and all the gorgeous costumes. You can also hit up one of the amazing delis to treat yourself to a muffaletta or a po’boy (specialty sandwiches of New Orleans) and assemble your very own Mardi Gras picnic at a fraction of the cost of a pricey restaurant meal.
Check for Cancellations
Securing a hotel for Mardi Gras might be one of the hardest parts of the whole trip. Hotels book months in advance, with many requiring at least a four-day reservation. But if you held off on getting a room, don’t panic. Call around for cancellations; if you’re patient and thorough, you can find a great deal on a room at a much lower price than normal. It also helps to be flexible with your dates; this will give you more wiggle room when securing a reservation. It may take some effort, but the payoff (and savings) will be well worth it.
Grab Some Coupons
Coupons are a fantastic way to save money wherever you go — even Mardi Gras. There are several websites that have coupons specifically for New Orleans, allowing you to save big bucks on fun events, dining experiences, and close-up views of the parade. Take some time to investigate the options available, and get ready to save big on your amazing excursion.
Make a Plan
It’s all too easy to get overwhelmed at Mardi Gras — there are endless things to see, do, and experience in New Orleans. So if you’re feeling stumped, make a plan for your trip. You can figure out which events and activities will be free (like the parades) and which could end up being a little pricey. Figure out what you really want to spend money on, and what you’d rather not splurge over. This way when you do decide to drop some cash on a fancy dinner or an exclusive exhibit, you’ll know it’s worth the price.
Reboot An Old Costume
Part of the fun of Mardi Gras is dressing up for the parades. But how much do you want to spend on a costume? That’s when it’s time to take a deep dive into your closet and bring back some of your old Halloween looks. Pick your favorite outfit, or create something new from old designs. Go crazy and see what you come up with. After all, Mardi Gras is supposed to be a time of fun and whimsy — and that should come without a price tag on it.
Have any money-saving Mardi Gras tips to add to the list? Let us know in the comments below!