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How to Celebrate Mardi Gras on a Budget

Feb. 25, 2019
Travel, Vacations & Trip Planning
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Mardi Gras is fast approaching. Want to celebrate in style while keeping your spending to a minimum? Here are a few ideas.

1. Be flexible with flights

This year, Mardi Gras falls on Tuesday, March 5. If you want to be in New Orleans for the height of the festivities, you’ll likely want to fly in on Friday, March 1. Not surprisingly, flying then is going to cost you plenty. For example, you can expect to spend at least $600 for a round-trip flight from New York to New Orleans leaving March 1 and returning March 6, according to Google Flights.

You can also look at flying in sooner. Parades and events are plentiful throughout February in New Orleans.

2. Take advantage of travel rewards credit cards

Using a travel rewards credit card can make a Mardi Gras trip easier on your wallet.

If you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you can use your points to book rooms directly via the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal — or transfer your points at a 1:1 rate to hotel loyalty programs such as Marriott, Hyatt or IHG. New cardholders are eligible for the following welcome offer: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Cardholders can earn 2 points per $1 spent on dining and travel and 1 point per dollar spent on everything else.

3. Walk it out

You can save a lot of money if you’re willing to stay a few miles from the center of the action. We found Airbnb rentals that require some walking and use of mass transit to see the Mardi Gras fun for under $200 per night. Compare that to the $500 or more you could pay for a rental near the French Quarter.

New Orleans is fairly easy to navigate on foot. A three-day pass with the city’s Regional Transit Authority (RTA) only costs $9 and includes unlimited trips on RTA buses and streetcars.

4. Celebrate in a new city

New Orleans can be an expensive city to celebrate Mardi Gras, so why not try a different location? For a taste of history, try Mobile, Alabama, which is where the first Mardi Gras celebration took place in 1703. Or you could head to Pensacola, Florida, for its Grand Mardi Gras Parade, which features more than 6,000 marchers and typically draws crowds in the six figures.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2019, including those best for:

Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice:
How to get started with frequent flyer programs
NerdWallet’s top travel credit cards
How to choose a travel credit card

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