How to attend Trinidad Carnival on a budget

Dear AngelaPanama,
How can I do Trinidad carnival for the low low? 

For those that don't like to read, I recap'd the info below in a vlog

The average masquerader spends about $3k-$4k on Trinidad carnival, it really depends on their lodging and costume situation.  So when I say low low, I’m talking around $2K, it can be done but will take a some work on your part.   
Lodging is what is going to break the bank, you want to secure lodging before you spend money on anything else carnival related.   Major hotels are about $300-500/night, multiply that by 7 nights and you get OUCH!!!  I’m not kidding  $300-500/night X 7 = OUCH!!! 

You can secure low cost lodging, but you need to be ready to pay 100% of your lodging a year in advance. There are many bed & breakfasts near Ariapita Avenue aka The Ave, where you can get a room for under $200/night.  The Ave is the hub of the nightlife and central to the parade route.  There is nothing awesome’r than being able to walk to your hotel on the afternoon of carnival Monday or Tuesday and take a quick powernap.  Chip’n sun up to sun down E No Easy!!!  

For those that prefer the amenities of a major hotel, there are several:  Hyatt, Hilton, Radisson, & Courtyard Marriot. Here is how you stay there on a budget. 

In my Nov trip to the Florida keys I spoke briefly about travel hacking.  For those that didn’t read it Travel hacking is the art and science of free and discounted travel.  I earn airline miles and hotel stays when I’m not traveling.  I have a “Love em and Leave em” method when it comes to credit cards.  I get the bonus offer and then I move on to the next card.  Some say that this method of travel hacking is unethical, I say otherwise.  The credit card companies lure people in with those bonus offers and many of stay because they are either loyal or just lazy.  Travel hackers capitalize on the bonus offers, and then move on.  The credit card companies are using us and we are using them, it’s the American Way! 

That being said if you sign up for the credit card of these major hotels most will automatically gift you 2 free nights after you spend a certain amount of money within the first 3 months.  As I said in my last blog, Spending $3k in 3 months is easy if you charge every single thing you can to the card (household utilities, grocery shopping, insurance, vehicle fuel, dining out, boozing, etc.).  They key is to only charge what you would normally spend and pay the card off in full, not acquire debt in the quest to get points.  If you live this lifestyle for a good year, I imagine you will have accumulated several free nights.  Throughout the year you also have the opportunity to purchase discounted points from these hotel chains. 

Wait for a Hilton 2 for 1 sale,  you can get 3 nights at the Hilton Trinidad for $800 (normally $500/nite

You need to be ready to buy your flight when 10-11 months in advance, that’s when they are the cheapest.  The dirt cheap flights (Caribbean Air and JetBlue) fly out of MIA/FLL and New York.  If you are not lucky enough to be located in those places you may have to take the train, megabus, or a budget airline there.  Travel hacking can also be used if you want to acquire an airline credit card although it is more beneficial to hack towards lodging in this case. 
Enough points to fly FREE

What you are going to want to do is not do too many All Inclusive fetes.  You are going to want to do food inclusive fetes or Cooler Fetes. Cooler fetes is where you bring your own cooler and booze.  All inclusive fetes range from $100-$200, whereas cooler fetes range from $30-$60. I have an inflatable cooler (can be found on Amazon & eBay) that I bring on vacation for occasions such as these.  You also may just want to lime on di Ave a few nights.  Remember earlier we discussed the Ave being the hub of the nightlife.  Pay a small cover to get into a club or enjoy one of the may spots that charge no cover.

Lime'n on de Ave
Mas Band: 
The large bands are gonna cost you between $650-850 for backline, frontline being $1k+. My suggestion for those on a budget is to join a medium band.  The bands can be found the page of the National Carnival BandsAssociationAlthough listed in the Large Bands, Paparazzi is an affordable band I played with in 2011 & 2012 and enjoyed.  Wee International is another affordable band that comes with good recommendations.

Jouvert Band: 
As Kerwin and Farmer Nappy said, “we don’t want come in yuh band, we chippin on di pavement”  Maybe instead of paying $100 to join a jouvert band you instead bring your own booze and just chip alongside your favorite band.  We all know that a couple hours into jouvert the stormers are all in UP the band.  

Jouvert morning
Stay far far away from taxis, especially the ones parked in front of the major hotels.  They are convenient but pricey.  There are many transportation services that you can hire for the entire length of your stay.  Of course this needs to be done in advance of your arrival and will require a little Google’n on your part. 

 *UPDATE* Trinidad has several RideShare options such as TT RideShare and DropTT

This is not an exact science, only a guestimate:
Budget flight $400 or free if you get an airline credit card
Budget lodging $200/night divided by 3 or 4 people $400
Medium Band: $400
Transportation:  $200
Fetes: $400
Total: Under $2K

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