I truly enjoy visiting New Orleans. It can be easy to spend a ton visiting any tourist town, but you can visit New Orleans on a budget. Here are my best tips an tricks!
First here are some great books on New Orleans travel:
Frommer’s EasyGuide to New Orleans 2017 (Easy Guides)Lonely Planet New Orleans (Travel Guide)DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: New OrleansWalking New Orleans: 30 Tours Exploring Historic Neighborhoods, Waterfront Districts, Culinary and Music Corridors, and Recreational Wonderlands
For our last trip, we drove to New Orleans from Houston, TX using our 2007 Prius. Altogether, it cost $60 for gasoline. If you live close enough to drive, it may be something to consider.
If you can’t drive, check out your public transportation options. I used the Megabus in late 2014 to get to New Orleans and my in-laws picked me up at the end of my trip. The 1-way Megabus ticket cost me $9.75 and that included an $8 upgrade to the front most seat on the top (which made me car sick, so I sat in a cheap $1 seat anyway) and it included the 25 cents to receive text notifications of any changes. It looks like most tickets cost $2-$60 depending on the location and whether you need a round trip ticket or not. Check out your local bus and train stations to see if you have any affordable options.
For flights, you may want to figure out the direct flight cost from your city (I use sites like kayak.com and airfarewatchdog.com) OR look at flying into a different airport and then finding a cheaper route from there. For example, it may cost $400 to get from your city to New Orleans round trip, but it may only cost $200 to get to Houston and back and another $100 to get from Houston to New Orleans and back. It pays to look at all of your options.
The hotels near the action can be expensive, like $150+ a night with taxes. If you need to save money, you should consider splitting a room. You can cut your hotel bill in half or more depending on how many of you decide to bunk up.
Another option is to stay somewhere else and either walk or drive in each day.
For hotels, I generally use Priceline or Hotels.com to research my options, and then I go directly to the hotel’s site to see if there are any specials or AAA discounts. My hubby, friends, and I stayed at the Best Western Bayou Inn in Westwego, Louisiana and drove the 20 minutes in each day to New Orleans. The Best Western was $80 a night and we shared the room with the 4 of us. Each couple only ended up paying $160 for 4 nights.
For other lodging opportunities, I have used Airbnb and really enjoyed it (use my referral link and receive a $35 credit towards your first Airbnb stay!). Within walking distance of the French Quarter, you can currently find private rooms for as little as $30 a night or studio apartments to yourself for as little as $50 a night. I used Airbnb to stay in a travel trailer once with my best friend and had a great time!
The drive in was easy and we parked at Harrah’s Casino. Their lot costs the same as other parking near Bourbon Street, unless you gamble for 30 minutes. So we signed up for their free casino card program (like at Kroger’s), plugged the card into a penny slot every afternoon, made a few inexpensive bets over 30 minutes (sit at a penny slot machine and press the bet button every 2-5 minutes), ordered a few free drinks right from the screens while we waited, and ended up getting nearly free parking all week.
New Orleans has amazing food, but it was a little difficult to find inexpensive options. There’s always fast food, but that is sad to eat on vacations.
We ended up settling on finding restaurants with generous portions and splitting them. For example, Deanie’s Seafood has a $56 fried seafood plate that can easily feed 5 or 6 hungry people – it’s HUGE. They also sell a half seafood plate for $29 that you could split 3-4 ways. Oh, and they had giant bowls of delicious soups and bisques for $9 (cups were $5). My husband and I split a bowl and were very full plus we had leftovers.
If you are in the mood for a fun class plus delicious food, you can pay $22-$25 per person to learn from and eat at the New Orleans’s School of Cooking. The class takes a couple of hours since you are watching the demo of how it’s made the whole time. If you need something faster, Harrah’s had a deli and a Fuddruckers inside that ran about $8-$10 per person. There’s also an Arby’s right next to the #FinCon14 Marriott.
If you are willing to walk, Café DuMond is about 10 minutes away and costs $2.42 for 3 beignets or a cup of coffee or hot chocolate.
There were dozens of restaurants along and around Bourbon Street too. They all seemed to run $8 per person on the cheap side up to $20-$30 a plate. But if you are walking around with the right group of people, you can have a lot of fun finding yummy food that you can afford.
Here are some books about the food in the Big Easy:
Tom Fitzmorris’s New Orleans Food (Revised Edition): More Than 250 of the City’s Best Recipes to Cook at HomeEat Dat New Orleans: A Guide to the Unique Food Culture of the Crescent City (Up-Dat-ed Edition)Tom Fitzmorris’s Hungry Town: A Culinary History of New Orleans, the City Where Food Is Almost EverythingBesh Big Easy: 101 Home Cooked New Orleans Recipes (John Besh)
People watching was the ultimate free fun. We walked around a lot and took a ton of pictures of the historical buildings like St. Peters church.
We also enjoyed taking our time at the penny slots at Harrah’s and drinking free cocktails (although we did tip $1 each). Altogether, a week of gambling for about an hour a day cost us $55 for tips and gambling, but it got us about $80 in free parking and more than 14 mixed drinks overall. I have found out that I adore Fuzzy Navels…
For cheap tours, I can personally recommend the Haunted History Tours on 723 St. Peter Street. Their prices were around $12 a tour when we went in late 2015 and it was a lot of fun!
For a great deal, although not technically “cheap” unless you consider it is DAYS worth of fun, you can spend $40 0n the Audubon Experience Package ticket. That one pass will let you into the Audubon Zoo, Aquarium, Insectarium, and Imax once each over 30 days. That’s $10 per activity, which is well worth it.
Jazz is always playing on Bourbon Street. Set the mood as you drive in with one of these CDs:
Here’s an example of a solid 5 day, 4 night trip that I could (and hopefully will) take from Houston, TX to New Orleans, LA in mid-October. These prices are based on what I could book right now, 2 months in advance:
- Driving my Honda Fit – $70
- Airbnb private room in the French Quarter – $120
- Parking (drink tips and gambling losses 40 cents at a time) – $30
- Food – $100
- Audubon Experience Package – $40
- Roaming the streets looking at art and listening to music – $0
- TOTAL = $360 for 5 days, 4 nights!!!
Overall, a visit to New Orleans doesn’t have to break the bank. Just pay attention to all of your options and choose the best deal for you.
FYI: I worked at a dead end cubicle job from 2005-2011 for about $30,000 per year. I went self-employed in July 2011 and make between $70,000-$90,000 through blogging, professional pet sitting, hubby's reffing, and our rental home. If you’d like to start your own site (link to my free step-by-step guide), I highly suggest checking out Bluehost (my referral link with a nice discount for you, PLUS a free custom header banner from me!). Please contact me any time at budgetingfunstuff*at*gmail*dot*com with questions or just to brainstorm! I’d love to help!