One of the hardest parts of any
trip is dealing with the hassle of finding a hotel, checking in, checking out, and getting
to your ride on-time. Mardi Gras makes it even tougher because you're dealing with a
full-blown festival with thousands of people traveling into and out of the city. As
for hotel selection, most hotels in and around the French Quarter in New Orleans are
nice. The key things you need to be concerned about are hotel location,
prices, and the easiest times to check in and out. Below, I have answered the
hotel-related questions that I receive the most often.
Which area of New Orleans is the best to stay in?
Rooms in the French Quarter (usually $225-$300/night)
close to where most all of the action is. You will find cheaper rooms outside the Quarter;
however your savings will be offset by taxi fares, time waiting for taxis, and time
walking to and from the parades and other festivities. New Orleans is often hot and muggy
during March; and walking several blocks or miles can deplete valuable energy that could
be used for enjoying the festivities.
do hotels do to make sure I don't invite any unregistered guests to stay in my room?
Most hotels issue wristbands during Mardi Gras. No, these are not
"festive attire - compliments of the hotel," but are used as a security measure
to ensure that only the hotel's registered guests gain admittance to the room floors. Some
hotels also require a room key to operate the elevator. Anyone without a wristband and/or
key coming to visit you in your room will have to get the front desk to call up.
What if I can't find a room available in
the French Quarter?
If you can't find a room in the French
Quarter, your next best bet is the area across Canal Street from the Quarter. The
only downside is that many parades go down Canal. You might have to wait an extended
period before crossing to get back to your hotel. Because this area is only a short
distance from the French Quarter, you won't need to worry about getting a cab or having to
walk long distances. One bonus to having a room outside the Quarter, although
immaterial, is that you're not likely to hear as much noise at 5AM as you would in the
Quarter (assuming you returned to your hotel unreasonably early).
When are the best times to check in
and out of my hotel?
Check in at either the precise check-in time
or at least two hours AFTER check-in time on the day of your arrival. Otherwise, you'll be
standing in line for longer than you'd rather be. I know it's hard to get up early
in New Orleans, but checking out of the hotel 1-2 hours BEFORE check-out time is advisable
because a) a few of the hotels will charge you for an extra night if you miss the
check-out time - even when they see you standing in line one minute before check-out time,
and b) the streets are crowded and available cabs are scarce. If you have an early
flight, train or bus, don't let the long checkout line at the hotel and waiting for a cab
cause you to miss your trip.
How much do the hotels charge for phone calls, and
what are the alternatives?
Some hotels allow free local calls, while other charge around
$.50 per local call. Most of the hotels charge an access feel of $.50 to $.75 for
placing long-distance calls dialed direct without operator assistance. AT&T
seems to be the long-distance carrier of choice for most hotels I've stayed at in New
Orleans. One thing you need to watch out for is the hotel's charging a per-minute
rate IN ADDITION to the carrier's rates. Although this practice is not yet illegal,
the hotels ARE required to post a notice in each room if they charge per-minute rates.
Look for such a notice. If you don't find one, and you are detailed enough to
meter your phone rates and find that the hotel IS charging extra, it's time to complain!
The best thing you can do in any travel situation, if you will be making a lot of
long-distance calls, is to purchase a prepaid long-distance card before going on your
trip. My personal favorite prepaid long-distance card is Qwest. I can
get four (4) hours of long-distance anywhere in the US and Canada for only $44.
Since I'll be in and out of my room at odd times,
when is the best time to have it cleaned?
If you're a "clean freak," call housekeeping just
before you depart for an event. That way, it will be totally at YOUR convenience.
Although I make it a point to be "clean," I never take this approach
myself. Instead, I post TWO "do not disturb" signs on my door the moment I
arrive, request a few extra sheets, towels, etc., and don't take the signs off my door
until I check out several days later. The last thing you need at Mardi Gras is to be
inconvenienced by phone calls and knocks at your door all the time - or even worse, coming
in to shower or use the restroom and find that the housekeepers are in the middle of a
major cleanup in your room! "So why do you put TWO 'do not disturb' signs on
your door," you might ask. Simple - one sign and a phone call downstairs
doesn't seem to do me a bit of good...still constant knocking, calls, etc. from the
housekeepers. I've found that for me, personally, two signs and a horrible attitude
is the only way to keep housekeepers out of my room until I'm ready to have it cleaned.