When should I book my flight?
Generally, the sooner, the better. Try to book after you're sure what dates you will be attending, since cheaper airfares tend to be non-refundable. Booking two or three months in advance is a good rule of thumb, but you may well find seats available right up until the day of departure. It all depends where you are coming from.
Are flight discounts available?
Major US carriers usually do have discounts available. Check http://www.nojazzfest.com/travel/ for discount codes. Expect to save about 5-10% off of applicable fares.
The flights from my hometown are sold out, or hideously expensive. Any ideas?
If you can't fly into New Orleans (MSY), check for flights into Baton Rouge (BTR). New Orleans is an easy 80 mile drive on Interstate 10 from there. Also check Gulfport/Biloxi MS (GPT) - I've never done that drive, but it's about 70 miles.
Another possibility is to fly your favorite airline to Houston (Hobby airport), and to catch a Southwest flight to New Orleans from there. Southwest has about 20 flights each day on that route, so there's usually space available, and the fares are quite cheap, usually under $100 each way for a last minute, full fare ticket, and half that for an advance purchase discount ticket. Southwest has an extremely usable web site at www.southwest.com. Just make sure that your connecting flight goes into Hobby airport (HOU) and not Houston George Bush Intercontinental (IAH).
And if you are flexible with flight times, there's Priceline and Hotwire.
Where should I stay?
There's no lodging right at the Fairgrounds, so if your budget allows, the obvious choice is to stay in or near the French Quarter. The Downtown / Superdome / Convention Center areas are adjacent to the Quarter, up to about a mile away. Most of the hotels are in this area, or in the Quarter. Expect rooms to be cheaper, the farther away from downtown you get. See the maps page to get an idea of the city.
Are packages available?
Not directly through the festival. Some private companies may bundle hotels, shuttles, and tickets.
But if you can find a hotel, you can easily do the rest yourself as well.
Since 2003, the Fest has arranged discounted rooms with a number of area hotels. The rates are good (though not great), and most are probably non-refundable. See the list here.
What will hotel rooms cost?
Expect to pay "rack" rate or close to it. Generally, rooms near the French Quarter seem to start around $200 per night, and go up to $400 or more at some of the more luxurious places. Most of the usual discounts are explicitly unavailable during special events: the Sugar Bowl, Mardi Gras, and unfortunately, Jazzfest. And don't forget to budget for sales tax on the hotel, which is a hefty 13%, plus $2/night.
When should I book my hotel?
Yesterday. Seriously, as soon as possible. Finding a place to stay is the hardest thing about planning a Jazzfest trip. Probably about 80% of the hotels seem to be sold out by mid-June for the following year's Fest. If there's a particular hotel you like, call them to find out how early they accept reservations (about 11 months in advance is typical), and call them that day.
Make sure that you ask about deposit and cancellation policies. Many hotels do require a deposit for Jazzfest, even if they don't the rest of the year. The good news is that the majority of hotels do allow cancellation, with return of your deposit, within a reasonable timeframe (perhaps up to 30 days in advance). This means that you can reserve for both weekends, even if you only will come for one. Then just cancel the extra one, once you choose a weekend, after seeing the band lists which are released around February.
Another way to go: Priceline and Hotwire. The last several years, some folks have gotten nice Downtown hotels at some outstanding rates (below $100/night, and occasionally closer to $50, even!) using Priceline and Hotwire. If you can live with their rules (specific hotel unknown, prepay, non-refundable, double occupancy only, unspecified bedding), it may be worth a shot. Check my Bidding page for hints, and to see others' results. This is how I've gotten my personal lodging recently, and I've been very satisfied.
What about camping?
There's no camping at the Fairgrounds, and no on site parking for RV's or other oversized vehicles. Check the Festing on a Budget page for camping suggestions..
Do I need to rent a car?
Probably not. If you're staying in the French Quarter or Downtown areas, public transportation to the festival is relatively convenient and affordable. See my Transportation Page for details. Note that parking at hotels in the French Quarter or Downtown is also expensive - expect anywhere from $20-35 per night.
Except for flat rate Jazzfest and airport runs, cabs in New Orleans cost $3.50 for the drop, 25 cents per 1/8 mile, and $22 per hour when stopped, plus $1 per extra passenger after the first. The city is pretty compact, though, so a cab across the French Quarter should be $10 or less; fare to outlying clubs may run about $20.
If you're staying in an outlying neighborhood, a car may be worthwhile to get to and from the Fest. You may want to consider a cab for your evening out anyway, though, to avoid parking headaches in the Quarter, and to allow you to imbibe as much as the mood strikes.
Click here for more info on parking in New Orleans, and a list of lots in the French Quarter.
Page last updated August 3, 2009