Normally I hate packing, but packing for Mardi Gras can actually be fun, because you’re basically just preparing to party for several days in a row!
As I’m getting ready for my fourth trip to New Orleans during Mardi Gras, I thought I’d share some packing tips that might come in handy for the Carnival newbie:
Wear Mardi Gras Colors
You may have noticed that Mardi Gras celebrations are traditionally defined by three different colors – gold, green, and purple. But did you know that each color has meaning? Gold stands for power, green represents faith, and purple means justice.
I usually like to coordinate at least some of my wardrobe to incorporate these colors. It’s definitely not a necessity – you’ll see people from all walks of life wearing all different types of clothing (we’ll get into costumes later) and sometimes no clothing at all – but if you have some clothes that match these colors, it’s a fun way to accessorize and fit right in with the Mardi Gras theme.
If you don’t have any beads, don’t worry, and by all means don’t go out and buy cheap beads from Party City. You’ll get your fair share of beads (and then some) during your Mardi Gras trip. Heck, the first time I visited New Orleans during Mardi Gras, some nice man handed me a ton of beads right after I checked into the hotel (I know what you’re thinking, and no, I didn’t have to flash him to get them). You’ll notice everyone is wearing beads – and as soon as you walk down Bourbon Street or attend a parade, you’ll understand why.
Beads are everywhere in New Orleans during Mardi Gras – they’re so prevalent you’d have to be trying hard not to get any. (However, a quick insider’s tip – whatever you do, DO NOT pick up beads off the street the morning after a parade. These beads will most likely be broken or covered in some ungodly liquid substance and you’ll immediately regret having picked them up.)
With all of that in mind, if you’ve been to Mardi Gras before and have some favorite beads, of if you’re just the type of person that has some cool beads lying around, this is the perfect chance to wear them! I always like to wear a few of my favorite beads from past trips (and pack a few extras) so I can show up to the city ready to fit right in!
If you’ve ever wanted a reason to dress up during a time other than Halloween – Mardi Gras is your excuse! You’ll see all types of costumes during your trip. Some people like to wear random accessories in Mardi Gras colors (think hats, funny glasses, boas, and tutus), while others go full boar and come up with a full themed costume (if you’ve seen HBO’s Treme, think of DJ Davis dressed as Jean Lafitte, a 19th Century pirate). You’ll even see people covered in body paint from head to toe. So whatever your style is – don’t be afraid to get creative!
Find Some Old Shoes
If you’re going to be spending a lot of time in the French Quarter – especially on Bourbon Street – please wear old shoes! Trust me, you’ll thank me later. All it takes is one trek down the always-crowded Bourbon street to realize that you’re trudging through a small river of mixed liquid (I’m sure further examination would reveal this to be a disgusting mixture of bodily fluids and spilled alcohol). Because of this, you’ll want to make sure the shoes fully cover and protect your feet, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll probably just want to throw them out when your trip is over.
In addition, make sure whatever shoes you do pack are comfortable! You’re going to spend a lot of time walking around, sightseeing, as well as standing on the side of the road waiting for parades and jumping up and down to try to catch throws. That doesn’t mean you can’t pack some cute, stylish shoes, but save those for your nice dinner reservations outside of the French Quarter.
Don’t Forget Your Flask
This is really a tip inspired by my husband and his own experiences traveling. As you have probably guessed, Mardi Gras is a very alcohol-friendly event. What’s even more amazing is that there is no open container law, so you can walk all over town drinking whatever your heart desires!
We’ve found it can be very helpful to have a flask to bring with you while you’re out and about. Rum Runners in particular are great because they’re bendable and they’re the perfect size to fit into a pocket or purse. That way you can just buy mixers as you go, add some alcohol, and voila – instant cocktails on the go!
Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of alcohol for sale – and part of the experience is visiting some of the many bars, clubs, and music venues around town, during which time you’ll undoubtedly order drinks (probably too many drinks) – but bringing a flask can definitely come in handy.
Do you have any other Mardi Gras packing tips to share? Let me know in the comments!