Thursday, September 1, 2016

Save on Your NOLA Vacation

Is the Passport,Explorer, or Power Pass worth the money? Recently, I was on Travelocity when planning our two trips and saw passes advertised in Salem and New Orleans, our two travel destinations. Here are some things to consider. The New Orleans pass ran $90 a day and allowed you to visit 70 different sites. Sounds great, right?

I thought so too, until I realized I would have to pay $90 each day. The multi-day card shaves about $20 off per day. So now, you are paying $70 a day. Even though 70 sounded grand, there were probably eight things I actually wanted to do.  When the pass lists the entry price of various attractions to show what you’re saving, it includes the transportation fee price or the guided tour price. Many attractions charge the pick you up at the hotel price and basic entry price. The card honors the basic entry unless it is a jump on or jump off bus. Many places you can go on a self-tour free of charge. Look it up.

If you’re driving or renting a car, you don’t need bus services. We decided to take a swamp tour that was $13 a person and was very near New Orleans. Those who were picked up paid $50 for their tour and had limited hours they could go. While pickup service can be handy, you’re at the whim of your driver who isn’t going to wait for you to roam through the gift shop unless his cousin owns it. Most of the memorable things we have done on our previous trips were something we stumbled onto in the process.

Ironically, I wrote down what I really wanted to do and looked it up on Groupon. I booked four different tours that were on Explorer/Passport Badge for two of us for $120 easily saving us over $500 as opposed to going the badge route.  There are websites for wherever you want to go such FOLLOWYOURNOLA.COM that have all sorts of coupons.

I left some items open such as our riverboat jazz cruise because I didn’t know if we’d have time to do it. If we had bought a Power Pass, it would have had us running from 10 am and  4 p.m since the attractions close at five.  

I also found if attractions are willing to be on the card where they get a smaller cut of their original price, they also have other discounts. In the end, it’s about how workable is it for you.  It is similar to the discount books you buy to get cheap eats, but find the restaurants are about twenty miles out of the city and wasn’t someplace you really wanted to go, anyhow.

We passed on the Salem, MA card too. Not out of expense, but it didn’t offer places we wanted to go. Some attractions were only open for a short prime time season, which wasn’t when we were there.  Always look up the attraction website for operating times. I’ve made the mistake of expecting to do something on our last day that wasn’t open.

In conclusion, what on the surface seems like an amazing deal, may not be after you decide what you want to do.  I did everything on the NOLA card I wanted at a fraction of the card cost. I could take it easy in The Big Easy without the stress of trying to get my money’s worth.

My advice is to do your research. Often, if you take a walking tour or food tour the first day of your trip, then your guide will let you know what are the don’t miss places and possible discounts. Don’t overlook weekday visits, which are usually cheaper. Read expiration dates and exclusions.  It is good to plan ahead, but make sure your discount, or Groupon is still good for when you go. Do you have a certificate? Read it carefully for details. Some aren’t honored on holidays, weekends, etc. I  highlight this information in yellow.

The attraction card sounds good in theory, but it can be like paying  a hefty price for a buffet you can’t possibly eat all of it.  In the end, discover what works for you.

Even though this blog is about the attraction card, avoid visiting places during prime season if you want reasonable accommodations. There are gorgeous places to rent in NOLA through AirBNB or VRBO at minimum prices, but not during Mardi Gras or Jazzfest. Same goes for Salem in October.