The Cost Of a Bachelor Party in New Orleans
The only bachelor party I’ve ever been to was an accident. My best friend’s brother was getting married, and I met up with his group at the end of the night, shoved off into a waiting taxi and then sped off to Pumps, a strip club in deep Bushwick. I drank the beer purchased for me by a very drunk friend and found myself at the receiving end of a lap dance during which I spoke to the stripper about where she lived, her commute and where her handbag was from. When I was invited to a dear friend from college’s bachelor party in New Orleans—a six day affair over Memorial Day weekend—I said yes without thinking, scouring Southwest.com for a $300 ticket and quickly Venmo’ing $200 for an Airbnb.
New Orleans is a beautiful city where everyone is nicer than most, the drinks are cheap and you can walk into a Walgreens with a half-full can of Abita in your hand and buy lipstick without getting a ticket. I knew that we would somehow end up swinging from a chandelier on Bourbon Street, despite the fact that you can entertain yourself cheaply and efficiently. Because there would be seven of us, I assumed that things would be cheap. I set a budget for myself. I rarely budget for vacations, preferring instead to carelessly spend money as if it were growing on a bush in my bedroom. The timing for the trip was perfect, sandwiched neatly between two paydays. I was ready.
My budget was $100 a day, a number that felt optimistic, but doable. In New York, I have easily spent that much in a matter of hours, without blinking, thinking or engaging in my obsessive compulsive tic of looking at my bank account after every transaction.
“I think you’ll spend more than that,” my friend Greg told me in one of our pre-trip Gchats. Like my mother’s daughter—carefree, foolish, and living beyond my own means—I laughed.
“I’ll be fine. I’ll come in under budget,” I typed. Confidence is a powerful drug.
My first mistake was forgetting my headphones at home, because my flight was at 6:30 in the morning, and I had to wake up at 4 a.m. in order to get into a cab and make it on time. I bought a pair at the airport, mad at myself for already spending money.
I made a silent vow to myself not to discuss the money I was spending. Talking about money is a surefire way to kill a vacation, and even though I am probably a tireless bore when it comes to this subject at home, I was going to avoid ruining this for everyone else.
I ate crawfish twice that day; once before our other friends arrived and then again, after we picked up Wendy and Greg.
“I hope you aren’t hungry!” Sonia said as we loaded their luggage into the car at the airport. They were. We went back to the restaurant and shared a pitcher of beer and four pounds of crawfish, looking over Lake Ponchartrain, shimmering in the haze of a 90 degree day. Later that night, at a wine bar with a spacious backyard, I paid my own way for $4 beers, drinking them in companionable chatter, my thighs sticking to the metal chair. I fell asleep on an air mattress after a night swim in Sonia’s pool, shivering slightly in the air conditioning.
Money Spent: $128, on crawfish, on beer, on cabs and headphones.
We spent a day at the Country Club, a pleasant, formerly clothing-optional swimming pool in the Bywater. Ten dollars got us some chairs poolside, and an ashtray. We ran from pool to hot tub, ducking out of the sunshowers, drinking daiquiris and cold beers. That night, we went to the one fancy dinner of the trip, at Cochon. I had my reservations going into this, but I had spent the morning obsessively looking at the menu and checking its prices the night before. Regardless, after three bottles of wine, three appetizers, entrees and every single dessert on the menu, I silently Venmo’ed $90 to Greg, who had paid for my portion and took deep breaths in the bathroom.
Money spent: $235, on cheap cigarettes, a delicious meal, a brunch that I almost forgot about.
The bachelor of honor had arrived the night before, and with most of the group intact, we checked into our Airbnb. There is a hot tub, which we later flood, after cramming eight bodies into it. One room is decorated in Mardi Gras colors. The couch is deep, the TV large, and there is a lovely patio that we never spent any time on, because it was too hot outside. We ate lunch at a ramen place, and then took the streetcar down Saint Charles to Bourbon Street, which smells of sour milk and spilled hand grenades. We walk through silent, darkened streets to dinner, and then to Frenchmen Street where I enjoy a variety of brass bands and hear “Trap Queen” out for the first time this summer. I do not remember what time we got home, nor do I have a clear recollection of where we ate dinner, but I make it home with my wallet, my bag, my keys.
Money Spent: $121.25 on decent ramen, more beer, a Sazerac and a wisely-timed bottle of water from a deli on Frenchmen Street.
The bachelor wanted fried chicken before our swamp tour, but the line at Willie Mae’s was too long, and the day was very hot. We returned to the same restaurant from the first day, and hurriedly ate more crawfish, cracking their shells, sucking the heads, washing it down with cold beer. I held a baby alligator on the swamp tour and its body, smooth and supple and loose in my hands felt wrong. Later that night, we ate Popeye’s standing up in the kitchen and went to the Hi Ho Lounge, ostensibly for dancing, but instead spent the night sitting in the backyard, jabbing fingers in the air and yelling at each other out of love.
Money spent: $85.89 on fried chicken, more crawfish, more beer and two packs of cigarettes purchased at a gas station, because the man told me he liked my hat, and there was an ostensible deal if I bought 2 at once.
There were brunch plans at Atchafalaya. Though I fear I cannot eat any more food, I ordered eggs that prominently feature a deep-fried softshell crab. I temper this indulgence by splitting it with Greg. We walk around Magazine Street, have a couple of drinks at The Bulldog, sitting underneath giant misters that do little to dispel the hot, sticky air. On our way back to the house, we buy an ungodly amount of crawfish, which we make at the house, eating over torn-up paper bags on the dining room table, having a lovely conversation with the bachelor about marriage. It feels adult. We go to bed early, because we are not as young as we once were.
Money spent: $119, on the last bit of crawfish I will ever eat in 2015, a lovely brunch and some La Croix and something resembling a vegetable at Whole Foods.
By this point, almost everyone had left. Greg, my friend Kyle and I were the ones who remained. We packed up the Airbnb, retreated to Sonia’s pool, and swam there until she had to go to the airport to catch a flight to Los Angeles. Later, we ate Vietnamese food—the cheapest meal of the entire trip—and smoked an ungodly amount of pot while watching Game of Thrones. The night was foggy, but I slept like a baby.
Money spent: $45 on delicious pho, two beers and the pleasure of sitting indoors in the dark with friends, in front of a flickering television.
Finally, it was our time to leave. Greg, Kyle and I had breakfast, drove Kyle to the airport, and then drank two beers at a quiet bar called Parasol’s before hopping in a cab and parting ways by the Southwest ticketing kiosks. After waiting in the longest line I have ever seen at the taxi stand at LaGuardia airport, I made it home.
Money spent: $98 on two beers, two cabs, one last brunch and a cookie purchased at the Houston airport while waiting for my flight.
The total, including airfare, housing and that goddamn swamp tour: $1,332.14
My estimate: $1,500
It was a good trip.
This story is part of our Travel Month series.
Megan Reynolds lives in New York.