Travel package recommendations to NoLa
February 15, 2009 10:01 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone have any experience with book it . com ? More specifically their travel packages to New Orleans?

So Mrs. Iamabot is looking to fly in to New Orleans from the bay area April 5th to 8th, we've looked around a bit and the best deals seem to be from the site mentioned above so far, but we're hesitant to use an unknown name at this point. We've checked out the BBB rating (A+) and looked around for anecdotal evidence which has been mixed, but the hive mind may have some opinions as well.

Any recommendations for tour companies, swamp tours (airboats), city tours, etc ? Hotel recommendations and anecdotal do THIS, but never do THAT, or go here and make sure you see this, eat that, and experience this are also welcome.

Hive mind, help my wife have a great trip!
posted by iamabot to Travel & Transportation around New Orleans, LA (4 answers total)
Best answer: We didn't get a travel package via, but we did book a New Orleans hotel through them this past October. I had some doubts about booking through them, as the reviews I saw were not really mixed at all, but largely poor, and their website had a 'fly-by-night' feel. I made sure to call ahead to the hotel and confirm our booking twice (I actually did this with *all* the hotels we booked, having read plenty of horror stories). I'm happy to report we had no problems, and I even received a $25 AMEX card that was part of their promotion.

FWIW, the booking was two nights at Loft 523, only a few blocks outside the quarter (a bonus, in my book). We paid something like $125 or $150 a night, a price that the hotel was unable to match (the woman I spoke to on the phone said, "well, if you can find it for that on the website, I recommend you book it! We can't offer you anything that cheap"). It was one of the nicest hotels I've stayed in, with a wonderful front staff -- I enjoyed it thoroughly (although if you're not a fan of lofts and modernism you might dislike it). We also stayed at Bienville House (not booked via, though they do appear to offer bookings for it), and I couldn't really find any reason to recommend it -- just a straightforward hotel, nothing special, and some of the other guests were folks I didn't really want to be around.

Still, you might find a better deal by building your own package -- for example, you just missed a United sale on tickets to New Orleans from SFO at $89 each way (just checked, and it was book by Feb 13th) which might make a good baseline for how much you should be paying for a package deal. I subscribe to the Travelzoo newsletter and find they're pretty good with travel deals if you don't mind it cluttering up your inbox once a week.

General recommendations?

Ditch the car if possible -- driving in the French Quarter is like driving in the Mission -- annoying and difficult to park. The taxi ride from the airport is something like $26-30 bucks (flat rate), but you're going to be paying $20 a night minimum to park anywhere, so it's not worth it.

We found Bourbon Street is best hit in the daytime or on a weeknight before it fills up with the type of drunks you don't want to be around.

The ferry trip to Algiers Point is free, fun, and pretty, though we were told by my Southern cousin not to venture there after dark (without reason, as it seemed to me a perfectly nice neighborhood, but we erred on the side of caution regardless).

The French Quarter seemed like a Fisherman's Wharf type deal to me -- there's history there, to be sure, and clearly rather classy restaurants mixed in with all the shops hawking tourist crap, but it was a bit of a disappointment. The 'street' food, however, was wonderful -- even those restaurants clearly aimed at tourists offered decent comfort food, and often at a cheap price. Even though Cafe DuMonde is practically a cliche, you will eat there anyways -- we actually ended up there at least 4 times during our four day stay (once at 3 in the morning). We didn't eat a muffeleta at the Central Grocery or whatever, and I don't feel bad about it. I did eat several muffeletas while I was there (and they were all fairly good); and my girlfriend managed to find a vegetarian version at one of the restaurants on Decatur and enjoyed it very much. The Crescent City brewery has shamefully bad beer. Not worth it -- I had a flight, and their hefeweizen was the only beer with any distinction -- otherwise all are lightly hopped and absolutely boring. Abita, the other local brew is pretty bad compared to what you can get at any decent bar in the Bay Area.

Frenchmen St. seemed somehow more authentic by comparison, and though it's a hike from the Quarter, there's some nice scenery in between. We ate at 13, which is recommended for its 'Tachos' (tater-tot nachos -- definitely worth it for any vegetarians in your party). I had a po'boy at Johnny's Po'boys near the Bienville House, which I enjoyed very much, although I'm the type of person who would find it difficult to argue that something deep-fried and slathered in mayo and butter was not delightful.

We also found some cute boutiques and shops far down Magazine St, but it's either a short cab ride or long walk from the Quarter. I can't remember where all we went, but I recall Funky Munky (3127 Magazine St) being surrounded with fun and interesting stuff, so if you take a cab ride that might be a good place to disembark.

The New Orleans Aquarium pales in comparison to the Monterey Aquarium, which I'm sure you've been to, but the attached IMAX Theater is surprisingly cheap -- we saw The Dark Knight there for something like $8, cheaper than the going rate for a *regular* movie in the Bay Area. If it rains or you're hungover, this might be a fun choice. The concessions are also surprisingly inexpensive, and hurricanes are available (only $5!), which I recommend only for the novelty of having a drink inside of a movie theater.

Try to get caught up in a parade if you can -- it's an absolutely amazing experience. My girlfriend *HATES* parades, but I managed to convince her to follow one for several blocks and even she had fun; some of my best photos from our trip were from that parade.

We didn't ride the streetcar (pretty, but meh), but if we went to the cemeteries, we probably would have. We drove around the cemeteries but didn't feel they were a *must* see; although I'm sure many people would disagree with me. If they were a little closer to where we were staying I probably would've checked them out.
posted by ragaskar at 8:43 AM on February 16, 2009

Response by poster: The concessions are also surprisingly inexpensive, and hurricanes are available (only $5!), which I recommend only for the novelty of having a drink inside of a movie theater.

You can have a drink in the speakeasy theatres in the east bay you knoow :)
posted by iamabot at 11:27 AM on February 16, 2009

Best answer: April 5th-8th will be too late for any parades, unless you were referring to a second line, ragaskar.

I have no experience with Bookit, but I recommend trying to to contact the hotels directly. Post-Mardi Gras is a dreadful time to be in the hospitality business in NOLA, so I'd be willing to bet you could find better deals through their websites.

I'd say, DON'T go on any Katrina-related tours. DON'T buy anything in the French Market without haggling. DON'T expect to be able to eat meat on a Friday, if you're a meat-eater. DON'T accept any free hats from a guy in a fanny pack. DON'T bother with Bourbon Street; I'd second taking a the walk to Frenchman Street. I'd also avoid the Riverwalk unless you came all the way to New Orleans just to see the Gap.

I do recommend seeing a cemetery, but take a taxi rather than booking with a tour company.

In the Quarter, I would recommend Haunted History Tours, which feature ghost/vampire/voodoo walking tours, and usually end with the tour guides all gathering for drinks - where you often find out much juicier info than you got on the walking tour.

Take the ferry across the Mississippi to Algiers Point. It's a beautiful place and features some bars that most tourists will miss.

Find a Lucky Dog vendor somewhere. You can usually catch one in front of Jackson Square in the daytime, or along Bourbon at night.

Stop and tip any kids you see tap dancing.
posted by snapped at 12:00 PM on February 16, 2009

April 5th-8th will be too late for any parades, unless you were referring to a second line, ragaskar.

It's possible this is what we experienced -- all we could find out was that a couple families had sponsored the brass band that was playing. I don't know enough about New Orleans to know how often this sort of thing happens, but I do know that it was fun as hell and if it is possible to involve oneself in that sort of situation, it's worth doing! we were there in october, fwiw, so this definitely occurred outside of any sort of mardi gras celebration.

posted by ragaskar at 12:51 PM on February 16, 2009

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