Mardi Gras has to be seen to be believed. A monstrous party of epic proportions, encapsulating every color, sound and drink that you could ever imagine, all on the magnificent streets of New Orleans. A feast for the eyes, ears, and stomach, Mardi Gras is at the top of every party-loving BUCKiTDREAMERs’ planner. Taking in everything that Fat Tuesday has to offer can be a daunting task for a first-timer, so here are some tips and tricks to help you smash this unforgettable party.

Be Practical with Your Costume and Makeup At Mardi Gras, it’s important to have a costume with the right balance between standing out from the crowd and being comfortable. Sure, huge, elaborate costumes and makeup may seem like the obvious option for grabbing the attention of the krewes, but once you enter your 10th hour of being covered with layer after layer of cloth and makeup, you’ll wish you went for something more practical.

Avoid the cracked discomfort of excessive makeup, and instead, opt for a mask — one that you won’t mind losing or breaking! If you do want to go the makeup route, save yourself some hassle and have a professional do it. NOLA makeup salons have been known to charge an arm and a leg for Mardi Gras makeup, so instead of forking out up to $150 for your look, go for one of the many ultra talented freelance local makeup artists, such as Makeup by Charla. You’ll get the same high concept look for a fraction of the price, and it’ll be done in the comfort of your hotel room.

For your costume, you can try the DIY approach in any of the cities teeming thrift stores such as the Red, White, and Blue Thrift Store, or you can go all out and buy or rent a premade costume in the Technicolor dreamland that is the Southern Costume Company. Top your look off with a wig from Fifi Mahony’s, and you’re sure you turn some heads in the French Quarter!

Choose Which Parades You Attend Wisely Make sure you choose which parades you go to carefully. Although some of the smaller ones can be unique and fun in their own way, it’s the bigger, flashier ones that draw the raucous crowds and have the best party atmosphere. Krewe parades not to be missed include Krewe du Vieux, Muses, Endymion, Bacchus, Zulu, and Rex.

Hit Up These Hotspots Great bars are a dime a dozen in New Orleans so you won’t be stuck for a sweet place to party during Mardi Gras. If you’re looking to find the liveliest hotspots, hit up bars such as the Old Absinthe House, Tropical Isle, Funky 544, Saints, and Sinners, or any bar on our list of the 8 Best Bars in New Orleans.

Bars are beyond packed during the Mardi Gras festivities, so it’s good to have a few tricks up your sleeve for getting served by the overworked, overtired bartenders. Having your cash or credit card ready for service is a big green light for bartenders to approach you first. Always know what you want, and order it promptly to make an ally behind the bar. And never ever shout or scream at a bartender. This is a sure-fire way to get yourself blacklisted all night.

Keep Your Shirt On Although Mardi Gras is world-famous for being a flashers Haven, the New Orleans Police Department have other thoughts. Partiers caught exchanging strip shows for trinkets will find themselves cuffed by NOLAs finest and will be doomed to spend the rest of Fat Tuesday staring at the bars of a police cell. If the naturist in you absolutely must come out, stick to the French Quarter, where rules are a little laxer and you (hopefully!) won’t land yourself in trouble with the law.

Grab as Many Trinkets as You Can Trinkets aren’t the only thing thrown during the Mardi Gras festivities. Other treasures such as doubloon are also gifted out by the energetic krewes. To claim a doubloon as your own, step on it quickly when it lands, then pick it up to avoid any hand injuries.

Pay to Use the Bathroom Ever heard the song “There Ain’t No Place to Pee on Mardi Gras Day”? Well, the singer ain’t lying! Restrooms are few and far between during the festival, and when you do find them they’re either private, packed or positively unusable. Sure, there are porta-potties available, but the queues to use them would be enough to have you considering adult diapers instead. To avoid a headache that comes with answering nature’s call, opt to use the private pay for the day restrooms (often in churches) that operate during Mardi Gras. These usually cost around $5 — and trust us, it’ll be the best money you’ve ever spent.

Eat Until Your Heart’s Content Mardi Gras just wouldn’t be the same without stuffing your face with all the magnificent Creole cuisine that New Orleans has to offer. NOLA must-tastes include Café du Monde for beignets, La Boulangerie for king cake, Acme Oyster House for charbroiled oysters and Willie Mae’s Scotch House for the best damn fried chicken you’ll ever taste.

Make Plans to Stay Safe As with all other major party events, it’s important that you and your crew stay safe. To avoid getting in any trouble, follow some common sense rules: Don’t bring any valuables.  Keep your phone in a zipped pocket. Only bring as much cash as you’ll need out with you. This last rule also works to save you from yourself when ordering the 10th round of shots for everyone!

The second you get to NOLA, you and your crew should also set up a contingency plan should one of you get lost (this is more or less guaranteed in the pandemonium). Decide on a building — not a street — and have that be your meeting point for when you get separated.

If you can manage to do so through the mind-melting hangover you’re sure to suffer from, make sure you upload all the evidence from your Mardi Gras mayhem to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and don’t forget to hashtag #BUCKiTDREAM.