Carnival essentials packing list

Trinidad Carnival 2012: Plenty 5 hour energy...just in case!!!
Trinidad Carnival Diary has a serious packing list on her blog, so I’m not going to get into the minor details. I’m only going to touch on the serious ISH that you shouldn’t forget to pack.  You carnival pros probably already know all this stuff.  This list is more for my newbies that are finally realizing why I love carnival so much and have decided to join the ride.
Sleep is hard to come by at carnival time. You are going to be sleeping at odd times. The rest of the world may not be on the same fete schedule as you. Ear plugs and a sleep mask are life savers, I also carry sleeping pills JUST IN CASE!!! Sometimes the excitement can keep you awake when you know you should be stockpiling energy.

Makeup is a life & time saver. Want a fancy carnival makeup look without having to wake up at 5am for your makeup appointment? Or if you don’t want to worry about your makeup melting in the sun.
If you want to do you own makeup, which I like to do sometimes, these things are a must to prevent "meltation" (that’s probably not a real word)
(1) Primer
(2) Makeup Sealer
(3) Matte Pressed Powder - transparent


Dancing sun up to sun down requires some special attention be paid to your foot wear.  It helps to buy your mas shoes one size larger. But don’t stop there, you need to gut that beeeeotch and pimp it out with some Dr. Scholl’s gel inserts.  For extra, extra comfort get some Pump Pouches aka Toe Cushions. When wearing toe cushions, I find that the shorter length gel inserts are more comfortable in my shoe.  Don’t forget the foot powder.  Dancing in 100 degree heat all day will produce sweat in places you don’t normally sweat.  For the ladies, whether you like to dance in sneakers or boots, grab a can of spray paint from your local hardware store and jazz up your shoes a lil, the color of your costume or maybe glitter gold or silver.  At the end of the winter season, I buy a stack of boots when they go on clearance and just keep em in the closet until the next carnival.  Lighter shades are easier to paint.  You can always glue your leg pieces to the boots when you arrive at carnival (because of course you know to travel with a glue gun, and small sewing kit for minor costume alterations).  Or you can just contact for some custom work.

Costume back up plan
Your costume may or may not fit properly. One year Paco’s mas shorts were like 5 sizes too big so we were at the mall carnival morning trying to find some basketball shorts similar in color. I’ve had to run to Walmart carnival morning trying to get a panty cause my panty didn’t fit properly or bra cause I didn’t want to have a GIRLS GONE WILD moment. Now I travel with a bra and panty or bathing suit similar to my costume color.

Baithing suit tops under my costume and Plan B grey skeleton panties
Bug Spray & Sunblock
The mosquitos in the Caribbean are trained assassins. They laugh at your mediocre bug spray & then they eat you alive. This is the method that worked for me and Paco and saved us from the usual “eaten alive by flying ninja assassins” scenario:
Step (1) Apply an oil or lotion based bug repellant
Step (2) Apply spray bug repellant
Step (3) Apply Sport SunScreen Spray (sport being the key word)
Step (4) Bug repellent bracelets on the wrist and ankle

Seems extreme, I know. Maybe you are one of the lucky people that mosquitos don’t bother. Even if they don’t bother you, don’t skip the sunblock. I have a friend that never learns and always spends the week after carnival peeling and looking like he has leprosy.

(1) Draw string backpack - Your jouvert band may or may not give you a backpack, come prepared.
(2) Zip lock bag for your important ish. Nothing worse than having to run from the water hose cause you have your cell in your pocket.
(3) Baby oil – gone are the days of having blue skin after jouvert , Cover yourself in baby oil and the paint will fall right off. Now I am not a fan of carrying around open containers of baby oil. I feel like they are bombs waiting to explode all over my ish. So I buy the travel size for each jouvert. I don’t open it until I arrive at the jouvert & then I dump it.

In flight liquor
In my previous blog, I talked about buying duty free liquor so that you can drink  up once you arrive at your destination, but you also need liquor for the long flight(s) there.  You are allowed a zip lock bag full of 3oz bottles in your carry on bag.  I like to fill up that bag with my favorite rum for an airport fete.  As soon as I clear security I then buy a bottle of orange juice and get my party started.  Because your essential liquids are probably in your checked bag.
Have a 2ndform of ID and 2nd source of $$$ stored in a separate location from 1st form. My daughter and I went to Miami and I ended up losing my ID & card case on the plane. Lady luck must have been with me that day cause I usually never carry cash, but I just happened to have plenty cash with me that trip and my work ID has to be kept in its own secure badge holder and it just happens to be a government ID so we were straight although I was not able to rent my own car. Now I have a 2nd driver’s license J I dunno about other states, but my state lets you order a driver’s license online for like a $10 fee.  

Test your air mattress
I thought i invested in a quality air mattress (cause you know for carnival we are cram'n into tight spaces).  I opened the box and threw the mattress right in my suitcase without testing it.  Every morning I woke up to find myself sleeping on the ground, air mattress deflated & my back in agony!

Luggage Scale
You know dayym well you are trying to bring back 10 bottle of Hennessy Pure White.  Luggage scales save lives cause you will look a maniac in the airport going through your luggage in front of all the other customers while you try to decide what you can leave behind to make weight for your booze!

Luggage cubes or compression bags
Those are especially awesome when you are trying to cram a bunch of clothes into a carry on bag.  I also find the bags or cubes help to keep things organized, when you are living out of your suitcase for a week things can get messy quickly. 

This may sound like a no brainer, but I know several people that missed trips because of passport issues.  Don’t wait until the day before your flight to look for your passport.  At least give yourself enough time to get a last minute passport if necessary. Once you find your passport, put it in your luggage so you don’t show up at the airport without it. 

Portable charger or backup battery (for phone & camera)

No explanation necessary right? What good is your phone/camera if it’s dead? Generic brand camera backup batteries are cheap and there are cell phone cases that have a back-up battery built in.
This is going to sound crazy, but camo is banned in several Caribbean countries. TRUST ME, I learned the hard way. If you are going to wear camo, DON’T wear it in the airport, wear it to your all inclusive fete where you are unlikely to have a run in with authorities.

Have a Plan C -Because it’s common knowledge that there is absolutely NO BABYSITTING at carnival. These trips are way too expense to spend it looking after anybody but yourself.  I'm going to leave you with a couple Real Life Examples of when shit went wrong.

Someone gets left behind. I handle all the logistics, I book everything, I pick up my peeps from the airport … if sh*t gets real, see ya back here. So Paco disappears for a looooooooooooong time at the fete and we can’t find him, but are beyond ready to go. NO BABYSITTING RULE Paco doesn’t carry his cell cause he will lose it, but he has a room key & taxi money. Come to find out he didn’t even know where we were staying cause I handled everything and he had arrived only a few hours prior to the fete. Lololol many many many hours later & trying multiple hotels he makes his way back.

Trinidad carnival 2011 I wrote about how the Tribe tornado swirled me and my girl in different directions. Now this was fine cause carnival rule #1 NO BABYSITTING. We just link later right? Well I ended up getting lost as sh*t at the end of the day and didn’t have in country contact info for her. So keep in mind that you may get a local # sim card at the aiport, but are your friends using a US phone? Can you dial long distance with that sim #, you may have each others info but still not be able to reach each other etc etc etc . Plan C was to have a meet up point which I ended up making it to 1 ½ hours late.

Friend loses her ID at carnival and spends the rest of the weekend trying to show a blurry camera phone pic of it to the club doormen. You should have a scanned copy of all your important ish saved on a folder in your email inbox.  And if you followed the instructions above, you will have a 2nd ID on you.

I think that covers it. You've read the Carnival-trip-planning blog, so you are officially good to go!!! 

2013 Jouvert after Jouvert after Jouvert

Casear's Army Trinidad - the jouvert of all jouverts
J'ouvert is a large street party during Carnival in the eastern Caribbean region. J'ouvert is a contraction of the French jour ouvert, or dawn/day break. -'ouvert

I said it before and I’ll say it again. I love love love love love love love jouvert!!!  I’ve slowly been able to convince some of my non jouvert loving friends that being DUTTY is the way to be.  The thing I look forward to the most at any carnival is jouvert.  
I love jouvert so much, I do it twice during Trinidad carnival.  CAESAR'S ARMY Ambush Jouvert “the untraditional jouvert” is truly an ambush held in the early AM carnival Saturday and located in The Bush!!! I was having so much fun at AM Bush  that I didnt realize that both Bunji and Superblue were out there on the trucks until I watched my video later. I was too caught up in the madness of the moment. 
Casear's Army Trinidad carnival
Carnival Monday we did Dirty Dozen Jouvert and that was awesome as well. Dancing from 2am-6am in the streets of Port of Spain covered in paint & powder and all liquored up. Could a girl possibly ask for more???  Thinking of trying out Red Antz Jouvert 2014, then again if it aint broke... dont fix it. 

Dirty Dozen Jouvert Trinidad

Jamaica jouvert started off at Pandemonium with one of the best concerts ever. Then the paint & powder came out and my girls were like PEACE IN THE MIDDLE EAST!!!  I didn’t give a *BEEP*  I dwent hard in the paint by my dayyym self. 

Pandemonium Jamaica
Not truly a jouvert, but worthy of an honorable mention is Cooler Fete in Atlanta. I’m going to quote my Atlanta Carnival blog, Carnival kicks off the weekend before Memorial weekend with the Kiddie Carnival and then Cooler fete. All I can say about cooler fete is it was PURE Madness. There were so many casualties and so many “in ah mess” moments. Most of us did something regrettable that night that we shall never again speak of. I’m too embarrassed to even list any examples of what MIGHT have went down. “ Like I said, Cooler Fete isn’t a jouvert, but that didn’t stop us all from bringing power and turning it into the biggest Power Fete ever.  It was beyond fun and I was so glad that I would be able to do it again the following weekend at Atlanta carnival jouvert.
Atlanta Cooler Fete

Atlanta Carnival Jouvert The rest of the ATL girls needed a lil convincing, but they came around.  I told em to bring a rag for their hair, a rag for their face and lots of powder. Realizing they missed an awesome impromptu jouvert the weekend b4 the girls obliged and had the time of their life at Atlanta jouvert.

Atlanta Carnival Jouvert
Toronto Jab Jab jouvert is kinda scary, it’s too many people in too small of a space.  The thing I like about Toronto jouvert is the water trucks, cause I can dance in front of those things for hours. Sadly it was too cold for all of that this year.  Glad to be skipping Toronto carnival next year and heading down to Barbados that weekend instead.  Although  I hear that there are some bands in Barbados Foreday aka Jouvert were you won’t get dirty at all, and it is kinda of on the fancy side with their version of Trinidad’s “Monday wear”  yawn yawn yawn. Bring on the paint, powder, mud, wata… you can keep the oil and chocolate.  Caesar’s Army does an AMBUSH Barbados so I know I will have a mutha frekkin BLAST!!! 
Jab Jab Jouvert Toronto
There was no carnival September, but What Had Happen Was… Caesar’s Army IN:DE:PAINT:DANCE (Independence Day Beach J'ouvert) I really should be ashamed of myself for this, but I’m not.  Facebook showed me that my girl Rocky RSVP’d to the Caesar’s Army jouvert and me being a Caesar’s Army Roman, went straight to my computer to book a flight to Trinidad.  It was sooooooooooo awesome. Jouvert + Beach = My Heaven
Ceasar's Army Independence Day Jouvert
Miami Carnival Jouvert was all just a blur, but when I looked back at the pix I laughed nonstop for hours. Tears coming down my eyes asking myself, “WHAT THE BEEP are we doing?”  Miami carnival jouvert is pretty new and still has a few kinks to work out, but we all had a dayyyym good time and any complaints we might have had we were too drunk and tired to remember them. 
Miami Carnival Jouvert
7 ½ jouverts in one year!  I would call this a pretty successful year.  Next year, I predict we will be throwing our own mini jouvert fetes in the backyard now that my peeps realize how much freekin fun it is.  

Carnival Trip Planning

I always have people ask me about my carnival planning. So Ima break it down for ya. I just happen to be pretty darn good at handling logistics, guess that why I love my 9-5 so much. This is just how I go about plotting and planning my trips. Not saying it’s the best way, but it works for me.

Travel package vs. DIY (do it yourself planning)
I’m not a fan of travel packages. You are paying double the price to have someone handle the logistics for you. I’m cheap, I need that $$$ for RUM!!! But if you are not good at coordinating ish, you like having things handled for you and you got $$$ to spare, by all means this is the easiest route to go.  Pay your $$$ and just show up knowing that everything is in order.  Some of these travel agencies even arrange meals.  I thought we were going to starve to death 1 day at the Trinidad Carlton Savannah, the room service was deeeeeeesgusting. Thank goodness for all inclusive fetes that feed you like a champ. 

When to start planning
Generally you can book hotels and flights 11 months in advance. The earlier you book, the more you shall save. I can only laugh when someone tells me a couple months before a big carnival, “I’m coming to _______ carnival!” Go 'head, baller $$$$, might as well book first class while you're at it.

The laws of supply and demand apply here.  If you are going to a place with limited flight options you are going to want to book as early as possible. The price starts off high and only gets higher as demands gets increases, but the supply decreases. I booked my flight for Trinidad 2014 in early April 2013. I’m late in the game with Barbados 2014 and am watching those flights get HIGH very quickly. Definitely need to book before month end. But if you find yourself buying a flight late in the game, don’t be afraid to fly multiple airlines. ATL to MIA on American, MIA to POS & POS back to MIA on Caribbean Air, MIA to ATL Delta has worked for me before and it’s a couple hundred $$ cheaper than flying American the entire trip. Also don’t be afraid to take an unorthodox flight route to save $$$, flights to the Caribbean seem to be pretty darn cheap outta NY. Or if you are going to Caribana you could fly to Buffalo, NY and then drive the 2 hours to Toronto and save $$$.

If you are going somewhere with multiple airports or somewhere the country or city doesn’t shut down cause its carnival you can set a price alert on a travel site like Kayak ( and they will email you when a flight is available that meets the criteria that you set.

These darn small islands don’t have a lot of lodging options, book early dammit. If you are going somewhere with lots of lodging options you can usually use a discount rate: AAA discount,, Military discount, Gov’t discount, or whatever random discount you find on the internet. Believe me there are plenty of discount rates that can be found if you dedicate the time to search for them. Like corporate rates that are posted online, friends and family rates. I’ve used these b4 and not been asked to provide proof that I am eligible for the rate.

You are going to a carnival that you have never been to, WHAT FETES TO GO???
Websites like the ones below are your friend, of course there are many others. They give reviews from the previous year, provide ticket information and have lots of pix so you can see for yourself.  Does the venue appeal to you? Do the people look like they are having fun? Does it look stush or wotless?  Pictures don’t lie… although they can be slightly deceiving in the hands of an evil villain.

To rent a car or not to rent a car… that is the question?!?!?
I find that island people drive like mutha BEEP’n maniacs. Somehow my daughter convinced me to rent a scooter in the Bahamas and all I can say is God was watching over us that day. If you are a driving pro… go for it!!! I only drive in civilized cities lololol

Playing Mas
Gotta be sure to note when the band launches are. Mess around and miss the launches & registration and you’ll end up in Whatever section of Whatever band you can get in. That was totally me Trinidad Carnival 2011. My girl was trying to get me to register with her in Tribe, but I decided that I would worry about my costume after Miami Carnival 2010. Big mistake, everything was SOLD OUT!!! I stalked http://fineahban.herokuapp.comin hopes of finding a resale costume, but ended up buying a costume from 2 days before carnival. This year I put my Trinidad costume deposit down in July!!! Securing your costume that early is also good because you have plenty of time to pay it off.

TnT 2011, everyone was in Tribe except me
What do I do when I get there?
Well first of all, if you are on an international trip you need to buy some duty free booze before you leave your country (even tho we usually fly at the crack of frekkin dawn) then you need to buy some duty free booze when you arrive at your destination. Nobody has time to be looking for a liquor store, especially if you don’t have a rental car. 

Fresh off the plane, straight to Dufry
Hopefully you did the whole currency exchange thing before you left home.  It’s carnival man, no time to waste standing in line for an hour to exchange $$$. If not, just hit a dayym ATM and pay the international fee.  
You are going to want to get your taxi cab drivers info (if he seems like a cool cat) if not get the info of your next taxi driver.  Finding a taxi after the fete at 5am “E No Easy” as P-Square would say.

Planning multiple carnivals At The Same Dayym Time?
It gets confusing. What flights have I booked, hotel confirmations, what has been handled, what has yet to be handled? Keep a spreadsheet!!! I have a living document, an ever changing Excel spreadsheet in which I track any and every travel expense. It’s ginormous, with endless tabs, but it really keeps me on track. I’ll share one tab from it, but the $$$ have been removed to protect the innocent.

Final Thoughts
If you live in the US, get a hot dayym Global Entry card. Don’t let me see you in the long TSA and/or Customs line looking like a Sucker MC!
For gawd sake, get a portable speaker. If you read back to my old blogs there is one common theme, “random moments in random places turn into instant fetes because of good chunes.”  Music unites the world. Just read my Bose-soundlink-porta-party blog.
I should say something about working out & getting carnival sexy,  but I don’t wanna be a hypocrite.  I haven’t started my annual “Work Out Like a Mad Oooman” the days leading up to carnival. Soon dammit!!!  Gotta build up the energy and stamina to party nonstop for a week straight.

Best wishes on your fete planning

More Trinidad Carnival Monday Wear

2013 I played with Island People Mas and they gave us this white cloth that you were basically supposed to cut, tie, fold or do whatever with and make your own for Carnival Monday.  I’m a pretty creative person, but for the life of me I couldn’t figure out what in the world do with this crazy looking cloth.  When we were on the road I saw the girls were able to work some magic with it, but I was so glad that I brought my own Monday wear. 

2014 carnival Monday Wear I’m thinking K.I.S.S. = Keep It Simple Stupid!!!  Going with FRINGE!!!  Can’t go wrong with gold old faithful FRINGE!!!  I could make another costume, but I don’t feel like it.  I don’t want to have on too many pieces.  Gotta deal with your belt being crooked, your shoulder piece bothering you, your arm & leg pieces falling off, etc. I’ll deal with all of that on Tuesday, for Monday its K.I.S.S. I’m going to just get a plain fringe bikini, wear one of my old carnival boots,  (Gotta recycle dem thangs and get your $$$’s worth) and of course one of my beloved baseball hats!!!
The girl on the left is SO ME!
The Deep V bathing suits are cute, but I don’t need a Girls Gone Wild moment while I’m doing the 6:30 so this Deep V 2/pc Fringe Bikini seemed like a great alternative.  The high waist bikini is super cute although I wouldnt be able to pull it off.

More Monday Wear Ideas: 

2013 - A Year in Carnival Review

Trinidad, Jamaica, Atlanta, Toronto, Miami carnivals in 2013
Several years ago I decided that celebrating carnival once a year is for the birds.  2013 was a good carnival year for me: Trinidad, Jamaica, Atlanta, Toronto and Miami carnivals. I did 5 carnivals  in 2012 too so I didn't break any personal records.  I ended up going home to Panama the week of Houston Caribfest otherwise  I would have hit a personal high of 6 carnivals in one year. 

Rank in order of awesomeness is pretty obvious:

(1)    Trinidad

(2)    Jamaica

(3)    Miami

(4)    Toronto

(5)    Atlanta - but don’t get me wrong Atlanta carnival is very awesome and I always decline offers to travel out of Atlanta during Memorial weekend because I can’t miss carnival. I will even be missing my family reunion next year because it’s during Atlanta carnival weekend and there is much carnival work to be done in Atlanta.
The 2014 carnival forecast is Trinidad, Jamaica, Atlanta, Barbados and Miami.  Pretty sure Ima take my daughter to Panama the week of Houston Caribfest so that’s out again. Then again she’ll be 17yrs old so I guess she could go alone if I prep her to answer the customs questions in Spanish. lol

I find it hilarious that in 2011 I told myself I was doing Trinidad carnival one time and one time only. Here I am prepping for my 4th trip to Trinidad carnival.  For those that ask why one time only… the price tag!!!  I think in 2015 I’ll go to Panama carnival instead (Panama, Trinidad, Dominica and Mardi Gras are always the same timeframe), so I don’t go frekkin crazy when everyone is flyn out and I’m staying home. For those that are thinking, “I wanna go too!!!” HAULT!!! I don’t know what they do in the capital, maybe it’s just like the carnivals you are used to. I am not from the big city, where I’m from it’s not “Bikini Mas” no beads & feathers.  It’s a traditional carnival, probably only enjoyable to those that are from there.  After working so hard on my diablo Halloween costume & doing the background research & watching Youtube videos, I look forward to spending a carnival back home. Plus my car will be paid off early 2015 so I have an excuse to travel more.  Muahahaha

I leave you guys with my long time carnival anthem and I’ll see you guys on de road in Trinidad 111 days!!!
So now when I say “Ready, Ready, Ready, Ready, Ready” you guys can chime in like my homies do and finish the sentence!

Diablo de Portobelo Halloween Costume

My halloween tribute to el diablo de portobelo
Very briefly. The Diablo de Portobelo is the main character in the Festival of Diablos and Congos held in Portobelo, Colón, Panama.

The Congos of Portobelo today are the descendants of the cimarrones—runaway slaves who fiercely fought for their freedom during the Spanish colonial period. Today, the Congos memorialize their ancestors during Congo Carnival in street performances, music, dance, and costumes.   
Diablo de Portobelo
I use to hate hate hate the diablos growing up, they scared me shitless. But like most haters I was just a misguided admirer. My brothers got to make their own diablo masks and I'd be stuck doing girl stuff.  Diablos are a common figure at Caribbean carnivals, every country has their own version... of course I think my country has the best *wink*

The seed to be a diablo was planted when I went home to Colón, Panama this summer.  We were on our way to La Playa (the beach) and I saw the diablo below painted on a wall when we stopped in Portobelo.  The painting brought back childhood memories. While we were there, my cousins also took me to see the Portobelo ruins below and also seen in the video above.

Portobelo ruins

Miss Panama won best national costume in the Miss Universe competition in 2009 with her version of the Diablo de Portobelo. You can't tell me this isn't the dream carnival costume for any girl that had to sit back and watch her brothers make their own diablo costumes.  *Photo also taken at the Portobelo ruins*
Making my basic version of el Diablo de Portobelo was pretty simple.  I went into a store that I would never normally shop in and bought a one piece jumpsuit that I would never normally wear.  Bought red, black & white felt from Michael's crafts to make the eyes, mouth and flames.  I used white pom pom fringe to simulate the bells that the diablos wear on their legs.  I didn't wanna walk around jigglin baby!!!  The diablos wear bells on their legs so that you can hear them coming and run for your mutha BEEP'n life!!!
The tail was made out of braided yarn. I cut triangles and sewed them to the seams of the jumpsuit (btw the jumpsuit is inside out cause the outside was actually grey/black).   Bought a dreaded wig and glued on horns and then add face paint. 
My brother has a smaller diablo mask that I thought about wearing, but alcohol, hot packed club and masks don't mix.  I would like to one day make my own mask, most are made out of
paper mache.  I'm pretty crafty, I think I can do it.

Festival de Los Congos - Portobelo, Colón, Panama
Any who, just wanted to give a quick history lesson on my costume so that those Not In The Know understand that the picture below is NOT what I was aiming for. One has nothing to do with  the other.

*NOTE* Diablo Rojo is the nickname of the beautifully decorated city buses in Panama, which is why you see a bunch of buses in the 1st video.

DIY Purple Rain Prince Costume

Purple Rain Prince Costume

My inspiration

First step, where does one find a cheap purple jacket?  BOOM, thanks Joker costume. 

Next step was to bling it out just a tad.  Prince has silver studs on the shoulder of his jacket. I couldn’t find silver, so I had to go with gold iron ons. 

Next step was to buy a yard of lace, we know Prince LOVES lace. 

I made two arm pieces to give the impression that I had a seriously ruffly shirt on under my jacket.

Next I cut two strips of lace, one wider than the other to tie around my neck to again give the impression that I had on a seriously ruffly shirt. I actually just wore a short sleeved collared shirt under the jacket & popped my collar up.
To complete the look I added some faux leather pants (cause I can’t afford real leather), black heeled boots (Prince would probably laugh at my low heels and out dance me in higher heels). Added a lil cheap wig, a mole, a seriously sexy sideburn and mustache.  Final touch was my daughter’s Guitar Hero guitar so I could ROCK OUT!!!
DIY Prince and Apollonia