I’m introducing a new series on my blog called “Saving Money in…”, where I show how I saved money in different cities I’ve visited. Since personal finance and traveling are two passions of mine, why not combine them? Plus, who doesn’t like saving money while on vacation?
Last September, I found a great deal on tickets to New Orleans (only $99 each way!) during a sale on Southwest Airlines. Since I had always wanted to visit NOLA and the price was too good to pass up (plus, I had enough Rapid Rewards points for one flight), I bought tickets for my boyfriend and me to visit in December. We stayed in New Orleans for 4 days and had a wonderful time! Instead of writing about what we did (since you can easily find a ton travel itineraries for New Orleans), I’m sharing a few tips for saving money while visiting The Big Easy.
1. Stay at a hotel outside of the French Quarter (but within walking distance)
The French Quarter is the main tourist attraction of New Orleans since Bourbon Street, Jackson Square, and so many bars and restaurants are located there. Although it’s very convenient to stay right where the action is, it can be pretty expensive. When I was researching for our trip, I found that we could save $30-50 per night by just staying in a hotel several blocks away. So, I booked us a quaint hotel that was only a 15 minute walk to the French Quarter.
In addition to being cheaper, our hotel was much quieter at night. My boyfriend and I have reached the point in our lives where we value our sleep a lot more and if we had stayed in a hotel on Bourbon Street, the quality of our sleep probably would have been compromised. Plus, with all of the good Southern food we were eating, we were glad to have a walk built into our days.
Bonus tip: Instead of staying at fancy hotels, like Hotel Monteleone and The Roosevelt Hotel, just visit the lobbies and bars inside. Plus, if you visit in December, you’ll be treated to beautiful holiday decorations! 😍
2. Take a free walking tour
Before we visited NOLA, a friend had recommended booking a walking tour from Free Tours By Foot. They offer pay-what-you-want walking tours all throughout the city. Since my boyfriend and I wanted to know more about the history of the French Quarter, we reserved the French Quarter tour. Our tour guide was super knowledgeable about the history of New Orleans and taught us a lot about the city. For example, even though it’s advertised as being a French city, New Orleans was actually controlled by the Spanish much longer than the French. And the architecture that the city is known for, it’s actually heavily Spanish and Caribbean influenced.
Another popular area to tour in New Orleans is the Garden District, a neighborhood filled with beautiful Southern mansions. Due to time constraints, we did a self-guided tour instead of booking another donation based tour. After a quick google search, I found a walking route with descriptions of the famous houses in the area. Although we didn’t learn as much as we would have on a guided tour, it was still really nice walking around and admiring the beautiful Southern architecture. We even saw houses owned by famous celebrities, such as Sandra Bullock and John Goodman!
3. Listen to live jazz on Frenchman Street
Throughout our trip, locals kept telling us to skip Bourbon Street (where only the tourists go) and visit Frenchman Street instead. So, one night after dinner, we took an Uber over to check it out. When we arrived, there was a live band playing outside, creating a vibrant atmosphere in the street. What a great start to the night!
We walked over to The Spotted Cat (which had no cover, score!) and listened to a live band playing old school jazz. The place was packed with people, many of them enjoying the music and some even dancing. After a few songs, we headed outside to explore the street some more and stumbled upon a local art market. Right away, we were in awe that it was open so late! (Most places in San Francisco are closed by 10pm.) We strolled through the market and admired the beautiful artwork of local artists. After we finished browsing, we walked along the rest of Frenchman Street, popping in and out of different bars and enjoying the live music playing inside.
For the price of only a few drinks, we had an amazing night of live music and great art on Frenchman Street!
4. Buy Cafe du Monde gifts from the official gift shops
Since Cafe du Monde is probably already on your list and I know you’ll want to bring back their famous chicory coffee and/or beignet mix, I recommend only buying them from the official Cafe du Monde gift shops. The prices there are the cheapest you’ll find in New Orleans. Although there are plenty of stores that sell the products, you’ll be paying 50-100% more. (I saw a can of coffee at the airport cost twice as much as what I paid at the official shop!)
Also, don’t wait in the take out line at Cafe du Monde to buy the goods. Just walk across the street to Grandad’s General Store or to Evans Creole Candy Factory, a few doors down. Both stores are official Cafe du Monde gift shops.
Last tip, don’t wait in line at Cafe du Monde. Just walk in, grab a free table, and order some beignets!
Bonus Tip: Visit Antoine’s for a three course meal
Antoine’s is one of the oldest family-run restaurants in the US and is still owned by the same family. While we were visiting, we stopped in for a café brûlot and saw they were offering their fall lunch menu, a three course meal, for only $20.17! I imagine the price has gone up (probably to $20.18), but it’s still a great deal! 😝
Have you ever visited New Orleans? If so, what are your tips for saving money in The Big Easy?