Navigating New Orleans: Money-Saving Tips In Time For The ESSENCE Music Festival

June 13, 2013  |  
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The ESSENCE Music Festival is an off-the-hook celebration. A four-day event, there are unforgettable concerts, seminars and events that will leave you wanting more. Everyone from a group of girlfriends to solo travelers flood the New Orleans area to experience the music festival each year which means crowds and cost.

Depending on the type of tickets you purchase, you will spend a pretty penny or two to experience the festival. This of course does not include other costs like airfare, transportation and accommodations. Should you be interested in attending an ESSENCE Music Festival, here are some money saving tips to consider for your trip while in New Orleans. Hopefully you will be able to save a little while enjoying a fabulous time.

Source: Shutterstock

Book early

If you know you want to go to the ESSENCE Music Festival, book all travel needs and accommodations as early as possible. This may sound like a no-brainer, but you would not believe the amount of people who wait last minute to make purchases. New Orleans in many cases is affordable — but the locals know their calendar hot spots. Just like prices will rise in February for Mardi Gras, you can bet they are going to increase in July for the festival.

AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman

Stay outside the French Quarter

When researching your trip to New Orleans, it may be pretty tempting to look at hotels in the French Quarter. Honestly speaking, this makes a lot of sense as it’s not too far from the Superdome or Convention Center, and is front-and-center for the bulk of your sights and activities. Just know that hotels are banking on you to settle for convenience instead of finding the best deals.

New Orleans is much more than its French Quarter so be sure to consider stays in other districts and neighborhoods. Areas like the Garden District and Magazine Street offer quaint accommodations with a historical significance that are moderately priced.


Skip the car rental

Say what?

When trying to get around a new city, almost everyone is tempted to rent a car. Hey if you have great deals for one, get it. New Orleans however has a pretty efficient streetcar system that will not only give you a taste of how locals travel, but the opportunity to save on the price of a weekend car rental (every bit helps). There are several streetcar lines that reach beyond the downtown area and run into the very wee hours of the early morning. As prices are quite affordable (less than two dollars for a single ticket), utilize this mode of transportation when you need to get to and from festival events, your hotel and any attractions you want to visit.

Tip: Rather than purchase multiple single rides, buy a three-day pass (currently $9.00) that you can reuse on any streetcar line.


Research the neighborhood

One of the worse things you can do is spend a portion of the day in an area you know nothing about. Uncertainty is not only unsafe, but can also cost you money if you don’t know where to go. Do yourself and your wallet a favor: research any neighborhoods you plan to visit ahead of time. You will discover good places to eat and things that will fit in your budget. If you just go off hearsay, you may find yourself in a financial hole.

Source: Shutterstock

Save fancy for a special occasion

The assumption while on vacation is to splurge and enjoy your time in a fun city. While this is a nice concept, why rack up unnecessary debt? New Orleans is a destination notorious for its food, but that doesn’t mean you have to pay top dollar to say you had the best. Don’t assume you have to go to a five-star place to get a good meal because great eats are sprinkled all over the city. In addition, you may find while researching that many smaller businesses have been featured in national magazines and food shows like Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Examples include Joey K’s Restaurant & Bar, The Joint (great barbecue) and much more.

Get a visitor’s guide

Before you head to New Orleans, request a free New Orleans Visitors Guide that will demystify neighborhoods, and give tips on things to do, what to see and more. One reason in particular you want this guide is because it has numerous coupons in the back that can save you money on local restaurants, tours and rentals.

Ninth Ward Rebirth Bike Tour

Try a tour

Should you have free time to explore the city, consider alternative tour methods to save some cash. New Orleans has a series of free walking tours that are perfect for all budgets as you tip the guide. Most tours last a couple hours and allow you to get better insight on the history of certain neighborhoods (examples of tours include the French Quarter and Garden District among others) by a trained historian. This is one of the best ways to experience the city as you are up close and personal.

Another great tour to try is a bike tour (a common method of transportation in New Orleans). The Ninth Ward Rebirth Bike Tour is an amazing experience that takes you on a four hour biking adventure through the upper and lower Ninth Wards. As the tour guides are descendants of New Orleans, they will give you some of the best insight regarding the area, misconceptions and unknown truths.


Stick to local staples

Again when considering what to eat, research local eats that will prove to be more affordable than you think. The po’boy sandwich for example is a highly popular New Orleans dish that will not break your budget. In fact, many local grocery stores have delis that will prepare some of the best sandwiches you will ever taste. Think about this and other local staples when you need to pick up a quick bite between events. Meals do not always have to be fancy or in a sit-down restaurant.

Be smart about alcohol

Listen up those of you who love a cocktail or two. As you know, alcohol can be an expensive tab you rack up, whether you are drinking locally on or vacation. Some may even spend in excess of $50 a night on liquor that can be the difference between an expensive vacation, and one that was affordable.

If traveling to the French Quarter (Bourbon Street in particular), be sure to pick up a refillable plastic cup you can use and use again during your stay. Popular mixed drinks like the Hurricane and Hand Grenade for example are sold at some bars in a lengthy plastic container for around $10. Once you purchase the cup (they will fill it with your first drink), any refills are much less than your original purchase. You can even purchase a plastic fish bowl (yes fish bowl) that they will fill up and refill again for around the same deal. Should you and your crew be night owls, keep your cups with you to make drinking more affordable. You will definitely get your money’s worth!

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