Carnival….on a budget!
Carnival is not everyone’s cup of tea but it’s still an experience that I suggest everyone with even some curiosity should try at least once.
That being said, carnival is no joke. The cost of the costumes alone can, in some cases, equal the cost of other potentially enjoyable trips you could take elsewhere.
But like with all else, there are levels to this.
For those who either don’t want to throw so much money at something they may not like, or those who are trying to budget to make it to as many carnivals per year as possible, here are some of my tips.
There are few workarounds for this aspect of your trip. Flights in general start reasonably then consistently increase till carnival day. There are fewer deals because the demand for the dates around any carnival is high. The best advice I can give is buy your flight early. The longer you wait the more it will cost. Straight up!
This is where you can save some bucks. Accommodation prices vary wildly depending on your tastes and tolerances. The best you can do is to kotch with friends living within striking distance to most of your fetes. This will save you most of your accommodation and perhaps a lot on food (and maybe transport too). But if you go this route please be considerate and leave some money to help pay the household bills you increased with your presence (electricity, food, gas). Your hosts will appreciate it.
Airbnb is another way to save some funds but it’s important to get local guides to help direct your search. You don’t want to get a place in any unsavoury areas especially as carnival involves leaving out and coming in at unusual hours.
Real estate agents are also useful for helping to find short term rentals, especially for large groups. They can help find apartments and houses catering to carnival clientele and are often cheaper than hotels.
For Trinidad you can also look into smaller “boutique” hotels, for example Savannah Maison and others. These small hotels can offer nice living spaces in convenient locations and at better prices.
Now this bill can be one of your biggest and shrinking it may mean taking some risks. Ways to reduce this bill include going to newer less established fetes that are more reasonably priced. Going to more cooler fetes and less all inclusives. Another option is to goto less fetes, sticking to only the guaranteed hits….one a day.
Now costumes in some carnivals can run you up to 1500usd…a pretty penny indeed. Much money can be saved by easing back from frontlines to backline. It’s easy to have the time of your life even without a giant costume. In fact sometimes that big costume can hold you back, poking random strangers in the eye and discouraging wines. My advice, get that carnival body in gear and make that be your focus.
One factor that will help save on almost all your experience is keeping the trip short and sweet. It’s great to take a week off to fete and play mas but cutting back to just 3 or 4 days to both fete and then play mas will not only save you money but also save vacation days to leave space for other carnival experiences.
Overall you have to keep things within your budget but when it comes to Carnival. There is always fun to be had no matter your budget!