Tips for your first trip on a Hot Air Balloon

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Like most of you out there, we’d always wanted to try Hot Air Ballooning.

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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 to sky-diving.

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We checked Hot Air Ballooning off our bucket list in Phoenix, Arizona.

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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!)

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Do: Get excited!

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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.

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If you are feeling particularly nervous, you can contact the company directly and representatives offer advice and helpful information that can calm your nerves.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Do: Go at sunrise

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On the ground, waiting to go up

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.

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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.

2016-05-19-05-51-00Do: 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.

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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.

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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.

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Almost there!
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Aaaand we’re ready!

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!

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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!

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…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.

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Pictures without a selfie stick — great but not optimal?

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).

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Don’t worry that you’re on one side of the basket

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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.

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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.

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Don’t: Forget to charge your camera!

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Don’t miss out on capturing this special experience!

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Hot air ballooning over the Sonoran desert was an unforgettable experience.

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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.

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21 Comments Add yours

  1. Judy says:

    wow. those views are astounding!! I’ve missed a few opportunities to take a hot air balloon before but I definitely don’t want to miss out again.

    1. Definitely don’t miss out! It’s an amazing experience.

  2. ellisveen says:

    Great article. I am hoping to do a hot air ballon ride in Turkey. I am still a bit scared for my fear of heights, but definetly want to do this at least once in my life.

    1. Fantastic! We here Cappadocia is fantastic for hot air balloon riding and can’t wait to try it out someday. You’ll be great, and we look forward to seeing pictures hopefully!

  3. Greg says:

    I have wanted to do this, but my wife is way too chicken:( haha

    1. Haha tell her it’s not bad at all, especially if you stand closer to the center of the basket! It’s very steady, and the folks over at Rainbow Ryders will even talk to you to calm you down beforehand. Good luck!

  4. Hot air ballooning is a very exciting activity. The thrill begins even before you are in the air, whilst things are being readied. Once you are off, floating high up in the sky and looking down at the earth is one of the ultimate highs.

  5. Elena Nemets says:

    Thanks for the useful tips! I would love to do this one day!

  6. gokulr27 says:

    I will probably go for my first balloon ride in Bagan. I will keep these tips in mind.

  7. This is so cool, I’d love to do a hot air balloon ride. I’ll keep these tips in mind for when I do!

  8. Clare says:

    I did a hot air balloon ride in Egypt in Luxor. It was a great experience though I was terrified the whole time. I was also put in a basket with all the gas canistors, given some gloves and given instructions on how to put the flame into the balloon when the captain told me!! Was an amazing experience, though maybe once is enough for me!!

  9. Rebecca says:

    Wonderful tips. I was fortunate enough to go hot air ballooning in Turkey and because I was a solo traveler, they upgraded me to the 90-minute flight.

  10. Mark says:

    Great post with good tips for the first time ballooner. I’m thinking of doing this for my wife as a date one day. We’ll see how that goes. I’ll be saving this for a future date. Sunrise for the non-morning person in me makes this a bit more difficult but in the name of love I’ll make the sacrifice haha.
    Cheers,
    Mark

  11. bavariansojourn says:

    What a beautiful post. I would love to do a hot air ballooning trip, but I am not that great with heights. This has made me really want to do one though! 🙂

    1. Thrilled that you’re excited to try it! It’s really not that bad, especially if you stand towards the center of the basket! We hope you try it someday! 🙂

  12. Good tips! I’d like to present my girlfriend a ride on a hot balloon for our anniversary. It makes sense to ask a company for a piece of advice and helpful information if I get nervous during the ride. Now I’m sure I’ll enjoy my trip.

    1. So glad you found the article useful! We hope you have a fantastic anniversary ride, I’m sure your girlfriend will enjoy the present!

  13. Derek Dewitt says:

    My wife and I are thinking about taking a ride in a hot air balloon for the first time, but we aren’t sure where to start. I like that you suggest going during the sunrise, even if you aren’t a morning person. Even though I am not, I agree that it would be incredible to see the sunrise in a hot air balloon. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you so much, Derek! Glad you found it helpful!

Thoughts?