After two long years, Carnival season has finally returned to the Greater New Orleans area. Whether you’re a camp-out-on-the neutral-ground-the-whole-week hardcore parade goer or a wide-eyed newcomer just getting your feet wet (and sadly, I mean that literally), you need to be especially careful this time of year. There are potential hazards all over the parade route. By exercising a little caution, you can laissez les bons temps rouler without incident all the way to Fat Tuesday. Want to make sure you and your people stay safe this Mardi Gras season? Read on for a few insider tips!

Plan ahead. Cell service is often spotty, so it’s best to party like it’s 1975 with the old school method of designating a meeting place in case anyone gets lost. Have everyone record it either in their devices or on paper stored in a deep pocket. With young children or those at risk, consider writing the meeting place and/or your cell number directly on the person’s arm with a skin-safe, non-toxic permanent marker so it will last the whole season (and probably halfway into March. Sorry!).

Ladders matter. Make sure your ladder is in good working order before you even leave the house. When selecting a location on the route, position the latter back from the front line at the street. All children should be secured with a safety bar across the front and a (this can be a tricky one) responsible adult on the ladder at all times. Oversized children and teens should not sit in the seat as they create a top-heavy situation that can easily be overturned. 

Hold the phone. Make sure your phones are fully charged before leaving and bring a few charging blocks along with you in case your battery gets low. Most smartphones have low power modes to conserve the battery. By activating that option and clearing out your apps (if you don’t know what I mean, ask your kids), your phone might actually last long enough to call the seasonally overpriced Uber at the end of the night. Which reminds me …

Travel smart. If you’re lucky enough to have a designated driver, plan to thank him or her with a gift. Something bougie. (Did I use that term correctly?) If, like the rest of us, you’re using a ride-sharing app, always confirm that the vehicle model, color and driver information is all correct when your ride arrives. To guarantee you won’t get in the wrong vehicle, take an extra 10 seconds to walk to the back of the car and confirm that the license plate number matches the number on your app. 

Keep your distance. From the gargantuan floats and the majestic Clydesdales to the swinging tubas and the flaming torches… there are many ways to get injured on the front lines. So keep some distance between yourself and whatever is passing by. And remember that no long bead, painted coconut or bedazzled shoe (yes, even if it’s black and gold and plays Mardi Gras Mambo) is worth reaching under the float.

Protect your person … and your people! Always travel in groups. Always. Don’t call attention to yourself with lots of jewelry and other pricey items. Mardi Gras is no place for valuables. Leave them at home. Carrying a lot of cash isn’t necessary in today’s electronic world. A little to cover the parking guy, somebody’s pay Port-A-Let and some street food or drink is really all you need. And speaking of drinks … NEVER leave yours unattended! 

Stay Safe This Mardi Gras Season!

Michele Robert Poche