What I Spent: Three Nights in New Orleans

  • 01 of 05

    Upfront Costs

    French quarter, New Orleans
    Maremagnum/Getty Images


    The upfront costs of vacations are predictable. It’s the little things—airport snacks, cocktails before dinner, tipping a tour guide—that can throw even the most well-planned vacation budget off track. In this new series, we’ll look at the spending patterns of real travelers in popular destinations, so you can estimate what you’ll actually spend.  (Thanks for the inspiration, Refinery29!)

    For this installment, a group of six heads to New Orleans for beignets, daiquiris, Jazz Fest, and a friend’s 30th birthday.

    Flight: EWR—MSY for 50k miles on United. It cost more than twice as many miles as a typical domestic flight, but retail costs were hovering around $700 from NYC during the festival

    Hotel: $352 per person for three nights at The Saint Hotel 

    Jazz Fest Tickets: $75

    Size of Group: 6

    Continue to 2 of 5 below.
  • 02 of 05


    Cafe Amelie in the French Quarter of New Orleans
    Courtesy of Cafe Amelie


    9:45 a.m. Book it from the UWS to Penn Station and just miss the 10:10 train to Newark Airport. The next one isn’t until 10:30, cutting it a bit close at security. Cost: $13

    10:55 a.m. Arrive at Newark, and security lines are blissfully empty. Why don’t we have good real-time reporting for this yet?

    11 a.m. Grab two magazines and a bottle of water at Hudson News, because in an amateur move I forgot my Kindle. Cost: $11.75

    2:30 p.m. Land at MSY and meet one friend at the airport location of Café Beignet. The birthday girl lands in 20 minutes, so we buy a bag of three beignets to-go. Cost: $2.50

    3 p.m. Find the birthday girl and an Uber. We ask our Uber driver to take us to the nearest daiquiri spot. He knows exactly where one is, so this must be a common request.

    3:10 p.m. Order something called the Mardi Gras Mash, a punchy frozen drink mixed with bourbon and Triple Sec. Now it feels like vacation. Cost: $5.75

    4 p.m. Arrive at The Saint Hotel, a swanky contemporary space on Canal Street and Burgundy. We’re rotating Uber duties throughout the weekend, so Caitlin grabs this one.

    4:45 p.m. Our room still isn’t ready, so the clerk gives us vouchers for free drinks at the bar. We’re still working on those daiquiris, though.

    5:15 p.m. Use those free drink tickets to get to-go beers on the way out to wander around the French Quarter. You can drink pretty much everywhere in New Orleans, as long as it’s in a plastic cup. Cost: $5, for tip

    6 p.m. Yelp “good food in the French Quarter” and end up at Café Amelie, a tucked away cafe off of Royal street with a leafy patio and a pretty, bubbling fountain. It’s a 30-minute wait, so we head inside for a cocktail. Cost: $25, for two drinks

    6:10 p.m. Our table is ready before our cocktails are mixed. We sit outside and order Cajun poutine (oven fries topped with mozzarella and cochon, a type of pulled pork) and a bowl of oyster and artichocke soup to start, followed by something called drum fish—a Gulf Coast specialty that’s like red snapper, but better. Cost: $44.74

    7:45 p.m. Wander into an art gallery across the street to browse. The chatty clerk tells us about a set of painted and framed twigs — they were harvested from the Mississippi river, which is cool, but none of us want to pay $80 for twigs. Cost: One awkward conversation

    8:30 p.m. Pop into Pat O’Brien’s, just to check it off the list. End up at the piano bar for two hours, where we order very sugary hurricanes. We only have a pen when the bill arrives, so we brainstorm songs as quickly as possible…meanwhile, the crowd bursts out into “Proud to Be an American.” Pro tip: Return the hurricane glasses at the bar on the way out, and you’ll get $3 back. Cost: $6.75

    10:30 p.m. We’re in bed. This is 30. 

    Continue to 3 of 5 below.
  • 03 of 05


    Brennan's in New Orleans
    Courtesy of Brennan's


    11 a.m. Brunch at Brennan’s, the famed restaurant known for inventing Bananas Foster. We sample turtle soup (yum) and Eggs Cardinal—poached eggs atop crispy, lobster-and-shrimp boudin, and smothered in a Creole hollandaise mustard sauce. Also, happy hour happens on Friday mornings here, so we split a bottle of rose bubbly. Too full for Bananas Foster, must return. Cost: $47.30

    12:30 p.m. Browse the stores along Royal Street and end up at a retro shop called Trashy Diva. The birthday girl buys a big straw hat, because we’re told they are required for Jazz Fest.

    1:15 p.m. Walk toward Café Envie, where we’re meeting our (free!) walking tour group. I’m out of cash and my debit card mysteriously stopped working. Spend 15 minutes on hold with the bank before opting to buy $80 off of a friend via Venmo. Cost: $80

    1:30 p.m. Meet our tour group a few minutes late for a tour of the Marigny neighborhood.  

    2:30 p.m. Pause mid-tour at The John, a bar with literal gold toilets displayed as seats at the front of the bar (the real John is not so fancy). A friend buys a round of Abita Ambers for the road, because it’s hot out there. Cost: Next round on me

    3:30 p.m. Wrap up the tour on Frenchman Street, where we’re told performers from Jazz Fest like to have their after parties. We refresh at 13 Monhagan, a dive bar that serves frozen Irish coffees and tachos (tater tot nachos)—weird, but delicious, combo. Cost: $10

    4:30 p.m. Pop into Frenchmen Street’s Bamboula's for live jazz, and to watch the most adorable toddler of all time dance to the music. I pick up a round. Cost: $44

    8 p.m. Dinner at John Besh’s Luke, a modern take on New Orleans’ old Franco-German brasseries. This is the official birthday dinner, so we splurge on oysters and crawfish etouffee…and three desserts. Cost: $79 

    Continue to 4 of 5 below.
  • 04 of 05


    Elizabeth's Restaurant in New Orleans
    Simon Albury/CC/Flickr

    10 a.m. Head into Walgreens to stock up on ponchos and bottled water—the weather looks rough today. Cost: $5.70

    10:30 a.m. Wait in a (very long) line for the New Orleans-style iced coffee at Addiction Coffee House, a farm-to-cup coffee shop on Iberville Street. Cost: $4.25   

    11 a.m. Watch three jam-packed street cars pass us by on the way to Jazz Fest; we ultimately decide to catch a cab. Cost: $7 per person, flat rate special for the festival.

    12 p.m. We made it to Jazz Fest! The rain is holding out for now, and we grab spots toward the front to watch Sweet Crude, an indie-rock band that sings in Louisiana French. We all download their albums on the spot. Cost: $7 for a Miller High Life, because Jazz Fest is one of the few places you can’t BYO in NOLA

    1:45 p.m. Lunch break. We share crawfish bread (an unreal combination of cheese, French bread, and crawfish), some of the best fried chicken of my life, and jambalaya. It starts to drizzle Cost: $7

    3:20 p.m. The trickle quickly turns into steady rain during Big Freedia’s show, and it becomes a downpour before we make it to the Blues Tent. Thankful for those ponchos.

    4 p.m. Lightning strikes too close for comfort, and the fairgrounds are quickly turning into a lake. We decide to make a run for it; we wade through puddles and mud for a good 20 minutes before finding an Uber to take us—surge pricing skyrockets. See ya never, Stevie Wonder. Caitlin’s phone is the first to register a car, so she picks up this ride.

    4:45 p.m. Cocktails. ASAP. Cost: $10, for a bottle of merlot split four ways.

    5:45 p.m. More wine from the corner store, to drink in our rooms, along with a sampling of Zapp’s potato chips, a local brand with flavors like crawfish and voodoo.  Cost: $32.98

    9 p.m. Dinner at Elizabeth’s, a comfort food spot famous for its praline bacon. You might as well just call it dessert, it’s so decadent. Cost: $40.97  

    11:30 p.m. Somehow, we still haven’t made it to Café Dumonde. We opt for café au lait and beignets for dessert, classic. Cost: $5.46

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05


    Magnolia Sugar and Spice Praline Kitchen and Hot Sauce Bar in Royal Street, French Quarter of New Orleans, USA
    Tim Graham / Contributor / Getty Images

    10 a.m. The rest of the crew left early in the morning, leaving just two of us to explore for the day. We pack up and check our luggage at the front desk. A bell hop arranges airport taxis for us that afternoon.

    11 a.m. Stop in Magnolia Sugar & Spice Praline Kitchen and Hot Sauce Bar. It’s a tourist trap, but I don’t care—I sample mouth-on-fire hot sauces, before cooling down with a freshly made praline. Cost: $1.99

    12 p.m. We make our way to Verti Marte, a tiny corner store known for its All That Jazz po’boy—a so-weird-it-works combination of turkey, ham, American cheese, sautéed mushrooms, grilled shrimp, and something called “wow” sauce. Cash only, so I pick up my friend’s catfish po’boy. Cost: $22

    12:20 p.m. Sandwiches in hand and it is torrentially raining. Again. We hide under a balcony until an open cab drives by.

    12:35 p.m. The cab driver waives the $7 Jazz Fest weekend fee—unclear why, but hey, we’ll take it. Cost: $0

    1:15 p.m. I wait out the rainstorm at the hotel bar, catching up on emails until my cab to the airport. Cost: $28.20

    3:30 p.m. Cab to the airport, flat rate arranged by the bell hop. Cost: $35

    10 p.m. Land at Newark and hop in an UberPool home. Cost: $33



    Food & Drink: $430.39

    Transportation: $88

    Entertainment: $119

    Miscellaneous: $17.20