What to Pack for Mardi Gras

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.

Mardi Gras beads and coins

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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.

Mardi Gras masks

I’m sharing a packing guide to help you make the most of your Mardi Gras experience.

colorful converse sneakers

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 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 during 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

Trip Itinerary and Confirmations

I keep most of the information for an upcoming trip in the notes on 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 Maps 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.

Save money when you book your hotel, flight and rental here

Packing Cubes

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 can 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 using a unique luggage tag to help you identify it quickly at the airport.

expandable bag with carry on suitcase

I like to also pack an expandable bag in case I need additional space for items I acquire during a trip.

backpack purse and carry on suitcase

A Backpack/Purse

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.

Bourbon Street in New Orleans

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 videos 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.

pouring hand sanitizer on hand

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.

friends at Mardi Gras

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.

masquerade ball

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 custom-made 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 parade in Beaumont Texas

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.

Krewe of Krewes Parade Lake Charles

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.

King Cake from Rao's Bakery

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.

yellow rain coat

Rain Gear

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 your visit.

You might regret that crop top if a cold snap comes through.

rain falling on colorful umbrella

Colorful Umbrella

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.

Nedra McDaniel at Mardi Gras in Shreveport LA

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.

Mardi Gras parade

Lawn Chair or Step Ladder for Mardi Gras Parades

If you have space in your vehicle, a lawn chair or a 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.

ladders for Mardi Gras parade

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 with more room.

Mardi Gras parade

Popular streets in New Orleans for parade routes include Canal Street and Saint Charles Avenue.

beads on Mardi Gras float

Beads are the most common throws but parade patrons may also see the following items:

Mardi Gras parade in Beaumont Texas

Popular Destinations for Mardi Gras Celebrations

New Orleans Mardi Gras is the most well-known, but other locations in the south 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 very family-friendly events to attend for all ages.

Mardi Gras parade in Beaumont Texas 1 1

Where Do You Want to Celebrate Mardi Gras?

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