So what do you know about N’awlins?
If Fat Tuesday, Bourbon Street and gumbo are the first three things that come to mind, you aren’t off, but you’re certainly not getting the whole story.
My first time in the Big Easy was all about the intricate histories, finding the perfect beignets (or really taste testing all of them ever made) and capturing the mesmerizing way the moss hung over the oaks like old ghosts in the French Quarter. For a picture perfect town though, it’s full of tourist traps and pockets where you can spend a lot of money–but don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be that way.
For a young traveler like me, watching the bottom line of my bank account is more than second nature, it’s a personal mantra, and in the Big Easy, it really is easy if you’ve got a little time to plan and a lot of creativity.
So before you get swept away by the King’s Cake and the street parades, check out these tips and report back.
Good luck taking it easy down South!
#1. Get the Package Deal
Whether it’s a museum plus riverboat cruise dinner or an all-inclusive pub crawl with admission into the best of Bourbon Street and free drinks, grab the best deal by booking a package.
Wherever you can get the bundle, take that option, because it not only saves you money, but it saves you precious time. It’s an adventure and your schedule sorted–all packed into one wonderful deal. And not only that, going with a group is a great way to meet new people. Search out the free walking tours in the French Quarter because what’s better than free?
#2. Buy Round Trip Tickets
Save hundreds before you even leave by booking round-trip flights. Ninety-nine percent of the time, planning your return journey before leaving home is going to be the smartest choice financially. Try a discount website like Kayak.com for good deals, lots of options, and instant comparisions to other major booking websites.
And don’t forget to pack light; airlines are cracking down on baggage by charging for extra weight. Don’t get too down about it, you can always use this as an excuse to get new threads in city, and also leaves you plenty of room for souvenirs.
#3. Check out Groupon
To get the good deals for a boat trip, a nice dinner on the river, or a massage, check out Groupon before scheduling out your day. That swanky, fine dining restaurant you drooled over on Hugh Acheson’s Instagram might have a happy hour cocktail and appetizer special or you can catch a Dungeons and Dragons-themed burlesque show (which is something you never knew you even wanted but now that you think about, would be kind of awesome).
The possibilities are even better than the deals!
#4. Skip the hotel
Be it via HomeExchange or Airbnb, there are some ultra-chic alternatives to staying in a hotel, and if you’re planning on going as a family or staying upwards of 4 days, taking a home is a smarter option financially–not only does it have a kitchen to gather for a meal or two, if you’re lucky you might get to experience the most authentic of Southern pastimes and have a sweet tea on a porch swing.
Look for homes near popular spots like St. Charles Avenue or to save really big, try traveling with a lot of people and get a house a little further outside of the city center like this one near Tulane. The bigger the party, the smaller the price tag; everyone wants to give groups a deal and splitting a check 7 ways is better than doing it by 2.
#5. Take a Streetcar
Forget the expensive car rental at the airport or even your own roadtrip wheels once you get to the Big Easy, it’s far more fun (and affordable) to give the public transit a whirl. Traipsing the length of Canal Street, the LA Riverfront, and more, the vintage-style railway cars are more than reliable and an extra sweet taste of the Southern charm New Orleans is so well known for.
Want an even better way to get around the city? Opt for two wheels. I know, it’s such a good idea that I mentioned biking twice. You just can’t beat the price of manpower (free!) and the intimate feel of traveling in the open air. There’s no better way to experience the sweet neighborhoods and parks of this sleepy coastal town.
#6. Get a local SIM card
Traveling from out of town? As in, international out of town? If this is the case, the last thing you want to worry about is how much that butt dial Facetime with your dog is going to cost in roaming charges.
Grabbing a SIM card is as easy as popping into a local shop and loading up on pay-as-you-go minutes–they’re readily available at gas stations, drug stores, you name it. So instead of swallowing your 2-year contract guidelines on global charges, opt for this alternative to save you hundreds. The only thing you have to do is unlock your phone, put your new SIM card in, and give your new number a couple of test calls…maybe to book that window seat at Commander’s Palace (which you can now afford with all of the money you saved on cell charges).
#7. Give the restaurants a break and cook
It’s easy to get into the habit of going out while on vacation and it makes sense: how can you resist the sweet call of red beans and rice and crawfish etoufee? But remember: cooking doesn’t have to be a chore and it doesn’t have to be every meal.
Some of my favorite meals in the Big Easy were made with local food I picked up at the Crescent City Farmer’s Markets, which can be found around the city at different locations throughout the week. From fresh oysters to heirloom tomatoes, the markets boasts the best of local fare and spending a day perusing the stalls is as authentic as an experience as you can get.
Take your camera, capture the soul of the city and people watch; it’s one of the greatest souvenirs you’ll ever have and you’ll be grabbing eats in the process!
#8. Make friends with the locals and find the best hot spots
No one knows the city better than the locals, so whether it be the friendly bartender at the watering hole you picked while taking a midnight stroll or one of your favorite local bloggers, checking out the deals is as easy as living it easy like the next door neighbors at your Airbnb flat. Actually, while you’re at it, just ask your neighbors out for a drink and who knows there the night will lead you!
The key to not making your vacation one big penny-pinching adventure is to plan, and then have fun with the plan. Maybe the Groupon code expires the day you use it, maybe you heard someone else got a better deal at a restaurant down the street from the place you had dinner–just don’t sweat the small stuff.
You’re on vacation, and even if you’re being money conscious, you should enjoy it. So be flexible, watch the wallet and have a good time, there’s nothing that could be easier!
Have more money saving tips for visiting NOLA? Leave your suggestions for saving the big bucks in the comments, share them in the comments below.
About the author
I’m Claire – a self-confessed travel nut. I’ve been travelling around the world since my mum farewelled me in a teary goodbye and I haven’t looked back since. You can read all about my adventures through 3 continents, 16 countries, and 38 cities on my blog Traveltio.com.