A New Orleans beach escape weekend


Emma Seely, Managing Editor

As Carnival season comes to an end and summertime approaches, now is a perfect time for UNO students to take advantage of some of the easily accessible destinations within a few hours of the city. Located anywhere from one to five hours outside of New Orleans, students can find several different beaches that are perfect for a weekend getaway, or even just a quick day trip. Even as things get busier and the semester rolls forward, a beach trip is a perfect way for students to clear their minds and get in some much deserved relaxation, all without putting too many miles on their tanks. 


According to Dr. Yvette Green, Interim Director of the Lester E. Kabacoff School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Administration at UNO, some of the beaches available to students include Biloxi in Mississippi (about an hour and 30 minutes away) Grand Isle in Louisiana  (about two hours away), Gulf Shores and Orange Beach in Alabama (three hours) and the Florida Panhandle beaches like Pensacola (three hours), Fort Walton (four hours) and Panama City ( five hours). Although differing in popularity, price and activities available, all of these places offer an experience that is different from a typical weekend in the city. It is up to students to decide how far they want to travel. 


For those who would like to explore nearby, and save money in the process, Green recommends checking out Louisiana’s beaches, as well as any other in-state getaways. This way students can get a taste of something new without worrying about wasting too much time or money. 


“If you are traveling just outside the city, into the rest of the state, Louisiana has great cities for a day trip.” says Green. “Louisiana is considered a sportsman’s paradise. We also have state parks and a culinary trail. The recreation and cultural tourism in our state is incredible.  You can travel to many destinations and return the same day – which allows you to save money.” 


But if students do want to see something completely new, then several beach towns are conveniently located right up I-10, all the way to the white sand beaches of Florida. While the  trips to these places may be longer (unless students choose to explore Biloxi, only one state away in Mississippi) they can give visitors a new perspective, and the feeling that they are truly “getting away,” even if it is only a brief escape. 


“Our neighboring states have nice places to explore that are near New Orleans but far enough away to feel like a real vacation,” says Green. “Each of the destinations has a visitors website which gives great ideas on what to do when you arrive.” 


Although it can be overwhelming to try and choose one beach out of the seemingly endless options near New Orleans, students can easily find a place that works for them by considering how far they want to drive, how much time they want to spend away, how crowded they want their beach to be, and how much they want to spend. One easy way to save money is to forgo the expense of lodging by choosing a day trip. But for those who want more time, it is possible to keep down expenses by simply going somewhere less popular, and therefore more affordable. 


“I would recommend a lesser known beach such as Pensacola or Navarre Beach,” says Green. “Both are on the Florida Panhandle and in driving distance. Both have beautiful beaches and water and great food. However, because they are not as well known, they will not have the crowds of some of the more popular beaches. Finally, the cost of the trip will be a little less as well.” 


Regardless of where students go, and for how long, they can save money, time, and stress by taking a little time to plan their trip before they go. Think about the distance you want to drive, and who you want to drive with. Plan ahead and bring any materials (like snacks and beach equipment) that you may need to avoid any unnecessary costs. If you are planning on booking a place overnight, be sure to do so in advance, and to check all your options before making a decision. 


“Take time to plan your trip,” says Green. “Whether a day trip or an overnight trip, students need to consider meals, activities, beach time, and lodging if doing an overnight trip. Do some research on local food/restaurants you may want to try, any local activities like a water park, where to stay if planning an overnight trip, and how to access the public beach. Pack the car with a beach umbrella or tent, chairs, towels, and an ice chest. Pack your ice chest with travel snacks, water and beverages, and beach snacks. Avoid buying snacks at the gas station convenience store when filling up the gas tank. Compare hotels vs condos or rental homes if planning an overnight trip. Depending on the number of students traveling together, splitting the cost of an overnight rental condo may be less expensive than hotel rooms and the condo offers amenities of home such as a kitchen.”