Mardi Gras Survival Guide for Moms
Surviving Mardi Gras as a mom who wants to go to ALL. OF. THE. PARADES. is more of an art form then anything. With four littles, it isn’t always easy for us, but it can be fun if we plan ahead. Here are a few tips I’ve learned over the past few years taking the kiddos to parades.
Create a calendar of parades just after the New Year and decide which parades you’d like to attend. Choose one or two to attend WITHOUT kids (we do Endymion as an adult-only day). Write down the start and end times, check out the route and plan your parking. Know that the closer to the route, the less likely you’ll be able to leave until well after the parade is over. Plan accordingly. Decide where you’ll stand/camp/sit for each parade and check out who you know in the area. Consult your friends and create a village if you can! Once you find a good spot, write it down so you can return next year!
Try to plan to be close to an area you know will have bathroom access. This takes practice, but soon you’ll have a plan. Port-a-potties, water bottles (for the boys) and those $20 bathroom passes offered at churches and restaurants will come in handy. Also, don’t forget to have everyone potty before you leave the house!
Buy boots. Everyone just wear boots – rain boots, snow boots, whatever it takes. After keeping little feet dry from puddles (don’t ask what’s in the puddles) and safe from piles of randomness in the streets, you will realize that those boots were a good decision.
Get yourself a wagon. We love our foldable wagon we found at Costco because of it’s general handiness. It takes curbs like a pro and can collapse into a small space if needed. We keep two camp-style chairs, a large umbrella, three blankets and at least two bags per person for throws in the wagon all Carnival season. If you have extra hands, a pack-and-play is always handy for smaller toddlers.
A few weeks before Mardi Gras day, go ahead and start prepping your snack bags. A trip to the grocery store might yield Kind bars, PediaSure and Smarty Pants gummy vitamins (because Mardi Gras isn’t known for healthy eating), Snack Factory Pretzel Crisps, Jacksons Honest Chips, LaCroix water, mini-boxes of raisins, a bag of Halos, snack size sandwich bags, a sharpie and brown paper lunch sacs. We usually attend between 15-20 parades, so I try to make at least 10-12 sets of bags to take (yes that’s 50+ bags for my family). Fill each bag with one or two of each item, fold and fasten the top. Then, before each parade, grab one for each family member and throw in your wagon. When someone needs a snack, they go to their bag (label in sharpie to keep arguments limited). Keep a few empty grocery bags in your wagon for trash.
Bring your HandiWipes. Antibacterial wipes but don’t freak out if your kid drops her king cake and sticks it right back into her mouth after it falls to the ground. Mardi Gras is a good time to build that immune system.
Bring a football, frisbee or soccer ball. You’ll want to get to your spot early, so bring something fun for the family to do for the hour (or four) they will have before the parade appears.
Make friends. When arriving at your spot, choose friendly faces and test out your plot by engaging in conversation early on. You should be able to tell pretty quickly whether or not you and your krewe will be welcome there (and most of the time you will!) We have been fed and entertained by many “neighbors” in our Mardi Gras spots. It’s very likely that in addition to throws, you’ll leave with new friends too.
Sharpie your name and phone number on your child somewhere (we do their forearms). Some of our contributors have purchased waterproof temporary tattoos that achieve a similar result. Teach your children that if they can’t find you, to stay where they are and flag down a mommy with her child or a police officer and show them their arm.
Take traffic, tantrums and potty accidents with a grain of salt. If you wish for and expect flawless outing, you will surely be disappointed. Know you have a plan and if you don’t, wing it. Because sometimes an incident that results in your child wearing nothing but a tutu and a diaper is going to happen – just let it.
Keep at least one or two Mardi Gras bags for each kid handy (and maybe one for you, too). When you get home, have three plastic storage bins ready. One for beads, one for “stuff” and one for cups and food items. As soon as possible, help the kids sort their catches into the bins to empty their bags for the next parade. For night parades, this will likely be the next morning and for day parades, maybe later that night. This will help you avoid tripping over 27 bags full of randomness all Carnival season and will keep you from finding a moon pie molded at the bottom of a bead bag 6 months after a parade…
Once that’s over, start again the next day! Check your calendar for the information you need, grab your boots, your football, collect your snack bags, sharpie phone number on little bodies, grab those PJ’s and your wagon and head out the door. Then repeat!