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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Trinidad Carnival: How To Vacation/Play Mas On A VERY Tight Budget

So you REALLY want to do Trinidad Carnival but you're feeling like you can't afford it... what is someone on a REAL budget to do?

1. Cut the length of your stay - most hotels and guesthouses have a flat rate in effect for the Friday to Ash Wednesday period of carnival...arrive and leave within those dates.

Trinidad Hotel
2. Cut out the hotel - stay at a guesthouse instead and realize that unless you have a couple THOUSAND dollars USD for a hotel for Friday to Wednesday, you cannot afford the high luxury you are expecting out of a room you will be in only to nap periodically and change between events!  If you have time to watch the cable you are asking if the room has, surf the Internet (unless, like me, you have an actual job of disseminating what's going on on the ground as fast as you can get the word out there), order room service, lounge by the pool, sleep longer than a power nap any night before Ash Wednesday night, or any of that other foolishness, YOU ARE DOING CARNIVAL ALL WRONG! You need a clean room, a clean bed, and a clean bathroom with running water...that is IT.  And Trinidad is not a tourist country it lives off oil so tourist service and customer service is virtually non-existent on a business-to-consumer level (on a person to person level people are helpful if they take a liking to you, and carnival time everybody wants everybody else to have a GOOD time).

Everything near the Savannah (ground zero of the parade) is overpriced to the third power the Friday to Wednesday of carnival...yet will be sold OUT regardless by the end of July (some places are already fully sold out as of this writing end of JUNE) except for rooms that have no private bath.  Guys (and the strong girls) who don't care about private bath and travel light can REALLY save money on their housing by staying in a room that has a shared hallway bath, college dorm style). Normally the ones who didn't listen to #10 end up in this room.  And don't feel too bad about it, this year I saw a TRINI family of 3 or 4 ladies visiting from abroad and wanting to be near the action instead of outside of Port of Spain with their family...they rented a shared room with no private bath, the same room I rented the first year...and they were JUST fine, still having a ball!

If you need help planning your trip and obtaining the more affordable version of everything, Eloquence, Inc. (aka, me, the author of this blog) can organize your entire trip from start to finish.  Of course time is money and my time is no different, but the fee is nominal and flat rate and is excellent value for the money and for the headache saved.
Trinidad Guesthouse
3. Cut VIP and ALL-INCLUSIVE out of your vocabulary - REAL VIPs are invited into VIP (for free!) if you have to PAY to be in VIP you are not, in fact, a Very Important Person!  All-inclusive fetes in Trinidad are easily $120 USD and up, and if you are not a big drinker (of alcohol!) this may not actually work out better than heading to a non--all-inclusive and simply buying only the drinks you need and while you will need food to recharge doing hours and hours of don't need to have a constantly full belly the entire fete long to accomplish this.  Plenty fetes have a regular/general admittance area and are in the SAME fete, having fun SAME way...relax and stick to what you can afford!  Now if you start to argue what's wrong with all-inclusive...nothing...remember the title and focus of this blog post. :)  If I have the money for a fete or decide I will GET the money for a fete I'll do it and be done with it.  If I know my budget is extra tight I'll find the fetes that fit inside it.

That's USD mind you.

4. Cut out the Tobago trip - Just cause you see everyone online talking about how it's a MUST doesn't mean you actually MUST do it.  It's amazing yes, it's utterly relaxing yes, but if it's not in your budget there is nothing relaxing about spending money you don't have on it when you could lime on the avenue or out and about with newfound friends or lime on the beach for free.  Or at the very least, take the ferry to Tobago instead of the plane, and make it a day trip, which means after the whirlwind of J'ouvert, Monday Mas, and Tuesday Mas, you have to shower and pack for the day trip and head straight to the ferry, where you can then nap on the way over...and back on the 10 or 11pm late ferry. Rough schedule, but if you're determined to nap on a beach in Tobago and tight on money, this would be the way to do it...I once landed off my international flight 11pm at night and dropped the bags, showered, and headed straight to the docks for my wasn't Ash Wednesday though, cause that was sold out by time I tried to book, and I was in TNT for 9 days, not barely 5. There just was a very full itinerary every other day (for me and the Port Authority) and I was just then learning that ferry bookings can't wait until a couple months before carnival...

5. Cut out the brand name obsession - with the large instantly-sold-out costume masquerade (mas) bands, that is.  TRIBE, Bliss, YUMA, 2012 these were the hardest bands to get into, and the most expensive.  Right up there in the expense bracket are K2K, Harts, and Islandpeople.  But did you know there are over 30 bands that are on the roads of Port of Spain carnival Monday and Tuesday EVERY year?  And that every year masqueraders in nearly EVERY band have a wicked time and post on the band's wall, group, page what a great time they had?  And that ALSO every year some people in nearly EVERY band (from TRIBE right on down the size line) have logistics nightmares with costume collection, costume quality, and service of promised items on the road, among other things?  Just for example all pictures in this section will be of costumes in a similar colour scheme from vastly different bands, showing you there are hot options in virtually every band on the road!  There are bands that have costumes less than $300 USD, and bands that have costumes over 1,000 USD (and less) is your CHOICE who you play with!
Photo courtesy of Miss Jamaica Universe 2010 Yendi Phillips, who is seen here
playing mas in large band TRIBE's 2012 section Cyprus - frontline
Also keep in mind if you are a newbie, you have no concept of the sheer mass of people on the road with you in very HOT sun in your band alone, never mind all the ones ahead of you and behind you.  If you are a first timer you may actually be better off playing mas (getting in costume) with a medium or SMALL band first and getting your feet wet then deciding if you can handle more.  TRIBE is about 3,000 masqueraders strong...picture how full a typical club is, and that's only a few hundred people, maybe 500, 600 at the most...a club packed to capacity is the size of a small or medium band in Trinidad Carnival.  TRIPLE that picture in your head and you have a large band... don't bite off more than you can chew following the crowd, especially a big EXPENSIVE bite...the above bands launch in July and August but plenty other bands are out there, some launching August as well.  Medium bands like D'Krewe, Ronnie & Caro, Trini Revellers...small bands like Roam Mas, Oasis, Explosion...and other large bands that launch later if you need time to get your money right and can handle the size, like Legacy, who tends to launch in October.  And new bands pop up all the time...Paparazzi is new for Trinidad Carnival 2013, and who knows who else will be on the horizon before the launches are over.

Medium band D'Krewe Carnival's 2012 section Panache - Individual
 All these bands tend to have 12 to 13 sections (costumes) to choose from, not including special me, you can completely miss the whole big band July/August rush and still have a great, beautiful, affordable costume.  That extra hype girl you see on a forum online showing off her TRIBE Individual costume purchase (most expensive type as only one is made and it's the most elegant and most intricate of all, usually)...she may not have kids to feed but you do, she may be a relative of the designer of the costume and you're not...don't watch them watch your pocket.  I promise you will be on the SAME road in the SAME sun hearing the SAME trucks (talent of dj's vary, but not a $500 USD costume price variance if you don't have it, just a side note) and JUST as excited in a $500 USD costume in Roam Mas or Oasis as in a $1,000 USD costume in TRIBE...  and please notice those are noted in United States Dollars...not a typo.  Hence the budget blog post you're reading right in time for the first launches of the 2013 season.

Photo courtesy small band Roam Mas
One of their Trinidad Carnival 2012 sections: Victor Victoria

Also, if you are an extremely large-breasted, or plus-sized, or any other type of woman that may not be able to prettily fit into a standard A-DD cup 2 piece bikini...some of these large popular bands due to the size of their bands and their aesthetic preferences are limiting customizations (one-pieces, monokinis, corsets, tankinis, bustiers, etc.)...more and more they are starting to say what you see is what you get, or if you want a corset (for example) only certain sections will have that as an if you want a monokini, you will either have to buy a costume that already comes made that way as the main design (usually a frontline $$$$$), or simply go in a band that has it as an option.  ALSO some bands charge extra for these options and require that you also purchase the item yourself and mail it in by an early stated deadline to have them decorate you may pay $100 TTD extra on the costume price for the corset option, then have to buy the corset in the colour they specify for your section, and mail it to Trinidad to have them decorate it.  The larger it is, the less decorations tend to come on it. 

Medium band D'Krewe's 2012 section Bombshell - monokini version with backpack
(colourful piece attached to upper body behind her)

D'Krewe as far as I know is the only band that will provide the extra piece styles (like corsets and bustiers) for you, no purchase-and-mail-it-in necessary.  These types of considerations for plus-sized women or extremely large-breasted women or women with issue areas they want covered (car accident scar perhaps) are to be considered when chasing a band...better to have a costume that looks GREAT on you (without you needing to be in Miss Universe shape) than just a brand name costume and you're the worst looking person in the band.

Medium band D'Krewe's 2012 section Bombshell - another monokini version with frontline headpiece

The larger the band is, the harder it is for them to handle a whole bunch of customizations.  Harts being the only notable exception: they are large, popular, and have every imaginable style of costume available year after year. 

Large band YUMA 2012 section Angry Birds - frontline
corset may have been available for this section but nothing else,
if I remember right

So bottom line of budget tip #5 is beware of chasing down a band that can't accommodate you financially NOR deserve to look GREAT out there, there IS a costume for every type and size, just not in EVERY band.  And it is a hassle to end up doing a resale because you find out too late that after struggling to make the down payment, that is all you can afford...PLENTY of people who get in turn right back around and sell their costumes for various reasons, including that they can't afford to pay it off!  Be wise and be done with the costume decision the first time around so you can move on to the other fun parts of carnival prep.

Medium band D'Krewe's 2012 section Panache - makeup - she did it herself!
FUN stuff!
6. Cut out excess fetes - that's right while it's a badge of honour to say you have a fete planned and tickets in hand for every waking moment of the entire carnival's not NECESSARY to do that to enjoy yourself, and if you did #1 on this list you will still be very busy anyway because there is still housekeeping stuff to fit in like actual collection of your costume (always an event in itself) and collection of j'ouvert packages...and somewhere in there you do need to grab a bite to food is not fast in Trinidad.  You can go to a single good long fete like Insomnia and then J'ouvert and feel like you partied all day everyday, especially if you have never been there before.  If you arrive Friday night you can be gangster like me and drop the bags, shower, and head straight out to your first fete, TeamNoSleep...but you don't HAVE to.  There are cultural/traditional aspects to Trinidad Carnival that are just as enchanting and amazing as the fetes and "pretty" mas on Tuesday, that can make up part of your itinerary, and one huge fete plus J'ouvert if you followed number one can be all a newbie or even a veteran honest with their budget needs.

 7. Cut out the new clothes or learn to shop clearance only - recycle something or mix and match combinations into whole new outfits.  If not, shop clearance racks or thrift or consignment stores.  This goes for shoes as well!  If you followed #1 and #6 on this list you shouldn't have that much temptation to spend anyway.

8. Cut out the usual excess spending at home - you want this vacation, MAKE it happen.  Make some sacrifices.  It's different from the average club night with the same boring faces, at the same boring places.  It's a different culture, a different country, different people, different vibe, different not let your wish go to waste because you wanted to both do carnival and go to parties, clubs, concerts, and Vegas in the 6 months before carnival.  You might just afford that frontline costume or that all-inclusive fete instead if you put the alcohol and club money into your carnival savings.

9. Cut out the disorganization - this is not like jumping up and deciding to take a road trip to the coast...either religiously put a fixed amount of money in a carnival savings account and make one major purchase or deposit each month for the 10 months before carnival, or get someone more organized and detail-oriented than you to handle your trip plans for you (like me).

10. Cut out the procrastination - on requesting your vacation time off (airfare $700, housing $1,000, being denied vacation by the boss one month before carnival when you had the airfare and housing booked one year in advance, PRICELESS), on your housing deposit, on your gym training (would be sad to get there and get a hot costume or into a super-sized fete and PASS OUT in the middle of carnival because you thought you were too cute to build your strength - WEIGHTS, ladies! - and stamina - CARDIO, and plenty of it! - for the road...and yes this happens!)...cut out the procrastinating FRIENDS/FAMILY if necessary and do carnival on your own! Long as you stick to the well-known events, well-populated areas, and play mas so you have the band's security and the camaraderie of your band-mates to keep your company, you will be FINE on your own, especially if you get on your mas band's page months in advance and use social networking for what it was designed networking!...and will even likely be freer to make new carnival friends and have more fun!  I cannot tell you how many people have sat out and missed their planned vacation because friends, family, whoever procrastinated and could not be found when it was time to put their money where their mouth was!  Plus, early bird gets the worm, cheaper rates, cheaper rooms.  The Caribbean runs on island time but Trinidad Carnival travel planning runs on a schedule light years in advance.

The men have seen plenty pictures of what they see if they come, with or without their boys...ladies are you nervously wondering who you'll have fun with on the road and in the fetes if you stop slowing your vacation roll for slacker friends & fam and just DO it, just come by yourself?

D'Krewe 2012 section - Euphoria

D'Krewe 2012

D'Krewe 2012 section - Punk Rock

Roam Mas
Tribe 2011 section - Mayan Eagle (Individual)

Harts 2012 section - Nike (female) & Zelos (male)

D'Krewe 2012 section - Punk Rock

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Trinidad Carnival 2012: Last Look - Costumes Superpost

Migrating this post here to make room for Trinidad Carnival 2013 launch dates and costumes under the standing link to next year's Trinidad Carnival costumes at the top of the page...can you BELIEVE it's been about a year already since the bands rolled out their offerings for the carnival season?

Will also be taking time between now and TRIBE's 2013 band launch to get up on YouTube the many videos from the 2012 fetes and mas that I have been promising and not delivering!  (But you notice it's been a month since my last real blog post so bear with me, computer issues abounded but NO MORE...wi ready!)

Mas band launch dates in chronological order: CLICK HERE.



D'Krewe Carnival, theme PANACHE, launched June 18


Spice Carnival, theme THE NEW WORLD, launched July 9

TRIBE Carnival, theme TAKE ME TO..., launched July 23

Oasis Carnival, theme NIPPON, launched August 5, 2011

Fantasy Carnival, theme BOOK OF ANGELS, launched August 6, 2011
Photo courtesy TrinidadCarnivalDiary
DreamTeam Carnival, theme UNTAMED, launched August 6, 2011

IslandPeople Mas, theme HEROES, launched August 12, 2011

Islandpeople Mas, theme HEROES, re-launch around Tuesday, August 30
(new costumes, old link no longer applies for registration options!)

YUMA Vibe, theme PRESS PLAY, launched Saturday, August 13

Ronnie & Caro, theme THE MASK OF, launched Thursday, August 18

Explosion Carnival, theme WORLD ON FIRE, launched Sunday, August 28

Legacy Carnival, theme FLIGHT, launched, September

Pulse 8, theme THE FRONTIER, launched Friday, October 28

Roam the Mas Band

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