If you are visiting New Orleans, try to make your reservations at least eight months in advance. Don’t come to the city thinking you will get a hotel when you get here–you’ll be sleeping in your car, which is not recommended, not to mention rather uncomfortable. Nearby towns with hotels might include: Metairie, Kenner, Covington, Hammond or Slidell. Biloxi, MS and Baton Rouge, LA are 70 miles away, but rooms usually are available there. Book online now
-Do NOT bring expensive jewelry to the city. Do NOT wear it to parades or leave it in your car or hotel room. Utilize your hotel room’s safe, if it has one, or bring a piece of luggage that locks in which to place your valuables when you leave the room for the day to go to parades.
-Do NOT leave anything of value in a parked car, van, truck, or RV. If your license plate says “Michigan”, you can be sure a thief knows you are traveling with lots of goodies AND that you will be away from your car plenty long enough for them to make off with all of it!
-Don’t bring a purse. For one day this is not essential. Leave it at home!
-Fannie packs are “not just for tourists” on Mardi Gras Day! Be sure to bring yours, strap it on tight, and try to tuck it under a jacket or shirt. The best thing you can have is a passport carrier that slides under your clothes, with the least amount of cash and valuables as possible!
-Choose your pants with pickpockets in mind. Don’t put your wallet in your back pocket. It’s a good idea to carry money in several pockets (PIN cash inside your pocket, and only take out when buying something) and keep your I.D. and maybe one credit card in another. Mardi Gras Day is a “cash” situation. Most places that offer quick food, snacks, and drinks don’t accept credit cards. Also, let everyone in your group carry some cash “just in case”.
-Does the phrase “Needle in a Haystack” mean anything to you? It will if you get lost! The minute you reach your Mardi Gras destination (the place you will be watching parades) set up a contingency plan in the event someone gets separated. Use a building as a reference point, not a street, because crowds move. Agree on a meeting place, a time, and synchronize your watches!
-*Special Note About Children: Keep them as close to you as possible, and communicate with them before you leave for the day the importance of their staying by your side. Also, make sure they know their whereabouts when you reach your destination- landmarks, etc. It is a GREAT idea to pin a tag on them that tells their name, age, parents names, hotel phone numbers, and your pager/cell phone number if you bring it with you. Know what they are wearing in case you have to ask for help in locating them. It is a scary thing to lose a child during Mardi Gras, and it doesn’t happen often, but you have a Police Department that has tons of experience in these matters on your side!
-Follow the crowd. Don’t think you will avoid traffic by using side streets you know nothing about. Don’t venture off the main roads either on foot or by car. Its best to relax, enjoy the people and the incredible diversity you see, and be safe. There IS safety in numbers so stick with the crowd.
-Please be safe if you drink–alcohol and safety must go hand-in-hand at all times. It is a good idea to stay in control of your person, especially if you are in the French Quarter, where things can happen fast before you even know it. And know this, you are an ideal target for petty thieves if you are intoxicated–especially if you are alone!
-Use your head: know what hotel you are staying at, where it is located, and have some cash on you for a cab ride in case you get separated from your group.
-If you have a rental car, please do not drink and drive, not only because you could get in a serious accident, but because police are on the streets specifically looking for intoxicated drivers. Take beads home with you, not a DUI.(‘Driving Under the Influence’ Ticket)
-Oh, by the way, the drinking age is 21. And it IS enforced.
-And on a lighter note, if you must drink during Mardi Gras, remember that the amount of alcohol you consume is directly correlated with the number of times you must relieve yourself, and bathrooms are not easy to find:)
-Wear comfortable walking shoes. Make sure they are supportive with plenty of cushioning. You’ll walk and walk and walk. Also, DO NOT, we repeat, DO NOT wear your new $120 tennis shoes–they will age three years in three days! Bring the old, beat-up pair you wear to do yard work–your shoes will be covered with funk by Ash Wednesday–trust us on this one!
-Dress for comfort, not for style. Weather during Mardi Gras usually varies from 30-90 degrees fahrenheit, so come prepared. It’s a good idea to pack a raincoat (small, poncho type) just in case it sprinkles. Just make sure that whatever you wear you can take off if you need to, or put more on for warmth. Comfortable layering is the key, and the look on Mardi Gras Day!
-Wear sunscreen, and try to incorporate a hat in your costume. It’s hard to find a shady place on Mardi Gras Day, and though it might be cold in the morning, by midday you might be melting! Use common sense and take the extra minute to watch the forecast for the day!
-Pack snacks and lunch. Bring disposable pre-moistened towelettes. Your hands will get dirty and its hard to find a sink on Mardi Gras. Some people pack an ice chest and use a wagon to haul it around. (Note: Don’t do this if you are going to the Quarter. Only do this if you are staying outside of the Quarter to watch the parades. There are too many people in the Quarter to haul a wagon through. It is literally shoulder to shoulder for blocks. It’s an experience, and a lot of fun!)
-If you must bring a camera, go for the smallest, lightest, and LEAST expensive. A disposable camera or two is your best bet. Sure, you might want to get high-quality shots from your expensive cam, but you’ll lug it around only to find that you can’t get any good shots with all the people around you bumping and pushing! Besides, after “holding” everything you own all day, you’ll appreciate the fact that you aren’t weighed down and remember the incredible things you saw in your memory!
-Bathrooms are few and far between. The song “There Ain’t No Place To Pee On Mardi Gras Day” was inspired by a carnival goer. Private restrooms are usually restricted, Port-O-Lets experience heavy traffic and public restrooms are hard to find. Try to locate a place near you that offers restrooms–and if they want $5 per person to use their facilities all day, don’t make a fuss, just pay it. It is well worth the money to avoid the discomfort of not having a place to relieve yourself. Also, it is not a good idea to relieve yourself anywhere you please. This is the quickest way to get in [costly] trouble with the law!
-And if you have children that are not 100% potty-trained, put them in pull-ups for the day! If your children are recently trained, put them in pull-ups to start with. It also goes without saying, bring an extra change of clothes in case of an accident:)
-Some notes about costumes: You will be wearing your costume for up to 12 hours, so choose wisely! Full face paint may look great at 10 am, but by 6 pm you will feel like you have mud on your face, and it will feel just as gross. Our advice is to wear a mask–one that you will not cry over if you lose or gets stepped on! If you have a large costume, remember that you will have to transport it with you all day–NOT FUN! Children’s costumes are a whole other ballgame. They must be flexible, comfortable, and easy to take on and off! And because the novelty wears off after three or fours hours, we recommend bringing a change of clothes in case your child gets uncomfortable. There is absolutely nothing worse than an irritable, grumpy 8-year-old who is too hot/not happy in his or her costume!
NUDITY AND FLASHING FOR TRINKETS:
-You will really only see this type of behavior in the French Quarter, where little ones have NO place being, so parents, don’t worry about that. Also, thanks to recent publications that have shown Mardi Gras and New Orleans as being a time and place where “anything goes” as far as public nudity is concerned, the New Orleans Police Department has issued a statement that essentially says if you are caught displaying or engaging in this behavior, you WILL be arrested. It will not be a memorable Mardi Gras if you are staring at the walls of a jail cell, so our advice is: don’t risk it–have good, clean fun!
MISCELLANEOUS GOOD ADVICE:
-Bring 4 plastic garbage bags, the type with a handle. The amount of trinkets, beads, cups you will catch will amaze you and you’ll want to keep everything!
-Do not get in front of floats, or too close to the sides of them. It is not worth the bead, cup, or doubloon to get in an accident with a float that weighs several tons.
-Bring water or a container to hold beverages with a handle or strap that you can put on your body so your hands are free to catch trinkets.
-Remember to step on doubloons before picking them up, if not, your hand might be the one stepped on!
-See everything you can, make some fabulous memories, and remember to scream… “Throw me something, Mister!”