Like most of you out there, we’d always wanted to try Hot Air Ballooning.
It’s a great first step into exploring pricier activities in the air during your vacations – our plan is to go from Hot Air Ballooning to helicopter rides and seaplane rides (coming soon!) to sky-diving (if we ever get around to not being so chicken!)
We checked Hot Air Ballooning off our bucket list in Phoenix, Arizona.
It was a more spontaneous decision, made during a trip back from the Grand Canyon, and we booked our trip for the very next day. Booking your trip in advance can give you access to discounts online. Remember that most companies do offer military discounts as well (even if you book a day in advance!)
Do: Get excited!
First of all, get excited! We say this because a good number of people feel extremely nervous before their balloon ride. While we felt slight tinges of nervous energy, there was absolutely nothing to be worried about – we spent a comfortable, safe, smooth, full hour in the air, cruising over the rugged Sonoran landscape during sunrise.
If you are feeling particularly nervous, you can contact the company directly and representatives offer advice and helpful information that can calm your nerves.
If you’re in the Phoenix or Albuquerque areas, we recommend Rainbow Ryders. They’re extremely affordable and you get your full hour’s worth of the trip in the air, cruising over the Sonoran Desert.
Note that companies tend to hype up the adventure factor of hot air balloon rides – but remember, it’s not like you’re skiing off a cliff or bungee jumping! Go with a trusted company and you’ll be a good hands, and enjoy a smooth ride with unbeatable 360 views from the sky.
Do: Make sure that you’ll actually be in the air for at least an hour
Companies can advertise “an hour in the air” and end up only flying for half an hour, and factor in driving times etc. to you trip. Make sure this is not you! If you feel your pilot trying to let off steam mid-trip, feel free to casually mention this to him!
Do: Go at sunrise
It was a tough morning getting out of bed at 4am but the ride was well worth it. Even if you’re not a morning person (like Christian, for sure!) there’s nothing like watching the sun rise from hundreds of feet in the air. It’s a wonderful experience, worth rolling out of bed and an extra shot of espresso.
Do: Google the meeting point in advance and be on time
Hot air ballooning is weather dependent. You also don’t want to miss the sunrise (or make the rest of your group miss it!) so it’s advisable to look up where you will be picked up from the night before to budget in enough time to get there (if you’re driving to a meeting point) or be on time if you’re being picked up at your hotel (this is usually at a higher price). Rainbow Ryders have a complicated meeting point, where almost every building looked the same, and it wasn’t easy getting there if you’re running short on time – budget plenty of time to get there.
Do: Wear layers
It can get cold in the morning, not to mention up in the air. It’s advisable to wear layers, so that you can put on, or take off as the morning wears on.
The fire propellers in the balloon also tends to get scorching hot, especially if you’re positioned close to it. Wear layers that you can adjust accordingly.
Don’t: Wear loose clothing
Remember that you’ll be in the air, it’s windy, and there’s fire involved. It’s best to wear jackets and clothes that are more figure-hugging than flowy.
If you wear a scarf, you can tuck it into your jacket.
Do: Budget at least 5 hours for the trip
This is especially if your trip includes a scrumptious breakfast and a great informative guide, as ours did. The rides usually conclude with a meal and some discussion, so budget enough time accordingly. Note that not all companies offer breakfast/meals in the desert itself – they usually take you to their offices and offer you a meal there.
Remember that you’d be driven into the desert (away from the city, wherever you choose to go Hot Air Ballooning!) for a considerable amount of time (in our case, 30 minutes) before you can get set up going into the air.
Set up and break down around 40 minutes to 1 hour each. You’ll have time to chill while they do that (and help out if necessary!) but it definitely doesn’t take away from the experience.
Do: Budget in the tip for the guide
Especially if you’re doing this in the States. Since hot air balloon rides tend to be pricey (upwards of US$140 for a minimum of one hour in the air) budget your tip accordingly, especially if your guide was informative and pleasant. They also do tend to come with helpers, if you consider a tip big enough to be split between the crew!
Do: Take a camera with a wrist or neck strap
You don’t want your equipment falling at that height… it happens way too often!
…and maybe a selfie stick
This is a memorable experience you’d want to capture with all the glory of the 360 degree views it offers. A selfie stick may not be a bad idea.
Remember: Unless you booked a private ride, you’ll be with other people
So be careful with your selfie stick, and keep in mind that you’ll be sharing a flying basket with around six others at least. They also tend to have weight limits, and you may want to inform them in advance if you’re particularly tall (over 6″3, for example).
Don’t worry that you’re on one side of the basket
Some people tend to worry that they’ll miss out on the views when placed on one side of the ride. Everyone has to stand somewhere obviously, and the pilots are usually very mindful of this and make sure everyone has a change to enjoy the views at every angle.
You may want to make sure you’re not in the middle though, and that you have room by the edges to enjoy the views.
Don’t: Forget to charge your camera!
Don’t miss out on capturing this special experience!
Hot air ballooning over the Sonoran desert was an unforgettable experience.
The 360 degree views, and watching other balloons go up over the mountains during sunrise was truly incredible. We’d recommend booking Rainbow Ryders if you’re in Phoenix or Albuquerque, for a particularly memorable experience.
Planning your first hot air ballooning experience? Already did it? Had a similar/different experience? We’d love to hear from you! Comment below about your experiences!
As always, be a conscious traveler: Take nothing, and leave nothing behind. Be conscious, be welcome! Read more about conscious travel here.