Are you back for MORE mas, MORE fetes, and MORE bacchanal?
Well so are we!!!
It’s been 3 years since our last Carnival, and the tabanca is real!
If you haven’t yet read ”Everything You Need To Know About Trinidad & Tobago Carnival (pt.I)” head over now to find my comprehensive guide to your first Carnival experience! I’m answering all your questions and including insider tips, packing lists, schedules, and all the do’s and don’ts for before, during, and after Carnival. You name it – I’ve made almost ALL the mistakes during my first few carnivals (so you don’t have to!) and I’ve documented everything to help prepare and put your mind at ease. All you have to do now is show up and enjoy one of the most fun experiences of your life!!!
Not much else can compare to your first carnival experience – the explosion of senses, the new sights, the soca sounds, the happy people, and the overwhelming sense of joy – it is MAGICAL! I’m here to tell you the exciting build up of planning your second carnival is just as phenomenal, because now you know what to expect, and the anticipation is thrilling!
In this second guide to Carnival in Trinidad, I’m updating everything I learned about:
1. Monday Wear
2. Carnival Preparations
3. Make-Up Tips
5. Answering all your FAQ’s
Now that you’ve booked your flights + hotel, registered with the band you want to play with, determined the type of costume you want to wear, and have your list of what you need to be prepared for the road (click here if you’re still not sure about any of these yet) you can now decide which types of fêtes you want to experience before carnival, buy your tickets, and plan your Monday Wear costume.
The possibilities are endless, and you can create a different carnival experience every year.
We played with Tribe in the Flaunter’s section designed by Ruana Evans for both Carnival 2019 and Carnival 2020. The biggest and most defining changes we improved from year to year were: we designed custom costumes for our Monday Wear, we practiced and created coordinating make-up looks for our Monday and Tuesday costumes, and we booked fête tickets far in advance!
Here’s what you need to know: you can wear anything! I saw everything from swimsuits, to last year’s costumes, to shorts + crop tops, all paired with sneakers or boots.
Since we weren’t prepared the previous year, for Carnival 2020 we decided to commission Bahamian designer Anthony Knowles to create coordinating bejeweled Monday Wear costumes for us in fuchsia. We each noted our preferences and customized our own look, and then accessorized with matching glitter tights, headpieces, and boots. We LOVED it!! We also created a fuchsia smokey eye make-up look that we all loved and wore together.
Next year, we plan on creating an outfit that includes a coordinating hat, for much needed shade! *Note* be sure your Monday Wear does not give you weird tan lines for Tuesday’s costume!
Our boots are the Stuart Weitzman “Lowland” in suede and our tights are from Carnivalista.
*If you wear over-the-knee boots, I recommend wearing knee high socks in a breathable material to keep your legs cool and to prevent the boots from sliding down below your knee*
*Check this post later! We have not yet currently decided on our Monday Wear yet, but as soon as we do, I’ll share our idea and link similar options*
Carnival Beauty/Make-Up Tips
Prepare, Pack, and Practice!
Waxing: Skip shaving, waxing is a must. Book your appointment in advance to ensure you are able to get the appointment on the day before you travel – to maximize the longevity. If you’re getting a super jump start on preparations, perhaps try an appointment earlier in the year to test out different spa technicians and see how long the effects of waxing lasts.
Self-Tanner: It’s almost impossible to arrive at carnival without some form of tan line or uneven coloring. I used *this brand* to even out my coverage. I liked that it had buildable coverage, matched my skin tone (not too orange), and didn’t wash off easily or unevenly. Next year I would love to add a body bronzer for Carnival Monday and Tuesday, I’ve ordered *this one* to try. I recommend testing out a self-tanner + body bronzer + sunscreen before you head to carnival. Try the combo all together with a swimsuit and ensure it can endure a few days of sun, sweat, and dancing without staining, washing away, or fading.
Accessories: Depending on your headpiece and how you style your hair – you may want to find coordinating earrings to accessories your Carnival Tuesday costume. I like to shop on Amazon and Etsy for large, affordable earrings, and sometimes the designer on Etsy will create a custom pair of earrings for you that matches the stones in your costume! (Reminder: don’t travel to or play in Carnival with any valuable jewelry. Any accessories should be costume jewelry or something you wouldn’t mind breaking/losing during the day.)
Make-Up: Most of your Carnival wake-up calls (if you even go to sleep) are going to be around 4am. Until I’ve had a cup or two of coffee, I am not feeling very creative, functional, or prepared – especially on limited sleep. I suggest having a make-up plan for Carnival Monday and Tuesday, and practicing it before you go! This makes these early mornings quick and easy breezy. It also ensures you don’t overpack your make-up bag with items you’ll never use, and you’ll know exactly which tools and colors you’ll need to recreate the looks you planned. I typically opt for glossy nude lips and a smokey eye, with either a neutral glitter eyeshadow or a colored glitter eyeshadow to match to my costume. You can even add rhinestones if you want!
Here are my make-up must-haves for the road, in the order I apply them:
– Primer: essential to preventing sweat from melting your make-up off
– Foundation with SPF: protect your face + neck from the all day sunshine!
– False Eyelashes + Lash Glue: I prefer a siren eyelash shape, shorter on the inside and longer on the outside.
– Liquid Eyeliner
– Shimmery, glittery eyeshadow palette
– Waterproof Mascara: aka sweat proof, or in the off chance it’s a rainy day.
– Bronzer/Highlighter/Blush: I prefer cream based.
– Lip Primer
– Lip Liner: I find lip liner stays put allllll day, while lipstick tends to smudge.
– Lip Gloss
– Eyebrow Pencil
– Eyebrow Gel
– Blotting Papers: pack these for the road, they’ll wipe away excess oil without removing make-up.
Hair: Just as with your make-up, I recommend a hair plan and to pack only the essential tools, sprays, and embellishments you’ll need. Look at the type of headpiece that comes with your costume, and determine what type of hairstyle works best. I always prefer my hair down, as ponytails hurt my head after awhile. Humidity and heat knock almost every curl out of my naturally straight hair by the end of the day – so load up on extra product depending on your hair type! I like to purchase the travel sizes so I can throw them away at the end of the trip.
Fanny Pack: While you’re on the road for Carnival Monday and Tuesday, be sure to bring a handsfree bag that is small enough to carry all day and large enough to hold the essentials. Here’s a quick glimpse at what should fit inside:
– Lip liner + Gloss
– Beauty Blender
– Blotting Papers
– Emergency Kit: Safety pins, Band-aids, Advil, Emergen-C or similar immune/hydration/electrolyte boosters (mix with coconut water or water)
– Snack: granola bar, bag of nuts, etc.
– Sunscreen (a travel sized bottle is best)
– Room Key
– Sunglasses + Sunglass Cloth Cleaner
In Carnival 2020, we attended a few different types of fêtes – all fun in their own way! Here’s where we went, how we dressed, and what each event was like.
Purchase fête tickets *here*
Cooler vs. All Inclusive Fête: A Cooler Fête means bring your own cooler filled with your own beverages and cups, vs an All Inclusive Fête, where there are open bars available. We went to an outdoor Cooler Fête (with traffic, ended up being about an hour outside of Port of Spain) with multiple stages on a seaside dock. As the event went from late afternoon to evening, we wore rompers that easily transitioned from day to night. I like to pack my own cup with a straw + lid, like this one. Bring plenty of drinks to share with your neighbors!
Soaka Street Festival: We missed J’ouvert the previous year (I forgot to register us in time, don’t make that mistake!) and this pigment paint fête was recommended to us as an alternative to J’ouvert. With an early start of 4am, we tossed on all white outfits so the colors would show up on our clothes, and headed out! Kes performed live while we danced under the water from hoses tossing powder pigment and watching the sunrise! This was THE most fun fête we attended all week. We purchased inexpensive swimsuits, t-shirts, and shoes that we didn’t mind throwing away at the end of the fête, here’s what we wore:
A few notes here about the Soaka Street Festival:
– This was also a cooler fête, and we did not think this entirely through – be sure to bring a solid cooler, as we brought a paper bag and it immediately disintegrated.
– Bring a waterproof pouch or case for your phone.
– Don’t attend a paint fête if you applied a self-tanner for carnival.
– The pigment WILL stain your skin, clothes, and everything it touches. Do not wear any clothes you don’t plan on throwing away afterwards.
– Get sprayed by the hose every time it comes around! You’ll want to continuously wipe the pigment off to avoid staining your face and body.
– COVER yourself generously in coconut oil before the fête and bring a small bottle with you to reapply after every hose down. We applied oil on our face, body, and hair (especially if you have light colored hair) and still managed to come back to the hotel with pink spots all over us. They were next to impossible to remove in time for Carnival Monday. For this reason only, I might skip this event next year.
Raft-Up: Hop on a boat and meet every one down the islands! Each boat ties up next to their friends, and tunes into the same radio station where a DJ is playing all the soca favorites. Hop from boat to boat for lunch, drinks, dancing, and chatting with friends all day. We wore swimsuits + coverups and packed day bags filled with: towels, sunscreen, hats, polarized sunglasses, snacks, and an extra change of dry clothes (just in case!). Bring your own food and drinks, and as always, extra for sharing with friends!
*Note* This is a full day of sunshine! Carnival Monday and Tuesday are also unavoidably full days in the sun. If you plan on attending Raft-Up, be sure to apply sunscreen to avoid tan lines, hydrate all day, and stay in the shade as often as possible.
Brian Lara Carnival Experience 2020: This was an elegant affair with a live soca concert and incredible headliners! Set at cricket star Brian Lara’s beautiful mansion on Chancellor Hill, we spent the evening dining at different appetizer, carving, and dessert stations, meeting new people, and dancing the night away to soca performers: Kes the Band, Iwer George, Patrice Roberts, Skinny Fabulous, Problem Child, Allison Hinds, and more! We wore cocktail dresses and matching sets. This was a beautiful event, and the calmest of them all.
* I haven’t seen any fêtes posted yet for February 2023, but as they pop up, I’ll update the post on which tickets we book*
I’m rounding up some of the frequently asked questions I receive about Carnival! If you leave a question on social media or on the comment section below, I’ll add the answers here!
When is Trinidad Carnival 2023?
Carnival Monday is February 20th, 2023 and Carnival Tuesday is February 21st, 2023.
What are the covid restrictions / travel requirements for Trinidad?
Stay up to date with all travel requirements here: https://health.gov.tt/preparation-for-entry
Which band are you playing with?
We are playing with Tribe again! We haven’t registered for our costume yet, but once we do, I’ll share more details here and on social media (IG: @carolyncarter).
How do I register? Is it too late?
The registration date is not been announced yet, there is still time! Check out Tribe’s website here, and read my previous post here for more details on how to register and how each private vs. public section is organized.
What location is best to stay in?
I love the convenience of staying in one of the downtown hotels. Some of the best options are: Hyatt Regency Trinidad, Courtyard Port of Spain Marriott, Hilton Trinidad & Conference Center, and BRIX Autograph Collection.
What are the transportation options?
Check out my previous post for options and estimated rates, tap here for details.
Is there choreography to learn?
No! This is more of participatory sport, rather than a spectator’s sport. You are free to move about and dance however you please.
Do you have to stay with your section?
No! All sections are free to mingle together. The only exception is when you get to the stage where you are required to cross with your specific costume. Throughout the rest of the day, there are multiple music trucks you can dance behind or alongside as long as you stay with your band.
Can my friend and I wear different costumes?
Yes! You can play in separate sections and still be together for most of the day. The only time you will have to separate will be when you cross the stage.
Frontline or Backline costume?
Tough decision! At the end of the day, I’m a photographer + style blogger and I prefer the frontline costumes for the photos. If I wasn’t taking photos, I would wear the backline costumes. They’re smaller, lighter, easier to navigate the road with, and less expensive.
Number one tip?
Attend Carnival with friends you know, trust, and have traveled with before. This is a very busy, fun, overwhelming week in a foreign country. If you’re attending fêtes and playing mas with a large group, be sure to have at least one responsible friend that you can have the buddy system with. Always have a meeting spot, always be aware of danger, and always check in on one another throughout the day/night.
I LOVE sharing this journey with you, thank you for following along! Let’s hit the road together, I hope to see you there in 2023!!!