Tuesday, November 19, 2013

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.

Flights
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 (www.kayak.com/alerts) and they will email you when a flight is available that meets the criteria that you set.

Lodging
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, www.hiltonfamilymvp.com, 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.
www.lehwego.com
www.trinidadcarnivaldiary.com
www.trinijunglejuice.com
www.islandmix.com
www.youtube.com

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 www.paparazzicarnival.com 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

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