Carnival, Fetes, Travel

How to Make Wise Carnival Choices

Jamaica Carnival 2017

If you have a poor experience with a carnival band, how many chances would you give them before you decide to go elsewhere and remove your support? My answer to this is simple… ONE! 

While we all hope for the perfect carnival experience, it’s pretty much one of the hardest things to come by. There are way too many factors beyond our control once we submit our payments to these entities. So, what can we do to avoid such mishaps? Brace yourself because I’m sure my suggestions are not going to be very popular. 

Jamaica Carnival 2017


Please do some independent thinking and some independent research when you’re looking into Caribbean carnival bands. Blindly following the decisions of your friends is bound to cause some frustrations, especially if y’all don’t share similar values or have like-minded personalities. If you respect your hard earned money, you will take advantage of the World Wide Web, vast social media platforms and carnival group chats. We have far too much access to information to be left clueless before any trip. Hashtag searches WORK. Reading comments from years past can open your eyes to a lot of red flags. Asking questions of people who have played with the band in the past is the clutchest of clutch! 

Some things to observe:

  • Does the band have the comments turned on for their social media accounts? 
  • Is the band actively responding to comments? 
  • Are most of the comments negative or positive?
  • Have they made it to the FollowSoca drag files?

Take Baby Steps

Instead of purchasing a carnival costume, consider starting small by securing a spot in the band’s t-shirt section (if they have one). If that isn’t available, maybe you sit out from playing mas altogether (yeah, I said it). Try being an active observer instead. This means visiting the band house during costume pick-up hours to get a feel for how they’re handling their customers. If you meet new people or have friends playing mas, be sure to ask them, “Who are you jumping with?” (It’s a commonly asked question during any carnival.) When they share, take the opportunity to ask them more questions that might help you decide how to move for future trips.

If you absolutely must play mas but are unsure of the band’s reputation, consider selecting a costume on the simpler side. These are likely to be more wallet-friendly options with less room for production mishaps. Large feather backpacks that fail to resemble the prototypes seem to be the biggest let-downs these days. Try to focus on the costumes that have appealing bodywear instead.

Remember the Big Picture

Let’s not forget that while the road is the main attraction for most carnivals, there are other aspects to consider, like fetes and tourist activities. 

No carnival is complete without parties leading up to and after the road. Might I remind you that there are carnival events that have a road component like jouvert, Foreday (Barbados) and Caesar’s Army A.M. Bush. If you love the road but don’t want to play mas just yet, you should certainly include a road fete on your itinerary.   

Jamaica Carnival 2016

In summary, do your due diligence when it comes to selecting a costume band. The last thing you need is a horror story about a band that failed to provide you with a quality costume and great customer service. If you don’t do any research, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.

When I visit a carnival for the first time, I like to take a deep dive and play mas in costume. But after that initial visit, it isn’t a requirement for me. I’m usually more than content in a t-shirt section or being a vibesy bystander/stormer. Sit with yourself and assess what your true needs are before making any financial commitments. 

Wishing you all the best in your carnival shenanigans.

Pump wisely!