I’m sharing what items to include on your Mardi Gras packing list. Mardi Gras season is the time of year to let the good times roll or “laissez les bon temps rouler” as the Cajun French say.
If it’s your first time experiencing Mardi Gras, you’ll definitely have a sense of wonder as you take in all of the festivities on Mardi Gras day.
I’m sharing more about what to pack for Mardi Gras in New Orleans or other celebrations around the United States.
When is Mardi Gras and How Long is the Carnival Season?
The Mardi Gras is celebrated on “fat Tuesday,” which is the day before Ash Wednesday. The calendar dates of the annual festival change each year but it is always 46 days before Easter.
The Carnival season starts 12 days after Christmas on January 6 and continues until Fat Tuesday.
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I’m sharing a packing guide to help you make the most of your Mardi Gras experience.
Comfortable Walking Shoes
During Mardi Gras you’ll be doing LOTS of walking. Skip the high heels unless you are attending a masquerade ball. Comfortable shoes make such make a BIG difference when walking from your vehicle or hotel to the biggest parades.
Close toed shoes are the only thing protecting your feet from a beverage spill that is bound to happen at some point of your visit. You don’t want to have regrets at the end of the day because you didn’t opt for comfortable footwear.
You can’t go wrong with comfy shoes like stylish flat shoes, majorette boots or regular boots, or gym shoes that double as streetwear.
Trip Itinerary and Confirmations
I keep most of the information for an upcoming trip in the notes of my phone. I also like to print out hotel confirmations, schedules, rental car info, etc. and keep it in a folder for easy access.
If you are using public transportation during your visit, use the Google map app or print out a map with the public transit.
A printed itinerary with all of your confirmations and reservations, addresses, restaurants you want to visit, and a schedule of the best parades can also be really helpful.
If you are a habitual over packer, packing cubes can help you gain more space in your suitcase and help keep your items organized.
Packing cubes are also an easy way to help you avoid the extra cost of checking a suitcase.
If you have a black suitcase I would recommend tying a bright ribbon on it or use a unique luggage tag to help you identify it quickly at the airport.
I like to also pack an expandable bag in case I need additional space for items I acquire during a trip.
I’m a BIG fan of backpacks that can also double as a purse.
This is my go to bag because it can be carried as a backpack, satchel, or shoulder bag. It has plenty of pockets, making it easy to store my laptop on the plane, water bottle and sweater for later.
A lightweight Portable Charger
You don’t want to get into a situation where your cell phone goes dead. Portable chargers are a very important item, especially if you are taking a lot of pictures and video during the annual festival.
I prefer the types of portable chargers that already have a built in cord and wall plug so that I don’t have to bring a cord with me when I go out.
You don’t want to get separated from your friends in the crowds without a phone during the Mardi Gras celebrations on Fat Tuesday, especially in areas like Bourbon Street.
Lots of Hand Sanitizer
There are a lot of people within close proximity. You’ll want to pack travel sized hand sanitizer for times when there aren’t any private bathrooms available nearby.
There are porta potties in the French Quarter but if you are near your hotel room that is definitely the preferred option.
Wear Mardi Gras Colors
Traditional carnival colors are purple, green and gold.
Dress in Layers
If you are attending one of the night parades you may need to bring a light jacket or sweater. The weather is pretty unpredictable during the Mardi Gras season so check the forecast before your trip.
You can’t go wrong with a variety of Mardi Gras themed short sleeve shirts, long sleeve shirts, cardigans, lightweight sweaters, and light jackets in the traditional colors to pop in photos. Colorful Mardi Gras socks can also add more flair.
Cajun food is AMAZING so it wouldn’t hurt to wear pants that have a little stretch. I would also recommend packing black jeans because they are easy to dress up or dress down.
The best part is that pretty much anything goes when it comes to fashion during Mardi Gras.
What to Wear for Masquerade Balls
Mardi Gras balls are a great excuse to pack dress shoes and wear a formal gown or black tie (or white tie).
Many formal events have a very strict dress code so it’s important to pay attention to the invitation.
Southern Costume Company is a great option as the largest costume shop in the south if you need to find a festive costume to wear. You’ll need to start planning in advance if you want something made custom by a costume designer.
If you are looking for unique costumes check out Miss Claudia’s Vintage Clothing in New Orleans or shop Miss Claudia online.
Mardi Gras Accessories
You can liven up any outfit with Mardi Gras Spirit by adding colorful feather boas, masquerade masks or inexpensive metallic half masks, and colorful beads, which are a Mardi Gras staple.
Body paint is for those who are really comfortable in their skin.
Not all beads are created equal. If you accumulate a lot of beads during the carnival season I would suggest only keeping a few of your favorites.
Normally I would say that a fanny pack is only a good idea for amusement parks but a fanny pack, neck wallet or money belt can help keep your cash and credit cards more secure in a crowd.
Snacks and Water
Mardi Gras can be a big long party. It’s a good idea to stay hydrated and eat snacks in between drinks. You may want to stop at a shop in the central business district for King cakes or beignets too.
Weather can be unpredictable during Mardi Gras. I would suggest packing a light rain jacket, rain poncho and rain boots if there is a good chance that you’ll have precipitation during visit.
You might regret that crop top if a cold snap comes through.
A colorful umbrella can serve a dual purpose. It can keep you dry from the rain or it can help you catch Mardi Gras beads and other random throws from float riders.
If you have room in your vehicle, a large colorful umbrella stands out in a crowd or you can use a compact colorful travel umbrella for your carry on if you are flying.
Lawn Chair or Step Ladder for Mardi Gras Parades
If you have space in your vehicle, a lawn chair or step ladder can help secure a great spot along the parade route.
You don’t want to miss the “throws” or elaborate costumes on the parade floats. Trust me, you want to see the full costumes in all of their glory.
A step ladder can help kids or shorter adults see above the crowd on parade day. Opt for the neutral ground side over the sidewalk side so that you have a good spot more room.
Popular streets in New Orleans for parade routes include Canal Street and Saint Charles Avenue.
Beads are the most common throws but parade patrons may also see the following items:
- Mardi Gras plastic cups
- Doubloons (plastic coins)
- Stuffed animals
- Food (Moon pies and snack bags of chips are very popular)
- Handmade throws
- Items that light up/ glow in the dark
Popular Destinations for Mardi Gras Celebrations
New Orleans Mardi Gras is the most well known, but there are other locations in the south that have wonderful celebrations too.
I’ve visited the Mardi Gras Museums in Lake Charles, Biloxi, and Mobile and they gave me a whole new appreciation for the incredible artistry that goes into each elaborate costume.
Many of the children’s parades in each city are a very family-family event to attend for all ages.
- New Orleans, LA
- Lake Charles, LA
- Shreveport, LA
- Lafayette, LA
- Mobile, AL (home of the first Mardi Gras celebration)
- Biloxi, MS
- Beaumont, TX