Southern Mom Loves: New Orleans by Train: A Family-friendly Vacation Under $700

New Orleans by Train: A Family-friendly Vacation Under $700

Monday, May 12, 2014

New Orleans
Credit: Alex Demyan, Source: NewOrleansOnline.com

When warm weather rolls in, the first things I think of are getting outdoors, enjoying the sunshine, and going on a summer vacation. This year, I'm starting early, researching all the possibilities for an inexpensive family-friendly vacation and I'll share what I find with you.

I'll do a series of posts by type of vacation and give you costs. Of course this will vary by family depending on the number of people, your distance from the site, gas prices, equipment already owned, etc., but it will hopefully give you some ideas and an estimate of what it will cost to take your own inexpensive family vacation.

New Orleans by Train: A Family-friendly Vacation Under $700:

I wanted to give you the option of an inexpensive trip by train, and the Amtrak options from my area
Train routes
Source: Amtrak.com
(Memphis) are south to New Orleans or north to Chicago. After checking ticket prices about a month out, I chose to focus on New Orleans since the tickets to Chicago are so much more expensive; They're about $264 more than the round trip tickets from Memphis to New Orleans for a family of 4. The Atlanta train also goes to New Orleans, so if you're near Atlanta, the tickets are slightly more expensive at around $90 above the round-trip price for a family of 4 from Memphis, so add in that extra cost if you're coming from that area.

Also, I'm from near the N.O. area and I can tell you from experience that it can be a fun place for families and not just frat boys. ;)

I'm focusing on inexpensive and family-friendly, so keep in mind that if you prefer a more upscale hotel, or a Bed & Breakfast for couples, these are easily found with a Google search.

New Orleans is known for it's party scene, so a lot of people assume it's not family-friendly. If it's not Mardi Gras time (usually Feb./Mar., check dates), and you're not interested in taking the kids down Bourbon Street, there are a ton of fun things to do here.

The French Market
Source: frenchmarket.org
If you book a hotel in the French Quarter, you can basically walk to most things. You can peruse the 6 blocks of shopping at the French Market, with hot beignets and chicory coffee at the Cafe Du Monde, you can take tours of the city by bus, tour churches, plantations, swamps, take haunted tours, vampire tours, cemetery tours, tour the Garden District or the French Quarter; the options are limitless. You can also take a jazz lunch or dinner cruise aboard the Steamboat Natchez for some extra bucks, or take the kids back and forth across the Mississippi River aboard the Algiers Ferry for cheap.

The Cafe Du Monde
Source: CafeDuMonde.com
I'm getting most of my prices from the Amtrak website. I didn't know you could book anything other than train tickets! (am I the only one who didn't know???) When you go on to book your tickets, you can choose to book hotels from a list (with a 10% discount), a rental car, and activities galore.

I would recommend booking activities ahead of time through the Amtrak website if possible, since they probably have discounted deals through the vendors, and you don't want to get there to find out they're all booked up.

Start at the box to the left for Tickets and from there you can book everything in one place. Awesome. It's so easy, I feel like I'm cheating since I usually have to do much more research for these posts, i.e., trolling multiple websites, calling for rates, amenities, etc., so this was a sweet find. I'll tempt you here with some choices and you can go on the site to build your own family adventure.

If you missed the last posts, you can find them here: 8 Outdoors Family-friendly Vacations Under $4004 Family-friendly Mountain Vacations Under $500



Sightseeing in The Big Easy, New Orleans, LA (Google Map link):

New Orleans
Credit: Alex Demyan, Source: NewOrleansOnline.com

Amtrak Station Building
1001 Loyola Avenue
New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal
New Orleans, LA 70113


"Laissez les bons temps rouler! In New Orleans the good times are perpetually rolling down Bourbon Street, which, thanks to the city’s annual Mardi Gras celebration, has quite a party animal reputation. Once you’ve soaked up the scenery of the historic French Quarter, tour the elegant Garden District and meet the colorful characters of Frenchmen Street. Experience the city's supernatural vibe at the Voodoo Museum or by taking a guided ghost or vampire tour through taverns, alleyways, and cemeteries." -Amtrak website

I'm starting with Amtrak train fares from Memphis (MEM) to New Orleans (NOL) for 2 adults and 2 children. You should book at least a few weeks ahead as you want to make sure they still have cheap seats (coach). Also, fares on the weekend are more expensive, so I chose to leave on a Wednesday and return on a Friday.

The fare one-way for an Adult (13-61) is $59, with Children (2-12) being 1/2 price at $29.50. Infants (under 2) ride free: "One child (classified as an "infant") under the age of two may ride free with each fare-paying adult (age 18+). Additional children under age two are permitted with each adult traveler under the 50% discount policy. An infant traveling free may occupy a vacant seat only if the seat is not needed for a paying passenger. Conductors may require that infants occupying a seat without paying a fare be removed to provide seating to a fare-paying passenger."

Amtrak Dining Car
Source: AmtrakVacations.com
The trains take from 8-9 hours to make the journey. There is a dining car, but you may want to pack lots of snacks for the kids. You may also want to pack games, coloring books, cameras, binoculars, and whatever else might keep them occupied once the novelty of a train journey wears off. ;)

If you're willing to drive, it's a 6 hour drive (according to Google Maps) from Memphis, but I think that's from city edge to city edge. It usually takes me about 7 hours. If you budget $10 per hour in gas (which is what my car uses, you'll have to do the math based on your own vehicle's usage), your gas cost would be considerably less than the train at around $150 for the entire trip (including an hour of city drive-time)...but much less fun. Also, you won't get the hotel or attraction discounts, which may or may not be worth it to you.

Amtrak train tickets, round trip, for a family of 2 Adults, and 2 Children: $354

Cost of gas (estimated) if driving from Memphis to New Orleans and back: $150


After you've chosen your train tickets and added them to your cart, you can choose to View All Hotels. Under hotels, search by Neighborhood: French Quarter. Make sure to then click "Modify Your Search" to put in the # of adults, children, and rooms wanted. Otherwise the prices will default to 1 adult, no children. 

If you stay in the French Quarter, you really don't have to rent a car. If you plan something you don't want to walk to, taxi fare is not too bad; There are also streetcars and buses; Your concierge can help you with timetables.

Holiday Inn New Orleans - Chateau Lemoyne
Source: Amtrak.com

In the French Quarter, the rooms ranged from $112/night to $287/night for 4 people. No matter where you choose to stay, it's guaranteed to be gorgeous and/or historic. I selected the Holiday Inn New Orleans - Chateau Lemoyne on Rue Dauphine based on price, reviews, and location. Trip Advisor ranks it #57 of 153 hotels in New Orleans, which is great for the price. It also received their Certificate of Excellence 2013.

Holiday Inn New Orleans - Chateau Lemoyne room
Source: Amtrak.com

"The Holiday Inn® French Quarter - Chateau Lemoyne hotel of New Orleans welcomes you with quaint New Orleans charm, a coveted location near the Central Business District and unique, historic accommodations...[the] hotel was built in 1847. We're just steps from Bourbon Street, antique shops, art galleries and the many excellent restaurants that New Orleans is known for...Our French Quarter hotel's guests appreciate our beautiful, secluded setting that combines historic architecture with modern, thoughtful amenities, such as complimentary high-speed Internet access. Pamper yourself with a classically-decorated room that offers a balcony with a picturesque view or an excellent breakfast at our Café Bienville." Sounds good to me.

The amenities list is long and includes a concierge desk, bar/lounge, restaurant, and a pool in addition to what you'd expect to find your room in a nice hotel.

Holiday Inn New Orleans - Chateau Lemoyne pool
Source: Amtrak.com
I'm planning on a 2 night stay for 2 adults and 2 children at $112/night + taxes in a double bed room.

Be warned that hotels in the area jack up their prices considerably during festivals and events, so check your travel dates for overlap.

Hotel: $259.26

So we're up to $613.26 by train or $438.06 by car (I added in the 10% hotel discount you wouldn't get from the train website if you decided to drive instead.) You can designate the remainder of the budget for restaurants or splurge on some cool attractions.


There are a ton of places to visit in N.O.: The Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, the Superdome for a game, The French Market, museums, historic sites, or amazing restaurants. The New Orleans Online website gives you Things To Do by category, and also a list of 50 free things to do. I'll  give you a short list of attraction tickets offered by Amtrak online:


Steamboat Natchez Harbor Cruise
Source: Amtrak.com
Steamboat Natchez Harbor Cruise
2 hours
Board the historic Steamboat Natchez to the delightful tunes of the Steam Calliope. Experience the sights and sounds of river life that enchanted characters of history and literature - like Mark Twain's Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer - and see the bustling activity of America's second largest port! You also have the option to add on a delicious buffet lunch.
With Lunch: Adult (13+) $39.50 each, Child (2-12) $20.25 each, Infant (0-1) $0.00 each
Without Lunch: Adult (13+) $28.50 each, Child (2-12) $12.25 each, Infant (0-1) $0.00 each


Steamboat Natchez Jazz Dinner Cruise
Source: Amtrak.com
Steamboat Natchez Jazz Dinner Cruise

2 hours
Savor the beauty and romance of New Orleans from the decks of the Steamboat Natchez! Cruise along the Mississippi River while enjoying live jazz music, a buffet dinner and gorgeous sights. This authentic paddle-wheel steamboat in New Orleans is one of only six still operating on the Mississippi River.
With Dinner: Adult (13+) $74.50 each, Child (2-12) $34.00 each, Infant (0-1) $0.00 each
Without Dinner: Adult (13+) $44.00 each, Child (2-12) $21.50 each, Infant (0-1) $0.00 each

New Orleans City Bus Tour
Source: Amtrak.com
New Orleans City Bus Tour

2 hours
This city sightseeing tour lets you absorb centuries of history, culture, sights and sounds of the dynamic city New Orleans. The famous French Quarter, the elegant Garden District and the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway are just a taste of what you'll experience on this insightful tour.
Adult (13+) $43.00 each, Child (1-12) $15.00 each




New Orleans Cemetery and Voodoo Walking Tour
Source: Amtrak.com
New Orleans Cemetery and Voodoo Walking Tour

2 hours
Follow the ghosts of the numerous characters of New Orleans' mysterious past! Tour one of the city's most haunted cemeteries, St Louis Cemetery No. 1 and visit the tomb of the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans, Marie Laveau. Your guide will explain the unique above-ground burial custom and will give you an in-depth overview of the fascinating evolution of voodoo.

Adult (13+) $26.00 each, Child (6-12) $15.00 each, Infant (0-5) $0.00 each



New Orleans Hop-On Hop-Off City Tour
Source: Amtrak.com
New Orleans Hop-On Hop-Off City Tour

1 day or 1 week (approx.)
Explore New Orleans at your own pace on this hop-on hop-off tour. Enjoy commentary aboard the double-decker bus and hop off at any of the eighteen stops around the city including Jackson Square, French Market and the Arts District. This is a fun, entertaining, informative and flexible way to experience New Orleans...Choose a 1-day or 1-week pass, depending on your preferences. The buses depart every 30 minutes from each stop.

1 Day Pass: Adult (12+) $28.99 each, Child (3-11) $9.99 each, Infant (0-2) $0.00 each

Tour of Oak Alley Plantation
Source: Amtrak.com
Tour of Oak Alley Plantation

4 hours, 30 minutes
Feel the gentle breeze of southern hospitality on a tour that takes you back to a time of mint juleps, gracious living and the glory of the Old South. Oak Alley is your destination on this 4.5 hour tour, that takes you into the stunning plantation home, built over 165 years ago. Listen to fascinating and amusing stories of the home and its history, presented by your professional guide.

Adult (13+) $61.00 each, Child (6-12) $30.00 each, Infant (0-5) $0.00 each



New Orleans Haunted History Ghost Tour
Source: Amtrak.com
New Orleans Haunted History Ghost Tour

2 hours
Take a romp through the haunted French Quarter on this famous New Orleans ghost tour. During your 2-hour evening walking tour, explore the grim and ghastly deeds of New Orleans' haunted history as you follow your entertaining guide down dark and sinister streets. You'll learn about infamous events that occurred long ago and be chilled by evidence of phantoms and ghosts that abound!

Adult (13+) $25.00 each, Child (6-12) $14.00 each, Infant (0-5) $0.00 each



Swamp and Bayou Sightseeing Tour with Boat Ride from New Orleans
Source: Amtrak.com
Swamp and Bayou Sightseeing Tour with Boat Ride from New Orleans

4 hours
Nowhere is Louisiana's wildlife more abundant than in the swamps and bayous of New Orleans . After crossing the Mississippi River, take a boat ride through these swamps and bayous and be on the lookout for alligators, raccoons, snakes, turtles and native birds. Hear stories from your guide about local Cajun culture and the mysteries of the swamps and bayous.

Adult (13+) $49.00 each, Child (6-12) $24.00 each, Infant (0-5) $0.00 each



Jazz Brunch Buffet at the Court of Two Sisters Restaurant
Source: Amtrak.com
Jazz Brunch Buffet at the Court of Two Sisters Restaurant
Flexible
The Court of Two Sisters' Buffet Brunch boasts is a sumptuous display of hot and cold dishes. They use only the freshest ingredients so the buffet's selections change according to season and time of day.
Adult (13+) $43.05 each, Child (5-12) $18.35 each, Infant (0-4) $0.00 each





New Orleans Cooking Class
Source: Amtrak.com
New Orleans Cooking Class

2 or 2.5 hours
Take an entertaining and informative cooking class at the New Orleans School of Cooking! Located in a renovated molasses warehouse built in the early 1800s, this cooking class brings you to the heart of New Orleans' French Quarter. Learn the basics of Louisiana cooking from professional chefs and learn how to make classic New Orleans specialties such as gumbo, jambalaya and pralines. Enjoy samplings of these delectable dishes accompanied by complimentary beer, iced tea and coffee, and take the recipes home with you!
All ages $28.99 each





Okay, that wasn't so short. I kept finding things I wanted to do! 


So there you have it, folks; You can do a fab vacation to New Orleans for under $700. I hope this list helps you plan your own inexpensive New Orleans adventure. If you have any favorite spots, let me know in the comments and maybe I'll start planning another trip! Thanks for reading.


See the last posts: 
8 Outdoors Family-friendly Vacations Under $400
4 Family-friendly Mountain Vacations Under $500






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