Like kissing and peeling crawfish, Carnival gets easier — and more enjoyable — with practice. Fortunately, the Gambit
World HQ newsroom has several decades of combined Carnival experience to help us survive the glittery slog from Twelfth Night to midnight on Mardi Gras.
Below, we share our tips for making it through New Orleans' most gruelingly festive (and therefore best) season.
- Managing editor Kandace Power Graves likes to have bloody mary mix on hand at all times — all the better for a pre-or-post parade cocktail. “Make it easy,” she says. “It already needs to be mixed and ready. Just pour in some vodka.”
Graves also says baby wipes are essential for ridding yourself of bead funk and removing makeup you’re burned out on mid-revelry. An extra bottle of water also can help you clean your hands. (Publisher Jeanne Foster seconds this; she thinks stomach flu season probably starts in earnest on the parade route. She staves it off with a vodka, soda and Emergen-C cocktail.)
- “Bottles of wine tend to fit in large size water bottles,” senior writer Alex Woodward notes. “Thermoses go both ways.” He's a booster of the Porta Potties on Esplanade Avenue — if you can stomach them, they have quicker turnaround times than downtown bar bathrooms.
Woodward’s also not about people who skip costuming for any reason on Mardi Gras. “You’ve got a friend with more than one wig. … Lock that down,” he says.
- A&E editor Will Coviello mostly wants you to pace yourself, but also says it’s a good idea to “idiot proof” your day. “Don’t even give yourself a shot at driving home,” he says. “[Also], never wear a costume you couldn’t take off in a Port-O-Let.”
Coviello also says it’s a rookie mistake to order doubles or extra-tall beers on Mardi Gras. The booze isn’t going to run out, he observes. “[And] don’t try to save all your money for booze. Pay to eat.”
- On the all-essential question of toilet paper, special sections editor Katherine Johnson skips a roll in favor of a few handfuls wrapped in a sandwich bag, to save purse or backpack space. Leaks from a frozen water bottle can be staunched by a koozy, or in her mom’s case, an athletic sock.
Johnson also is wary of “runners,” or friends that tend to disappear when they’ve made it to that bottom of that extra-large daiquiri. She recommends establishing a meetup point for families with children or “friends who act like children.”
- Speaking of lost friends, one of the most vexing Carnival problems (or really, during any major event in the city) is spotty cell service when towers get overloaded. Editor Kevin Allman suggests texting, in the absence of service — sometimes texts will go through when calls won’t.
He recommends the Target travel toiletries section for portable sizes of essentials such as baby wipes and hand sanitizer “for not feeling so terribly grody.” And he packs an extra pair of socks in a pocket to avoid foot pain or wet feet.
This year, he’s thinking about looking for Mardi Gras Indians via Instagram hashtags. By looking at time and location stamps on hashtagged posts, you may be able to catch the elusive dancers.
- And me? I like to carry mittens at all times during the season, when the city’s famously unpredictable winter weather seems to know we’re about to spend hours and hours outside. It’s also good to carry a spare bike tire inner tube. Even if you don't know how to change it on your own, someone nearby will.
In case you lose your phone, have the number of a cab company memorized (say it with me: 522–9771), as well as the number of at least one friend. You never know when you’re going to end up stranded on the West Bank after a night of drunken time travel — not that I speak from experience, or anything.
Happy Carnival, y’all.