“We wander through old streets, and pause before the age stricken houses; and, strange to say, the magic past lights them up.” – Grace King, French Quarter Guidebook
J: We’re pumped to be featured on Jasmine & Regi’s wanderlust blog! From my years knowing them, I’ve always aspired to travel and learn the way they do. It’s an honor to share our experience here.
K: My roommate and I recently decided to take a trip to vibrant, historic New Orleans. While many people have posted about traveling to New Orleans, our story contributes a unique viewpoint in that I am an international student living on a very minimal budget and we’re very new to this travel for leisure thing so if our story can encourage and inspire even one person, we believe it’s worth sharing.
Here are a few nuggets we picked up on our first friendship trip to this special place many call home.
Get creative! – As I mentioned, I’m an international student living in the U.S. and because of that finances tend to be super tight. That means very minimal if any cash for traveling and/or leisure. I intentionally decided to explain this to my roommate at the very beginning of our planning stages so that as we planned our trip, we could make the necessary accommodations.
J: Of course, I had no qualms with penny pinching a bit. I was surprised to find that New Orleans is the kind of place where you can just show up to take in the smells, sights, and sounds city. You don’t need to spend a ton to have a good time. The city itself offers hours of entertainment.
K: Knowing about our financial limitations allowed us to plan carefully and be very creative on this trip. We shared meals when possible, switched off on fancy meals (e.g. having a nice breakfast, then having a less expensive dinner), and eating where the locals eat as opposed to where the tourists eat.
J: The bartender who served us our first dinner of the trip – I had a shrimp poboy – tipped us on a few prevalent tourist traps to avoid when in NOLA. She also suggested a few local hangouts we could try, like Frenchman Street, which served as a good alternative to the excitingly rowdy and crowdy Bourbon street.
Use public transportation! Certainly, don’t bring your car anywhere near the French Quarter. You can avoid having to bumper through traffic yourself by walking and taking public transportation. It can be challenging for those unaccustomed to navigating bus routes (me), but being able to sit back, relax, and enjoy the city will be worth it in the end.K: Packing light is also a great way to save. Take a backpack and fly Spirit. it’s do-able and totally worth it.J: Plus, wearing a backpack helps you feel like you’re ’bout that life.
Visit New Orleans when a lot of free or cheap festivals are taking place. We attended the up-and-coming Satchmo Summerfest, visited an art gallery open house, experienced Bourbon and Frenchmen Street, ferried to Algiers Point on the Mississippi River, and enjoyed several live jazz performances (in the streets, in lounges, and everything in between) all under $12 or for no cost at all. All of these events were extremely fun and unforgettable experiences for both of us.
Tour museums and art galleries. They tend to be inexpensive yet amazing and enriching experiences. The Stella Jones Art Gallery for instance is an outstanding gallery exhibiting pieces from artists of the African diaspora who you’d otherwise only read about. J: What was especially unique about this opportunity was that we were able to meet the featured artists – painters, sculptures, and musicians – during their 20th anniversary celebration showing (and enjoy wine and desserts)!
K: Decide on Your “Must Dos.” Finally, if you have a limited time in the city, pick 2-3 absolute must-do activities and prioritize them. For us, this was a swamp tour, visiting Cafe du Monde, and eating food we won’t find in the small city we currently live in. Pick 2-3 things and plan around them. Don’t plan too many activities/events for your trip to allow yourself to be fully immersed in your experiences. There will always be more to do, but if you have a limited time, why not prioritize quality over quantity?
J: It’s usually a sad experience leaving a vacation weekend, but I was so excited with the experience I would bring home, I soaked in every ounce of our last few hours in New Orleans. Brilliant was the sun, vibrant were the homes, and cheery were the people.K: Although we had to cram our trip into a short weekend, we’ll forever cherish the time we spent in New Orleans and we’ll keep trying to find ways to make it back. Remember, anyone can travel. Oh, and if you’re wondering, always, always get the beignets!