Put on your Louisiana Road Trip Vacation Pants

From a recent road trip around the Sabine Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana – 2016

In honor of my little sister moving to Louisiana, I am writing this post about taking an amazing Louisiana road trip for, as always, DIRT CHEAP.  We found some unbelievably reasonable airfare from California on Google Flights, and just had to plan a little road trip loop around mostly Louisiana and Mississippi.  We went in March, but we came back in August and checked out Northern Louisiana as well.   Get ready for some amazing Louisiana (with some Mississippi on the side) style adventures.  Here we go.

Trip Overview

Louisiana is fantastic.  The weather in the spring was especially enjoyable.  Plus, the local cuisine and culture are out of this world.  Another amazing part of this trip is the exciting things you get to experience for an affordable price. Can you say alligators galore???  Let’s dive right in, shall we?!

Trip Itinerary

We road tripped around Louisiana and Mississippi for for 12 nights and 13 days.  We then took and additional 2 night / 3 day trip in August which I will include the details in this post.  Take a look at how we did it below.

Day 1: Flew for Los Angeles to Houston, Texas.  We flew in to Texas because we only paid $86 a ticket ROUND TRIP with taxes and fees. Houston is only a short drive from Louisiana.  We came in late, so we took a hotel shuttle to a local hotel in Houston and stayed there the first night.
Day 2-4: Went and picked up the rental car, checked out of our Houston hotel, and drove to to Baton Rouge Louisiana.  We stayed there for two nights.

Day 4-7: Continued our road trip and stayed in the New Orleans area for a few nights.
Day 7-9:Drove along the Louisiana coast and entered Mississippi.  We stayed in Gulfport for a couple days. We also took a day trip to Alabama, just so we could hit another state.

MVP (My Vacation Pants Tip: If you are near another state, region, or country, especially one you have never been to, why not put the pedal to the metal and hit one more state, city, area on your trip.  You won’t regret earning those bragging rights.  We always try to get a meal over the border and take in the area through food.  Heck, we once drove to Canada for a couple hours, ate poutine at a Dairy Queen, and drove back over the border.  Make memories you will never forget.

Eating at Sam’s Burger in Alabama, because it doesn’t count unless you eat there.

 

Day 10-12:  We headed back into Louisiana and stayed in New Iberia, so we could go to Avery Island, home of the Tabasco Factory.

Day 12-13:  Road tripped back to Texas to fly home.  We drove along the deltas and even took a ferry across at one spot.  We stayed in Houston by the airport since our flight left early the next morning. Back to California we go!

Later in the year we spent 2 nights, and 3 days in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Trip Budget

  • Airfare –  $86 dollars a ticket, which works out to $344 to fly the whole family out there. We flew on Spirit Airlines, which I swore I would never fly again after they messed up an online reservation of mine back in 2003, but it was just too good a deal to pass up.  It wasn’t so bad this time, although booking with them is tricky.  I gave some tips on flying the budget airlines in a recent post titled Put on Your Discount Airline Vacation Pants.  Check it out for all my tips on flying Spirit.
  • Rental Car – $388 for a full sized car through Budget Rental Car.  We rented from the Houston airport (IAH).  We like to rent from the airport rentals because they tend to be cheaper and don’t seem to push the extra insurance as much as the city rental car companies.
MVP Travel Trip:  Look at the price difference between the different sized cars.  Sometimes it is even cheaper to rent a full size verses a compact.  When doing a road trip, sometimes it’s worth paying a little more to have some room to move around.  
  • Gas – I calculated the round trip cost for gas on https://www.fueleconomy.gov/ and it worked out to about $105 round trip for a full sized car.  I calculated the gas based on the stops listed in the itinerary above.
  • Lodging Costs –$1002 – We are a strictly 3 star and up family.  Sometimes if we know the hotel and we can carefully check reviews we will go 2 and half star, but for this trip all our hotels were 3 stars and up with the exception of the La Quinta in New Iberia because that was the highest star choice in the area.  Still I am pretty pleased we planned a 12 night vacation and got hotels for an average of under a $10o a night.
  • Attractions – $148 – You can see the attractions we decided to do below.  We love to find cheap and free stuff to do and that is how we only spent $148 on 13 days of vacationing for a family of four. Woohoo!
  • TRIP TOTAL = $1813 – This was for 2 adults and 2 children ages 5 and 7 at the time of travel and that includes airfare!!!
I don’t include food in my budgets because you have to eat everyday.  We go to some restaurants and we do some food in the hotel, so it ends up costing about the same to eat at home as it does on the trip.

Trip Lodging

More often than not we use Hotwire.com to book cheap, but nice hotels.  Check out my post Put on Your Hotwire Hotel Deal Vacation Pants.  You will love the deals you find, just like we loved the deals we found on our trip through the South.

  •  Hyatt Place Bush Intercontinental Airport– Houston, Texas
    I have to say for someone who is used to staying at value to moderate hotels, sometimes I just have to splurge on a Hyatt.  Especially when I can stay in a Hyatt for under $100 bucks.  We just stayed for one night, but it was a wonderful visit.  We got a huge hotel room with a divider separating the beds and a huge couch.  It was clean and comfy.  The breakfast had a wide selection of eggs, sausage, pastries, fresh fruit.  It was good.  The best part was their free shuttle service that took you anywhere around the area you want to go.  We got a free ride to our rental car place.  Just book it the night before you want to use it to guarantee availability.

  • Best Western Plus Richmond Inn & Suites – Baton Rouge, Louisiana
    After traveling to Baton Rouge we checked into this fantastic hotel.  They upgraded us for free and we got a two room suite.  Full kitchen, two televisions, and two beds, plus a couch in the living room that pulled out in to a bed.  We saved some money by cooking in the hotel, and I got to watch The Bachelor season finale in peace while my kiddos watched cartoons in the adjacent room.  Heaven on Earth.  The breakfast area looks like a restaurant and they had plenty of waffle makers.

  • Best Western Plus Landmark Hotel – Metairie, Louisiana- Yes, of course we would have loved to stay right in the heart of the city, but it was pretty expensive, so we opted to stay right outside the city and my husband found a great trolley route for us.  That will be detailed in the activities section below.  We spent plenty of time playing and eating in the city, but got to stay in a much cheaper hotel.  This hotel was one of those cylinder shaped hotels.  The lobby was pretty amazing looking.  The room was pretty bare bones.  Nothing fancy, but it was cheap, clean, comfortable, and served its purpose.

    • Home2 Suites by Hilton – Gulfport, Mississippi – And now for our favorite hotel of trip.  We were really having a hard time finding a cheap place to stay and we came across this place on Travelocity.com.  It was a brand new hotel when we visited, less than a month old, so everything was shiny and new.  Each room was hip in design and offered a full kitchenette.  They don’t offer full cleaning services everyday, but it is reflected in their affordable pricing.  The housekeeper came each day and offered towels and toiletries, so that was nice.  The breakfast had full on breakfast sandwiches, eggs, bacon, waffles, and more. Great stay, one downside, no hot tub.
      • La Quinta Inn & Suites – New Iberia, Louisiana- This hotel was again, not too flashy, but right next to Avery Island, home of the Jungle Gardens and the Tabasco Factory.  I will say that the hotel was comfortable and clean, but the housekeeper came way too early each day.  They came before breakfast even closed.  I think it would have been nice to have some service a little later in the day.  It is a great gateway to two very cool things we did in Louisiana, so we did like the location.
      • Park Inn Houston North Hotel & Conference Center – Houston, Texas – The staff was super friendly at this hotel, but they put us in a room that seemed like it was a 1000 miles away from the front of desk.  We walked all the way with two very tired kids only to find out key didn’t work.  I trekked it back to the front and they just gave me another key and said sorry that happens sometimes.  Ugh, so irritating.  The hotel served its purpose as a place to repack and get to the airport early the next morning.  Mission accomplished.
      • Sam’s Town Hotel and Casino – Shreveport, Louisiana – I don’t know if the front desk lady thought I was nice or somehow found out I wrote a travel blog, but she upgraded us to the concierge floor.  Well I had never gotten to do that before.  After all I am a budget traveler, but it was great, especially for free.  The rooms were large and had  a great view of the river.  On certain mornings they have a continental breakfast in the concierge lounge.  We had juice, muffins, soda, and more while we enjoyed a nice chat with the attendant.  I felt like a VIP.  We only paid $75 a night for the room and I am guessing concierge upgrades usually cost a lot more, but maybe I will pay the upcharge next time if it’s not too steep a charge.  The pool was on the lower roof of the lobby, so that was cool too.

Trip Eats

      • Willy Burger – Beaumont, Texas – I walked in to this burger joint and immediately fell in love.  I told the people that worked there, “This place is RADDDDD!”  I don’t think they have too many people that have used the word “rad” in this southern burger joint, but I’m telling you it was rad in multiple ways.  Besides being a great burger place, it had the cutest decor, and we got to eat in a re-purposed Airstream trailer that was attached to the main building.  I told you it was RAD!
      • Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers – Baton Rouge, Louisiana – So we drove past a bunch of these once we drove into Louisiana and I was like, “We have to stop there.”  It was really good.  One side note, if you are one of those people that likes to order something, but substitute something else or change your order, this is not the place for you.  They have chicken, coleslaw, crinkle fries, Texas Toast, and a cream based dipping sauce, and that is what you get.  Don’t ask for BBQ or Ranch or Sweet and Sour or Honey Mustard, because they don’t have it.  It’s definitely one of those places you have to experience once though.
      • Chef Ron’s Gumbo Stop – Metaire, Louisiana – This place was hands down the best place we ate at in Louisiana.  It won my top restaurant of 2016 and yes, we go out to eat A LOT!  Get the Gumbo and the BBQ shrimp poboy and be in heaven.  It does usually have a bit of a wait to get a table, but it is definitely worth the wait.  We went back a second time on our trip to go again, and it was closed for the day, so definitely check your hours before you go.
      • New Orleans Seafood Restaurant – New Orleans, Louisiana – On our way down to Laffite, we stopped to fill up before we did our alligator boat tour.  It was great because there were so many different things we could check off of our Louisiana must-eat list.  I got a creamy Alfredo like pasta with chicken in a very lightly crawfished sauce.  The husband got some red beans and rice that was pretty tasty too.  The thing that really did it for all of us was the bread pudding ala mode.  It was so creamy and delicious.
Red Beans and Rice = Yessss!
Bread Pudding Bathed in Vanilla Ice Cream

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Cafe DuMonde – You can’t go to the French Quarter without hitting up some Cafe DuMonde for their world famous benigets.  I mean you can NOT go, but you’ll be sorry.  Fluffy sugary perfection in a breaded pocket.  I recommend walking around the back and watching them make the benigets.  It was seriously a work of art.  They guy who made them when we were observing didn’t even have to look when he threw the dough in to the fryer.  And he made the kids laugh hysterically when he threw some powdered sugar on the window.
  • French Market-The French Market in the French Quarter will give you a whirlwind tour of some food must-dos in New Orleans.  The hubbs and I had a list of things we wanted to try during our visit.  This included the following:
    • Gumbo
    • Beignet
    • Poboy
    • Bread Pudding (we may have gotten this at a lot of places in Louisiana)
    • Mint Julep
    • Mufaletta
    • Red Beans and Rice
    • Bodine Balls
    • Cracklins
    • Crepes
    • Jambalaya
    • Sweet Tea
    • Pralines
    • Etouffee
    • Monte Cristo

Well if you have a list like we did, then you can cross many things off if you eat your way through the French Market and surrounding streets of the French Quarter.  FYI, it starts closing up around 4 or 5 P.M. so make sure if you want to eat there that you get there early in the day.  I mean you have to have time to eat, right?  We loved the crepes we got from a little stand there.  It was the only thing still open in the late afternoon and it really hit the spot. 

  • 1868 – Avery Island, Louisiana – On the magnificent Avery Island in Southern Louisiana there is a place where a very important condiment was developed, and that condiment is Tabasco Sauce.  Founded in 1868 by the McIlhenny Family, you will take a self-guided tour through the Tabasco Sauce story.  More about that later.  After you have worked up an appetite traveling through the factory, stop in the cafeteria type restaurant 1868.  They have every flavor of Tabasco Sauce right there in the restaurant.  Have fun soaking up all the yumminess.  Of course, all the food is made to be drowned in the spicy peppery flavors of Tabasco Sauce.

    They have every kind of Tabasco sauce flavor imaginable
  • Crawdaddy’s Kitchen– Shreveport, Lousiana – I found this place highly rated on Tripadvisor.  It was a little far away from all the tourist hubbub and you can tell it was a local favorite.  You will definitely be able to get your Cajun cravings met here.  It has a that local home cooking feel.  Everyone was really nice that worked there, even though we were those people that came right before it closed.

 

  • Strawn’s Eat Shop – Shreveport, Louisiana – I found this local gem in a dining guide in a Certified Folder brochure rack at our hotel.  The picture of the strawberry and peach ice box cake drew me in.  I was like, “Oh my gosh, what the heck is an ice box cake?”  I knew I needed to meet my curiosity with putting that food in my mouth.  It ended up being more than just good ice box cake, it ended up being an experience.  They were super packed, but managed to still provide us with quality service.  They had platter specials that included some yummy southern comfort food.  Topping it off with the ice box cake was the icing on the cake.  No pun intended.
    Peach Ice Box Cake and a Strawberry Ice Box Cake is Work of Wonder

    The Blue Plate Specials are exceptional deals

Trip Activities

    • Sabine Wildlife Refuge – Louisiana- One of my hubby’s favorite things to do on a trip is to map out our road trip on Google Maps, and then he clicks on all the green areas that are potential hiking and wildlife viewing spots.  He has found some stellar places to hike by using this method.  Well this time was no exception.  Sabine Wildlife Refuge didn’t have a lot of information on the internet about it, but it was stunning.  We saw spectacular scenery and some crazy cool wildlife.  A slithering snake, a pretty large turtle, and of course some alligators were definitely in attendance during our hike.  It is a pretty easy walk and had some great look out spots as well.  COST: FRE
      Snake in the Grass

       

    • Bluebonnet Swamp and Nature Center – Baton Rouge, Louisiana -Although this place cost a bit of money to get into, we were glad in the end we did it.  Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of FREE places to get your swamp on, but this particular hike is well maintained and had a nice little visitor center that was almost like a very small aquarium with all the animals they had.  Some college kids were there doing some research too, so it must be the place to go in Baton Rouge.  COST: Adults: $3, Children (2-17): $2

  

    • Bayou Teche – New Iberia, Louisiana – Yet another find on Google Maps from my hubby.  This place gave us the authentic bayou feel.  You could feel it with every sound and you could see it with the swampy trees and vegetation.  We met a nice local couple that gave us the history of the area.  People in the south are so nice.  COST: FREE
    • Tabasco Factory Tour -Avery Island, Louisiana – We were just going to go to Jungle Gardens, but our kids are obsessed with factory tours.  We have those types of kids that love learning.  It wasn’t too expensive so we paid for the self-guided tour as well.  I’m glad our kiddos talked us into it.  It was a really fun walk through.  I never knew the process it takes to make this popular condiment.  Don’t forget to check out the store and restaurant while you are there as well.  COST: Adults: $12.50, Children $9.50 (this includes admission to Jungle Gardens)
    • Jungle Gardens – Avery Island – Louisiana – This was one of our top picks for the trip.  It is a part drive through, part hike through experience.  The gardens have an interesting history and that is apparent as you go through the area.  Get out at all the main stops, because you will miss a lot just driving through in your car.  We saw alligators galore, a nesting area for Egrets, and so much beautiful vegetation.  COST: Adults: $12.50, Children $9.50 (this includes admission to the Self-Guided Tabasco factory tour)

      Our froggy friend we found in the Sunken Garden
    • French Quarter – New Orleans, Louisiana – You can’t go to NOLA without hitting up the French Quarter.  The architecture and general New Orleans style ambiance is astounding.  Honestly I have never been anywhere like it.  We spent a day walking around the city and did it by way of the trolley.  Eat your way through the city and have a fantastic time.  COST: FREE

MVP Travel Tip – Okay, so since this is a family travel blog I have to give you a tip about the French Quarter.  Stay off Bourbon Street.  That is the place where people go to, ya know, party hardy.  Your kids don’t need to see that stuff.  Also, I would make sure you only are in the area during daylight.  Sometimes it takes awhile to get out of the city, so give yourself time to make it out before the partying really starts.  

    • Trolley – New Orleans, Louisiana – Instead of driving our rental car in to the city, we took the trolley instead.  We bought day passes at the Walgreens near one of the trolley stops, so we could jump on and off the trolley as much as we wanted for the day.  It also gives you a very discounted tour through the Garden District and drops you off right by the French Quarter.  We kept getting on and off all day and it was a generally pleasant experience.  It does get pretty crowded when work gets out around 5:00 PM.  Keep that in mind if you are in a rush to get somewhere.  COST: $3 for a 24 hour pass
    • Jean Lafitte Swamp Tours– Lafitte, Louisiana – We opted for the Jean Laffite Swamp Tours because it is the only swamp tour in a national park area.  We thought it would be more informative and educational instead of kitchy and touristy (although we love those things too).  We learned so much from our boat guide.  We took a jungle cruise style boat through the bayou and swamplands.  They showed us photographs and models of what life was like growing up on the bayou.  In fact, our tour guide grew up on the bayou himself.  He was very knowledgeable.  And yes, we saw tons of gators.  We even got to hold the tour guide’s baby gator.  COST: Adults: $29, Children: $12
    • Escatawpa Nature Trail – Moss Point, Mississippi – The hubbs also found this amazing trail while mapping out our road trip with the Google Maps method I mentioned above.  The trail was hidden adjacent to the Mississippi Welcome Center.  We parked by the entrance and noticed the trail was gated and looked closed at first.  They had the hours it was open and we were well within the hours, so we went for it.  Well the area had just gotten a lot of rain and the trail was a little soggy, well a lot soggy.  We are talking several inches of rain in many parts of the trail.  We were going to turn around until the kids convinced us to push on.  Again, I am glad our kids are so convincing and adventurous because this was such a fun walk with our little family.  We had some great view points and we made memories that we will talk about for the rest of our lives.  COST: FREE

Gulf Islands National Seashore – Ocean Springs, Mississippi – So we were going to take a boat across Horn Island and do some snorkeling.  We even shoved our snorkeling stuff into a suitcase, so we didn’t have to rent some when we got there.  Unfortunately, the weather was a little stormy and they canceled all the boats across to the island.  But the Gulf Islands National Seashore offered up some amazing scenery and our personal favorite, boardwalk hikes.  We saw a mighty big alligator too.  The gator was just chilling in the sunshine taking in the sun between rain showers.  Also, I have to give it up to the rangers at the visitor center because they gave my kiddos the junior ranger badges even though we didn’t make it over to the island.  We will definitely go back to the area on our next trip to Mississippi.  COST: FREE

Nice ranger letting my kiddos do the Junior Ranger Program
Big Alligator Friend
Our favorite kind of hike is a hike with a boardwalk

Well that is our trip in a nutshell.  Please feel free to share or comment if you like what you see.  There are easy buttons to share with below.  Also let me know if you have any questions about the areas we visited.  If I don’t know the answer, I will be sure to find out for you.  Be sure to follow our travelogue on social media to keep up with all our traveling adventures.

For a Google Map of our trip click the link: Google Map of Our Trip

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3 thoughts on “Put on your Louisiana Road Trip Vacation Pants

  1. This is brilliant I do love a long piece on local traveling it makes me feel like I have actually been there – and although I have passed through Louisiana I have not had the chance to stop but now I have a fantastic guide to follow.

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