Travel Bug Bitch Tips for Adventurers (or Gianna the Great's travel tips for aspiring world travelers)
New Orleans has seen some highs and lows in its time, none of which should be swept under the rug, though some of its past may be hard to swallow. The hardest thing to swallow in my opinion is your own gag reflex. The pervading scent of vomit from over indulgent outsiders who flock en mass to the infamous Bourbon Street in inescapable. The chaos of this street is something that can not be avoided. It’s an experience to say the least and I begrudgingly will admit that it's one that I guess should be checked off a bucket list. There are some experiences that are worth the aggravation at least. Like the moment where 20+ intoxicated ladies and one overly enthusiastic man “Weebled With It, Wobbled With It,” right smack dab in the middle of the street. Watching our gorgeous bride be swept up on stage for karaoke by a fabulous m.c. or finally having a hand grenade, an unholy mixture of alcohol that our friends had been telling horror stories about, for the last two year. (The rumors are true that drink is POTENT.)
My time in New Orleans was a mixed bag but overall the time spent with my friends was worth it.
Here's some general and location specific tips for if you're ever thinking of going down to the big easy.
1) Know what kind of trip you're going on.
This trip to NoLa was for my friend’s bachelorette and therefore I wasn't going to do my usual per-destination planning. When I travel to a new place, I like to make a game plan. It could be as simple as staring a few places on Google maps so when you’re actually in the city, you can figure out what you're close to and not waste time trying to decide what to do. Since this trip was a weekend destination bachelorette, there wasn't going to be a ton of sightseeing, so I actually went into this blind. Now, if you're someone like me who likes to plan ahead this might seem crazy, but my reasoning here is based on trying to have the most enjoyable experience.
2) It's better to arrive well rested than early.
This goes for any trip but especially so for the kind of trip I was on in New Orleans. We were there for a bachelorette party and therefore our main objective was to celebrate our bride and get rip-roaring drunk while doing it. While the rest of the group arrived on a Thursday and was well rested to take on the night, I, because of work, I wasn't able to make it to NoLa until Friday. Stupidly I decided, oh I'll get on the earliest flight down that way I get to enjoy the full day. This mentality is great if your trip is to go sightseeing on a quick weekend getaway but for a trip where everyone intended to be out until 4am that night waking up at 3am for an early flight down was one of the biggest travel mistakes in my life.
3) If you're traveling during Spring Break arrive, at the very least, an extra hour early
Now most of the trips I go on end up being international flights which they recommend arriving around 3 hours before your scheduled flight to allow for time spent checking in suitcases and going through security. General rule of thumb for domestic flights are arrive 1.5 to 2 hours ahead of time. For this trip my flight was at 6:59 am so my goal was to arrive at 5 am which I foolishly thought was going to be a quiet, quick and simple run through security. My first indication that things were not going to go according to plan was when the air train stopped, not once, but twice, on its way to the airport for no particular reason. When I finally made it to Newark Terminal C, the line for security spanned the entire length of the check in floor and doubled back. It was absolute chaos and at this point it's 5:30am and I'm hoping I'm gonna make it in time to get on my flight. Everyone in line could not believe that the backup could be so outrageous without there being a major incident occurring but every time we asked what was happening Newark personnel just responded that it was Spring Break. It took me 45 minutes to get up to security and honestly with the length of the line I'm actually amazed how efficiently and quickly they handled the amount of people. The oddest moment of the experience was seeing a drug dog walking up and down the line so crazy and wild kids thinking of bringing illegal substances for spring break? I hope you enjoy the view from your jail cell.
4) The price of a taxi from New Orleans Airport is the same price as taking an Uber from New Orleans Airport (unless to have more than two people or an Uber coupon)
Now I know a lot of people have started using Uber as a cheaper alternative to using taxicabs in cities all over the world but there are many locations that have set fare pricing. These prices may be set by Uber or by the cities themselves in which these Uber cabs operate. For the City of New Orleans the set price whether it’s a taxi or uber going from New Orleans International Airport to the French Quarter is $33 for up to 2 people. The cabs will then charge you $14 for each extra person but as far as I could gather there is no additional charge for extra people in an Uber cab. You are limited by the amount of seats available in the car chosen so maybe skip the convertible when you're a family of five. Coupons from Uber are still accepted for this set fare destination so if you’re riding with a friend who has never used Uber have them sign up and bring down that price!
5) The more people coming with you on your trip the better it is to rent a house than a hotel...unless you have 9 girls and only 1 shower…
In the age of Airbnb, this sort of tip is becoming a no brainer but it can't hurt to emphasize when you’re a large group vacation rentals are your friend. The larger the group, the cheaper the place ends up being when you split the price. Obviously families aren't going to make their small children split the difference but getting a hotel that accommodates more than a nuclear family of four is tricky in and of itself. In my household there was a time when we were a group of nine! The vacation rental condos we stayed were half the reason we were able to afford to go on vacation in the first place. For this trip we stayed at a lovely house off of Frenchmen Street in the French Quarter. It was within walking distance of Bourbon Street and the French Market so we never needed to pay extra for transportation and was able to comfortably sleep nine ladies ready to party. The only complaint we had was that while the shower was large enough to shower 5 people at a time we were never going to test that theory out and it was the only shower in the house. I'm itching to know what stories that shower could tell of past guests. ;)
7) Music is king in New Orleans but the art scene is truly lovely and vibrant...but I still can't tell if art is taxable or not in NoLa
Frankly I was shocked at how many art galleries lined the streets of the French Quarter and on a nice sunny Saturday you'll see countless of artists around Jackson Square. If you're interested in art you're going to be itching to get one of these pieces but they are going to cost you a pretty penny. To be perfectly honest, when I'm dealing with street art and markets, taxes are the last thing I think about. Now there probably are some taxes that an artist adds into their mental calculation of the price they give you but I was really shocked at how many times while in the markets in New Orleans that the artist or venders reminded me that I was going to be taxed for the items I was purchasing. They even tell you this at the Galleries which I kind of assumed they would be taxed so for them to go out of their way to explain it seemed odd. Doing a bit of research it seems like original art is supposed to be tax exempt? So maybe I was being told it would still be taxed because some art isn't? Now I just feel like I might have been ripped off so keep that in mind when you're shopping and question why the item you’re purchasing is being taxed.
8) Go to NoLa on the weekdays if you want to avoid the drunks
I'm not going to lie, between sleep deprivation and the smell of vomit, I was smack talking New Orleans a bit to my friends who had visited the city. They couldn't understand why I was having such an unfavorable experience until we compared our travel dates. I was in NoLa for a short weekend getaway, I got in on a Friday and I left on a Sunday. My friend had gone on a Tuesday and left on a Saturday and she agreed that Friday was the least enjoyable day of her trip because that's when everyone comes to party. Our trip was all about partying so we were there for the right time; but, because I had no sleep I was just not in the right frame of mind to enjoy myself fully. It's up to you to decide what kind of trip you want to go on but if you enjoy sightseeing more than partying and can take the time off you might want to try sticking to a weekday trip.
9) As cute/fun it seems to wear event related shirts DO NOT wear them on Bourbon Street if you can't handle people pelting you with beads as if they are trying out for the Yankees
Please, please, PLEASE!!! heed this warning. I am not joking! As bridesmaids we decided to get a cute tanks, black fabric with gold lettering, that said Bride Squad and when I tell you EVERY F***ING PERSON on Bourbon Street screamed "HEY BRIDE SQUADDDD" as we walked down the road, ducking for our lives, as revelers from upper floor balconies attacked us with bead necklaces! I F***ING mean it! One of my fellow bridesmaid got hit right in the eye and then later on had food smack her in the head. Wearing a shirt like this is just like putting a neon target on yourself, so as adorable as it seems, it may be better to keep those event tanks as workout gear instead of becoming prey.
10) Food Tours are the way to go
Alright so confession time: I did not actually go on a food tour in New Orleans BUT if there is one thing I do regret it's not going on one. We got lucky because a couple of the other girls in our group had done a bit of research and we got to have some great meals to sober ourselves up from our over-indulgences. There are tons of food tours in New Orleans though so if you have the time, give one a go; I don't think you could possibly be disappointed. Even something as informal as a mini tour of the food stalls at the French Market will give you a great idea of what the city has to offer.
Hopefully these tips can help in some small way when setting out to plan your next trip, whether you want to roll the dice and see how New Orleans treats you, or you wind up in a completely different part of the world. Have fun, be safe, and happy traveling!!!