As I mentioned yesterday, I was in New Orleans last week with my husband and a couple of our friends. I’ll be going back in September for the 2014 Financial Blogger Conference. I figured I could help a few of us out by posting how we can visit New Orleans on a budget.
For this 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’m using the Megabus in September to get to New Orleans and my mother-in-law is picking me up. The 1-way Megabus ticket cost me $9.75 and that includes the upgrade to the best seat and the 25 cents to receive text notifications of any changes. It looks like most tickets cost $2-$50 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 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 FinCon14 hotel this year is a Marriot at 555 Canal Street. It’s running about $150 a night with taxes. If you need to save money, you should consider splitting the 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. 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.
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 day before we left for our hotel, made a few inexpensive bets over 30 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 Marriot.
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.
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 a great deal, although not technically “cheap”, 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.
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.