I could have titled this article “Things I learned from backpacking”. You see, being prepared for an all-day downtown adventure on Mardi Gras day isn’t that much different than exploring the back country. While you won’t be attacked by a mountain lion on Frenchman Street, you still run the risk of dehydration, shoddy bathroom situations, and becoming stranded from your group. Just consider me your urban-hiking trail guide.
Schlepping a purse around is no fun. Keeping your hands free means you’ll catch more beads, take more pictures, and just be more comfortable. I also never go without my Camelbak, a drinking device with a tube for on the go hydration. This has saved me from serious dehydration (aka hangover from hell) many of times. Sip often, but not so much that you are braving those nasty port o’ potties.
Bringing your own booze ensures you won’t have to wait in long lines with overworked bartenders. But make sure if you use the bathroom, you are buying a drink. Some bars demand it, but it is proper etiquette nonetheless. Plus, you’ll make fast friends on the street if you allow others to imbibe your liquid courage stash.
On the other hand, refrain from hitting your own portable mini bar if you are inside a drinking establishment. Practice common courtesy.
Fat Tuesday is a workout. Biking to the French Quarter, walking around for 12 hours, not to mention booze consumption. While I always crave greasy cheese fries as a mid afternoon booze soaker upper, it’s good to bring a snack. Since most restaurants are going to be packed beyond capacity you’ll be waiting longer than usual to eat. I like meal replacement bars, or anything that isn’t messy and sticky.
4. Toilet paper
Ladies, you’ll feel smart for bringing bathroom tissue when your favorite dive bar loo runs out. And show some Southern hospitality and spare a square.
A real one, not just your camera phone. And make sure your battery is nice and charged. You never know who, or what, you’ll run into.
Sounds overly simplistic, but ATM machines run out of cash, break down, and who wants to pay that $3 surcharge anyway?
7. Driver’s license and one credit/debit card
Wallets are bulky, just bring the essentials and stash them somewhere safe.
8. Extra glitter
Possibly the most important on this list. You never know when you’ll need to touch up. If you are wearing makeup it’s wise to bring it along, especially if it is an integral part of your costume.
9. Phone charger
A new one to my list. While not entirely necessary, it doesn’t hurt to bring one. Taking photos and resending texts all day thanks to poor network coverage drains batteries fast.
10. A sense of adventure
I never have a set itinerary, preferring to travel where the fun takes me. Whether it’s meeting up with close friends or unintentionally crashing a house party, serendipity happens on Fat Tuesday. Don’t let a rigid itinerary weigh you down.
Christy Lorio, a native New Orleanian, writes on fashion at slowsouthernstyle.com and is also a freelance writer whose work has been featured online and in print magazines both locally and nationally.