It’s been a week since I returned from New Orleans and I’m just now starting to recover and put together the scattered pieces of my spending.
I started out well with a full account of day 1 NOLA expenses in my spreadsheet, but the rest is scattered on crumpled up receipts, credit card statements, and little notes I wrote to myself- too many cash purchases to keep track of!
Anyway, as I mentioned in my post Low Cost NOLA, I took a four night trip down to the Big Easy to attend a conference for personal finance bloggers called FinCon. I also gave myself some additional time to experience the city of New Orleans- planning travel around work is one of my top money savers!
I used the rewards bonus from my Delta Gold SkyMiles AmEx to book my roundtrip flight from NYC to NOLA which wound up costing me $11.20 total.
At the airport, I was given the option to check my bag free of charge, another $50 savings opportunity round trip (though I carried on anyway).
Finally, I got a $50 credit on my AmEx for using the card towards a Delta purchase (that whopping $11.20 I paid for the flight). So essentially, they paid ME $40 to fly round trip to New Orleans!
After arriving at the New Orleans airport, I looked around for someone official to direct me towards the public bus.
While waiting, I met another FinCon attendee, and we chatted money all the way downtown. Total cost? $2.
At this point, I was getting nervous.
I was meeting my Home Exchange host downtown at the Ritz Carlton, where she would drive me back to her place. We had made the arrangement to Home Exchange online and spoken on the phone. But other than that, I didn’t know much else.
All I was thinking was four nights in NOLA for FREE… but now it was getting real…
Within moments my anxiety dissipated. My host was absolutely lovely.
She had recently retired and moved to New Orleans after falling in love with the city during a vacation. She told me her story and I told her mine as we made our way to her home, located just blocks away from City Park, the Central Park of New Orleans.
When we arrived at her home, she showed me to my own private room, with my own private bathroom, on my own private floor, with my own private set of keys – I really couldn’t have asked for anything more.
Free and worth every penny.
After settling in, I immediately got my tourist map and list of must-see places together and set off to see New Orleans.
I bought myself a $3 Jazzy Pass- a one day unlimited bus and streetcar ticket and headed to The Garden District.
First order of business, EAT!
I found a Creole inspired Mexican restaurant with veggie friendly options (basically EVERYTHING I wanted) called Juan’s Flying Burrito. $9.69 for three massive tacos after tip= success.
I then strolled around the Garden District taking in the beautiful architecture of the signature New Orleans mansions.
One thing I really loved about the city was the connection to history. There were plaques everywhere detailing the story of each home and the people who had lived there.
Eventually I wound up at Lafayette Cemetery where many of these former New Orleans residents were buried. Immediately it reminded me of La Recoleta in Buenos Aires, more of a city for the dead with rows of massive tombs, than simple headstones.
After taking in more New Orleans history from the detailed tomb inscriptions, I walked over to St. Charles Avenue to enjoy a good old fashioned street car ride to the famed French Quarter.
Let me pause for a moment here to say that it was stifling during my trip.
Even in mid- September, New Orleans is obscenely hot and humid. Of course, every business is insanely over air-conditioned so the moment you step inside you start freezing your butt off.
Okay, disclaimer done. I walked around the French Quarter from Jackson Square all the way through to Frenchmen street enjoying the architecture, art galleries, and, my favorite, live music being played throughout the streets.
As a New Yorker, I have always been wary of the big tourist attractions, but in the case of New Orleans, there’s a reason for the French Quarter fame. (Not to hate, but there wasn’t much beyond that district that I found worth going out of the way to experience.)
At this point in the day I was pretty much wiped from my AM flight and a full afternoon of walking in the heat, so I returned to mid-city for dinner.
Mid-city has a relaxed and pleasant vibe, but again, nothing worth going out of the way for – though I did enjoy my delicious dinner at Lola’s, a Spanish tapas bar near my home exchange.
$21.66 for two dishes, a glass of wine, and tip. (I wasn’t scrimpin’ on the food for this trip).
I woke up early to go for a run in City Park.
I kept peering into the water hoping I’d spot an alligator (as long as it wasn’t too close), but no such luck.
What I really enjoyed were the massive trees throughout. They looked like they were conceived by the folks at Disney in all their majesty.
While running back to my home exchange I spotted another cemetery, St. Louis, No.3. Another massive city for the dead.
After washing up, I took the bus downtown to enjoy a truly indulgent breakfast – beignets and café au lait at the world famous Café du Monde – $6.
As much as I enjoyed them, I’d say my experience of beignets was not too far off from my experience of funnel cakes. Both fried deliciousness, just different packaging.
I indulged in my beignets by the water, right next to an old steamboat that started playing a musical medley on it’s pipes for the 20 or so minutes I spent trying to eat the beignets without getting powdered sugar all over myself, or sweating through my conference outfit (which was, of course, black).
After a full morning, I went to the Marriott to check in at the conference and attended a few meetings I had scheduled with fellow financial bloggers.
Afterwards, I took a break and strolled over to the arts and warehouse district – an area that had been recommended in many of the “beyond the French Quarter” articles.
Color me unimpressed. Maybe it was the unbearable heat, but SO not worthwhile.
Instead, I walked back to the French Quarter and found a lovely spot tucked away to enjoy lunch called The Green Goddess. I ordered a tofu po’ boy to enjoy the local cuisine, veggie style- win. $14.07 after tip.
After lunch, I joined some fellow conference attendees for a cocktail tour of the city.
I don’t remember much except for the last stop, Hotel Monteleon and it’s famous carousel bar and live jazz band. That one made the must-do list for me.
A few drinks later, some fellow bloggers and I retreated to Frenchmen Street to enjoy the local nightlife.
I can’t remember the name of the bar for the life of me, but they had a live jazz band keeping the dance party going. Pretty rockstar stuff. That’s one thing I have to give NOLA – they are live music masters!
I’m not gonna lie, I woke up with a massive hangover, excruciating headache included, after my night of cocktails and NOLA nightlife.
But with a keynote starting at 8:30, I got myself dressed and downtown for the conference in time for the serious dose of inspiration that was official FinCon day 1.
While I spent the entirety of the day talking money and blogging, I had an amazing time, and best of all, my total spending came to $2.50 that day for the round trip bus ride.
(Though I seriously wouldn’t recommend taking public transit in NOLA alone after 10pm. Lesson learned.)
After another full day of conferencing, some lady bloggers and I went out for dinner in the French Quarter.
I had a veggie muffaletta, which is essentially the same thing as a sandwich or sub.
Afterwards, we returned to Bourbon Street to party big easy style for our last night in NOLA – drink tickets included courtesy of the conference! By the time I made it home that night, I was beyond wiped.
I woke up the next morning with achy feet and almost no voice, ready to return home.
The conference experience was hugely inspiring. The NOLA experience was just okay.
I’m certainly glad I went, but had I not been there for work, I think two days would’ve been more than enough to get a taste. The live music, history, and architecture are fantastic, but the city as a whole didn’t overly impress me (maybe that’s my NYC snobbery shining through).
So, how did I do on my spending?
After calculating all the notes and receipts and making note of all the discounts and credits, my four day FinCon/NOLA trip cost me a grand total of $107.33 door to door (thank you no cost housing and transit).
Now THAT’s a win!