The Ultimate Trinidad Carnival Packing List

Thinking about heading to Trinidad Carnival? Here’s a packing list that will make sure you’re ready for any and everything on de road. Because you know what they say…when you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready.

Costume Must-Haves

Carnival Monday and Tuesday are the main attractions. If you’re partaking in the actual events, you’ll join a band that will provide costumes for Carnival Tuesday. Trinidad Carnival Tribe Costume Masquerade

  1. Tights are your friend. You can go with fishnets or regular tights. Fishnets come with a warning: the chains on your costume (or those of your dance partner) might get caught on the tights. Yea, you’ll probably end up with a few holes at the end of the day, but it’ll be worth it.
  2. Comfortable shoes and insoles. You will be doing a lot of walking…a lot! I saw a few women in heels and I still don’t know how they survived. We ordered flat boots to match our costumes. They weren’t the cutest boots in the world, but they did the trick.
  3. Underwear that matches your costume. When you touch down in Trinidad, you’ll pick up your costume. It hasn’t been washed, and to add insult to injury, it has been handled by numerous people…sounds like a uti waiting to happen. With that in mind, pack some undies that are large enough to provide coverage but small enough to fit under the bottoms that come with your costume.
  4. Travel sewing kit. If your group is on top of registering with a band, you might submit your costume measurements up to six months in advance.  So, you hope and pray it’ll fit once you arrive in Trinidad. Pack a sewing kit and a friend who is good at fixing things in case you need to make alterations.
  5. Don’t forget an outfit for free mas. Think of Carnival Monday as the pregame before Tuesday’s big show. Some people wear pieces from Tuesday’s costume. We decided to buy an entirely different outfit. Why? Because we’re clearly extra. IMG-20180212-WA0005.jpg

J’ouvert Gems

To kick off Carnival Monday, be prepared to head to J’ouvert around 3:00 am that morning. When you hear J’ouvert, think paint, mud, water, and anything else that will result in you being messy. IMG-20190223-WA0002.jpg

  1. Baby oil is your friend. Slather some on before you leave so it’ll be easier to clean up later.
  2. Shower cap, bonnet, scarf. Ladies, especially my natural sisters, you already know what’s up!
  3. Trash bag to sit on if you’re hopping in a car post-J’ouvert.
  4. An outfit you don’t care about. You will get dirty and the paint might not come out of your clothes. So bring an outfit and shoes that you won’t mind leaving behind. This includes underwear and a bra that you can part with. Those panties that you’ve been meaning to purge…pack those and wear them to J’ouvert.
  5. A waterproof phone case. I left my phone in the car, but if you must have your phone make sure it’s protected. IMG-20180212-WA0008.jpg

Fete Favorites

Pronounced fets, these are outdoor parties that take place during Carnival week. This is a tricky section because all fetes aren’t created equally. IMG-20180211-WA0004.jpg

  1. Check to see if your fete has a theme, then pack accordingly.
  2. Flats or wedges, leave the stilettos at home.
  3. Swimwear for the poolside fetes.
  4. Cooler fetes are BYOB, so buy a bottle or two once you touchdown at the airport. This might be the only time you’ll need to purchase alcohol. Everything else we attended during Carnival week included alcohol.
  5. Speaking of cooler fetes you’ll need…you guessed it, a cooler. Buy a cheap one while you’re out and about, borrow one from your Airbnb host, or pack an insulated bag that won’t take up much space in your suitcase. IMG-20180211-WA0013.jpg

Basic Essentials

Now for a few basic things you’ll need to survive a week in Trinidad during Carnival season.

Maracas Beach Trinidad Carnival Marissa Teachable Moments

Enjoying some down time at Maracas Beach

  1. Sunblock…that Trinidad sun is no joke.
  2. BC Powder, great for hangovers headaches.
  3. Vitamins – perhaps this is just for the 30+ club.
  4. Emergen-C, Gatorade, pretty much anything with electrolytes.
  5. Hand sanitizer and wipes for bathrooms on de road.
  6. WhatsApp – not sure what your phone situation looks like, but WhatApp was clutch.
  7. Snacks. While most events included food, you might get hungry or need some calories after all the walking.
  8. Cash and credit. Most events during Carnival week include food and alcohol, so the only time you’ll need cash is if you want to buy roti, doubles, or a fresh coconut while you’re out and about. Most places accept major credit cards; before you leave, check your policy on foreign transaction fees.
  9. Passport, otherwise where are you about to go?
  10. Facial wipes, masks, moisturizer. Basically, a consolidated skincare routine to wipe away makeup and rejuvenate your skin after a long day in the sun. IMG-20190223-WA0004.jpg

Did I miss anything? Leave a comment and let me know what you would add to the packing list for Trinidad Carnival.

Happy travels,

~ Marissa

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Trinidad Carnival: 20 Things to Know Before You Go

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Trinidad Carnival is all about masquerade bands, fetes, wining…basically non-stop partying.  I conquered my first Trinidad Carnival this year when I headed to Port of Spain with some friends.  Here are a few tips I wish I’d known as a carnival newbie.

Before You Go

1. Choose your crew wisely.  You’ll want people who are responsive and reliable.  Leading up to Carnival, you’ll be making a lot of time-sensitive decisions about accommodations, costumes, fetes, etc.  So you need to trust the people in your crew to divide and conquer.  Also, keep in mind that during carnival, you’ll be operating on little to no sleep.  So make sure you choose people you like to be around.  Or, people who won’t get offended when if you pop off due to the sleep debt.

2. Secure a spot.  Book your accommodations early.  We booked a spot about nine months before Carnival.  Trust me when I say, Ms. Glenda at The Glen Inn is an amazing host!  Home-cooked meals and colorful stories…you can’t go wrong.

3. Book flights ASAP.  Look up flights the day after Carnival ends.  Seriously, book early.  Don’t be like me.  It was December and I was still looking up tickets for Carnival in February.  I booked two one-ways.  It worked out in the end, but geez those tickets were expensive!

4. Think about transportation.  While Uber is available in Trinidad, we found it was less of a headache to secure transportation before arriving in Trinidad.  Luckily, our B&B host took care of this for us.  It was great to have transportation and a local guide with insider tips.

5. Train early.  When people told me to workout, I thought they meant for aesthetics.  Nope, train for stamina.  You’ll be walking miles and miles, in heat, with a heavy costume.  So boost your stamina and be prepared to sweat.

6. Step up your Soca skills.  Get familiar with the music.  Very familiar, because you’ll hear the 10 most popular songs over and over.  Download a Soca playlist and workout to that.  Two birds, one stone.

7. Be ready when bands launch.  Choosing the right masquerade band is key.  Join bands’ mailing lists, take a look at costumes in advance, and be ready.  Want to save some coins?  Join the backline.  Our costume cost about $800 USD.  For that reason, I will wear this for Halloween, local carnivals, to play dress up, and anything else I can think of.

8. Get your fetes in order.  The number of fetes to choose from can be overwhelming.  There are themed fetes, all-inclusive fetes, cooler fetes.  If you’re a newbie, get suggestions from friends who have conquered Carnival before you.  Get tickets early because some fetes will sell out.  Somehow, we managed to get tickets to Dj Private Ryan’s Soca Brainwash.  We were told that was a must-do, and it did not disappoint.  Fetes can range anywhere from $50-$300 USD…per fete.

9. Pay as you go.  Between flights, accommodations, costumes, and fetes…costs can add up quickly!  If you pay as you go, you won’t notice how much you’re spending.  Depending on the person, that can be a good or a bad thing.  For me, it was great.  I’d guesstimate that I spent about $2,000…and that was with me using points to cover a portion of my travel.  There are definitely ways to cut costs, and if I ever return to Trinidad Carnival, I will do just that.  For example, you can party on the sidelines without joining a band.  For any future carnivals, I will definitely consider it a spectator sport.

Trinidad Carnival

Soca Brainwash – The Wonderland

The Look

10. The details are in the costume.  Sequins, feathers, chains…for such tiny costumes, there is definitely a lot going on.  Ladies, consider ordering the bra a band size up.  You don’t have time to break it in or stretch it out, and with the handmade stitching, the bras are a bit snug.  Also, bring undies that match your costume to wear underneath the bottoms.  Finally, leave space in your suitcase for your costume.  I didn’t think about that before I left the states, but I managed to get my costume back home…thanks to my roommate who took pieces of my costume and the fact that I wore my feathers on the plane.

11. Tights are your friend.  You can get tights that blend in, or tights that stand out.  We went with fishnets, which were cute but come with a few warnings.  Be prepared to get caught on someone as you’re wining.  Or, if your costume has a lot of chains, you might pull at your fishnets.  By the end of the day, you might have a few holes, but it’ll be worth it.  Check out Carnivalista for tights in various styles and shades.

12. Pick the right shoes.  You’ll be doing a lot of walking so wear some comfortable, durable shoes.  I saw a few people in heels and I’m still not sure how they did it.

13. Book a makeup artist.  Initially, I was against this idea because it felt like an added expense and a loss of sleep for something that was just gonna sweat off.  I’m happy I got outvoted on this one.  Surprisingly, our makeup lasted and it looked amazing!

14. Get comfortable with your body.  You’ll be showing a lot of skin…a lot!  But guess what?  Nobody cares how you look.  People will be too busy having fun and soaking up the Soca vibes.  So get comfortable so you’re not hindering your own fun.

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On De Road

15. Stay hydrated.  Seriously!  Heat plus alcohol, not a good mix.  So throw some water in the mix and keep it moving.  Don’t want to chug water?  Use coconut water as a mixer.

16. Establish a lost and found spot.  We didn’t pick up on this one early enough.  Nothing like looking around and realizing you’ve “lost” someone from your crew.  The drink trucks usually have numbers, so pick a number and designate that as the spot when someone gets lost, walks off, or gets caught up wining.

17. Sleep when you can.  Not on de road, but try to squeeze in some sleep here and there.  You’ll be going non-stop.  Party from noon to 8, nap, out at 11 for the next fete that ends at 6 am.  Rinse and repeat.

18. Be prepared to get dirty.  This is a rule to remember especially if you partake in J’ouvert.  Paint, mud, water, anything goes.  Ladies, pack a shower cap, bonnet, plastic bag…pick your poison.

19. Eat some Trinidadian treats.  Ask the locals for the best spots for some good roti and doubles.  On a slow day, you can also head to Maracas Beach for some bake and shark.

Trinidad Carnival Roti Port of Spain Tobago Marissa Teachable moments
I’d go back to Trinidad just for the roti from Don’s…it was that good!

Carnival Relief

20. Take a vacation from your vacation.  After a week of nonstop partying, I was beyond tired.  Wine Down Wednesday in Tobago is a popular recovery option.  We didn’t make plans for that.  Instead, I ended up booking a quick trip to Barbados — mainly because it was cheaper than buying a return flight to the states.  Visit Tobago, fly to a different island, or stay local and head to Maracas Beach…whatever you do, make sure you relax before you return to the real world.

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Enjoying some down time at Maracas Beach.

I hope you enjoyed my tips for Trinidad Carnival.  Once you get over the costs, it’s not too bad.  The issue is getting over the costs.  Would I do it again?  Yes and no.  I’d go back for Carnival, but I plan to wine on the sideline.

If you’re going to Trinidad Carnival, check out my packing list.

Happy Travels,

Marissa

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Makeup courtesy of More Than Makeup TT.