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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Miami Carnival Dos and Don'ts

Miami Carnival "Dos and Don'ts" from guest blogger "JJ" of http://www.bellyitchblog.com/

It has been nearly a decade since my and my college crew used to make our annual trek down to Miami for carnival. Marriages, babies, post-graduate plans, careers and otherwise life had gotten in the way and slowed almost all of us down. But not me and my husband, we value our down time as much as our productive time. Work hard and play harder is my motto. We decided last minute this year to leave the kids with family, catch a flight and make a weekend couple’s getaway out of the trip. 

But first we had to decide among over 80 different parties which ones to attend. Certainly it is not humanly possible to do all. Knowing that we lack the stamina and fortitude we had in our 20s we purchased one ticket to one party, got a complimentary admission to a couple others and prepared to pay the admission fee to enter the actual Carnival stadium to watch the parade of bands on Sunday. We planned the head back into DC Columbus Monday so we could settle back into life and prepare the kids for school the next day.

We had a wonderful time, catching up with old friends, going to parties, relaxing by the beach and just getting in some good old down time. It was a great break from my hectic life in DC. Experiencing Miami Carnival 10 years later, I came away with a few Dos and Don’ts that I thought I’d share so others wouldn't have to suffer through some of the mistakes and issues and some of my friends dealt with last weekend.
1. Do Prepare your wardrobe in advance. Pack light and skip carrying along too many heavy shoes, jeans and other articles of clothing. New airline rules have lowered the weight limit for baggage and raised fees. We had to tack on $140 in baggage handling at the airport. Had we done advance research, I would have packed most of my jewelry in my bag and left a pair of shoe or two home. 

 2. Do Pace yourself. When you are facing a fete list longer than your arm, you may need to reconsider which ones you want to attend and if you can really handle the back to back fetes. We had a couple friends our age tackle that task and went from a party Friday, straight to a Breakfast fete and then showered, changed outfits and hopped on one of the boat cruises, only to have to head back home, change again quickly and head to another party before finishing their night at another fete. Talking to them in between all of that and several said they were having fun but would not repeat such a rigorous routine.

 3. Do make room for relaxation. While parties are fun, they can also be draining, not to mention leave you with a hangover. You cannot leave the Miami beach area and not make time to see the sand and surf at least once. That would be blasphemous. Plan to enjoy the beach.

 4. Do go for the fill up in advance option if you will be renting a car. If you are going to rent a car to carry you about or even share the cost with friends, go with the option where you pay for the full tank in advance and get to return the car empty. The vehicle we rented was pretty fuel efficient and even though we traveled up and down 95, back and forth to Miami and Fort Lauderdale, we only used half a tank of gas. But we also had a 6am flight out Monday, not having to fill back up saved us the hassle and stress of having to find a gas station near the airport to top up the gas before turning the car back in.

 5. Don’t be afraid to stay North of South Beach. If you want to save costs, and want to stay close to Miami Beach but don’t have the Miami Beach hotel money, go with a hotel in Middle or North Miami Beach . Those are traditionally more reasonably priced. We loved ours because onsite parking was included and we didn’t have to deal with valet. It also had complimentary continental breakfast and free WiFi. Miami Beach hotels would certainly charge for all those amenities and at premium prices.


 6. Do pack an umbrella. Miami Carnival is held in the middle of Hurricane season each year and there is often thunderstorm, rain showers and hail storms. We did not this year and lined up with several other out of town visitors at the local Wal-Mart near the stadium to purchase a pair or umbrellas before heading to see the parade of bands. 

7. Don’t forget to pack for cooler weather and temperature. Take jeans and a jacket because it can get chilly at night. Don’t get fooled thinking Miami is all warm weather. I recall one year, the temperature dipped to 50 degrees at night. My girlfriends and I had only brought skimpy tops and short shorts and had to find our way to a mall and purchase jeans to wear.

 8. Don’t get caught up in the HOV or Florida Turnpike lanes so stay to the right as you travel up and down 95 between Fort Lauderdale and Miami. There is no station to accept cash or credit card payment option. Only vehicles with a pass affixed to the windshield can drive on those lanes. It is easy to get swept up and end up on the turnpike. Bring along a GPS or use your smart phone app’s GPS to map out routes that avoid the Turnpike because you will be charged a fee if you have to go through those lanes and have to pay later. If you are staying with a friend or local, they’ll know how to do it or will already have the pass on their windscreen.

 9. Do know that Miami Carnival usually lasts late and goes until 11pm so there is no rush to get there at the beginning. Us in the DC area, for example, are used to our parade route getting shorter and shorter each year and we have learned to get to the event as early as possible. But going to early may burn you out early as well and have you wanting to go home early. As we learned this year, the concert towards the end of the evening is one of the best parts of Carnival. Machel did the last lap justice and brought out some other big acts like Patrice Roberts and Farmer Nappy. However, don’t leave too late. By the time we got there, the sun had set. So besides the overcast skies, we missed out on the opportunity to take photos of some of the costumes in the daylight. If you are the type that storms the band, going too late leave you little chance to get a real good jump up storm! 

 10. Do buy your tickets in advance. Even the carnival entrance fee jumped from $20 online to $30 if you came after 6pm. This should go to show you too that the carnival producers realize there is a premium to the concerts at the end. 

 11. Don’t get cheap and skip the all inclusive. We learned that paying less and going to a fete where we eventually paid over $100 for drinks was not worth it. In hindsight, it may have been better to go to the all inclusive fete that took place the same time with drinks included. The higher price is worth it in the end.

 12. Don’t forget to have fun. Trying to get to as many fetes as possible, jump up, catch all your favorite artists can easily become a chore. Those who came off red eye flights or petered out after back to back fete realized that the extreme exhaustion took some of the fun out of it. Pace. Pepper your experience with plenty of planned naps! Say that 10 times and you’ll have a more enjoyable experience and be a more fun person to be around!

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