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How to pack for your trip to Mardi Gras

Here’s what to bring along to make sure you have for a fun, safe celebration in New Orleans.

Mardi Gras beads
Credit: Louisiana Office of Tourism

If it’s your first time coming to the Big Easy for Mardi Gras, you already know you’re going to have a good time but may not know exactly what you need to bring. No worries, we’ve got you covered.

A festive costume

Mardi Gras celebrations are replete with fantastical costumes. Anything goes here—and we do mean anything—but if donning an extravagant ensemble isn’t your thing, wear the traditional Carnival colors of purple, green and gold to fit right in. Either way, be sure to wear comfortable shoes. This is not a short party, and that’s a good thing!

All the beads? Nah

There’s no need to bring beads or buy them at all unless you’ve got your heart set on something special. Free beads—so many beads—and other “throws” (trinkets, doubloons, cups, stuffed animals) are generously thrown from every parade float.

Chairs, coolers and a ladder? Maybe

Don’t laugh, all can come in handy and they’re a staple for many locals along parade routes. Whether you plan to find a public area and set up camp for the day or do lots of walking, portable chairs for resting and a cooler for drinks and snacks can be lifesavers. Likewise, portable ladders (to help you take part in the action from the back of crowds) can come in handy as well.

An easy-to-carry bag 

A decent-sized shoulder bag or backpack provides a handy place to store your parade cache. If you don’t plan to take the throws with you, a small fanny-pack for cash, keys and phone is all you need.

Tissues & hand sanitizer 

Private bathrooms are hard to come by, no matter which parade you’re attending. You’ll find porta-potties along most parade routes, so a pack of tissues and hand sanitizer may end up being two of the most prized possessions on your Mardi Gras packing list.

Cool-weather clothing 

Although temperatures during Mardi Gras in New Orleans usually average in the comfortable 65- to 70-degree (18-20F) range, it can be significantly warmer or cooler. Dress in light layers you can easily take on and off, plus be sure to bring a jacket or sweater for evening celebrations.

Rain & sun protection 

That being said, it’s still New Orleans so you can usually count on plenty of Louisiana sunshine. If you plan to be outside throughout the day, be sure to pack and use plenty of sunscreen. A hat might be helpful and sunglasses are essential, too. Fancy umbrellas are a common parade prop during New Orleans festivities, but they may not be practical rain protection on crowded sidewalks. Opt for a poncho or raincoat instead so Mother Nature doesn’t, well, rain on your parade.

Cash & change

You’ll meet plenty of food, drink and other street vendors along the routes and some don’t take credit cards. Be sure to take cold, hard cash and coins—but tuck them in a front (preferably enclosed) pocket or money belt to be safe.

A “laissez le bons temps rouler” attitude 

That’s French for “Let the good times roll,” and it’s more than just an expression here—it’s a battle cry, a way of life. New Orleanians love living life to the fullest, so come to Mardi Gras with a free spirit you’ll fit right in with the locals!