Considering that once-in-a-lifetime hot air balloon adventure and wondering if you should go for it? Do it! I’m still beaming with excitement when I think about this experience.
I got my hot air balloon flight voucher for Sundance Balloons as a birthday present. I was totally psyched and couldn’t wait to call the hotline and book my flight. But that was a year and a half ago…
I know… it sounds like a long time to wait for a flight.
Well, here is what I’ve learned about going on a hot air balloon adventure over the past year:
General Facts About the Flight.
- Sundance Balloons offers sunrise and sunset flights
- You need to call the hotline around 11:30pm the day before your morning flight or around 2:00pm before your evening flight to confirm that your scheduled flight is still a “go”
- You arrive at the meeting place about 20-30 minutes before the flight (ours was a bit longer, more about that below)
- The flight is about an hour in length
- The basket holds 12 people – 10 passengers, the hot air balloon operator and usually one more crew member (if need be)
- We meet at a take off spot and go off in the direction the wind takes us
- There is a “chaser” crew, that follows the balloon in a nice mini bus. They meet us at the landing site (wherever it may be), pack up the balloon and place it in a trailer, and take the passengers back to the take off site (back to our cars)
- While they are packing the balloon, the passengers get to enjoy a glass (or two, or three) of sparkling wine and chat about the highlight of the flight.
7 Things to Consider When Preparing for a Hot Air Balloon Flight.
1. Finicky Weather and Hot Air Balloon Flights Don’t Mix.
There were days when it was obvious that we won’t go – cloudy skies or chance of showers are just not very good conditions for a hot air balloon flight. But then, there were days when I thought we were going to go for sure and yet, no luck. Apparently, the wind has to be just right, between eight and six knots per hour. If it’s more, it’s too windy. If it’s less, it’s not enough. Which brings me to my next point…
2. Be Prepared to Book and Rebook Multiple Times.
Over the last year and a half, I booked every single available flight. I had to rebook our adventure nine times. When the weather finally seemed perfect and the hotline message told us that we will finally be able to go up, we still ended up waiting for almost an hour after our estimated take off time as we had to wait for the wind to calm down a bit more. As we chatted with the other couples that were part of our group we realized that year and a half of rebooking was not all that much. There were couples there who have been waiting for two to four years!
3. If You Hate to Wait, Book a Morning Flight.
Apparently mornings are calmer, more predictable and the wind speeds are significantly different depending on the altitude. That’s why your chances of going up as scheduled are much better in the morning than they are in the evening.
4. Even if Your Flight is Confirmed, it Can Still be Cancelled.
Even though you called the hotline and was told that the flight is a go, things may change. We were told to be at our meeting spot at at 6:30pm, but since the wind was still too strong we didn’t end up leaving until almost 8:00pm. According to our operator, there have been times, when the flight was not only postponed, like ours, but cancelled all together due to the changes in the wind.
5. Don’t Forget Your Camera.
The views are spectacular and you won’t get that view point very often. So use the opportunity. Take a lot of pictures. Make sure to take some pictures before you get into the balloon when it is almost blown up and you are about to fly up. This is the only opportunity you will have to get a picture of your fully blown hot air balloon. When you land, the balloon will be deflated before you get out of the basket, so don’t count on getting a nice picture then.
6. Get Caught up in the Moment, not Your Camera Setting.
Pictures are great, but you’re there for that once in a lifetime experience! Looking at your pictures won’t bring back the memories of the beautiful views stretched out towards the horizon, the breeze in your hair or the feeling of being on top of the world, unless you actually put your camera down, take a deep breath, and immerse yourself in the feeling of being in that moment. So take a few minutes and enjoy it. Not everything has to recorded. Some memories are much deeper when they are felt rather than seen on photo paper.
7. It’s Warmer up There Then You’d Expect.
If you’re always cold, like I am, you may consider taking a sweater. But keep in mind that the flames that heat the balloon make it really hot in the basket as well. In fact, you may feel your neck and upper back burning as the scorching hot flames heat the air inside the balloon. On the other hand, if you’re on the evening flight, you may consider keeping that sweatshirt close (maybe by tying it around your waist), because the moment you start landing, there will be no more flames warming your back. The packing of the balloon also takes a while, so your sweatshirt may also come in handy while you wait.
Even though this was only about one hour flight, the whole experience from our arrival, to the departure took about three hours. First, we had to wait for the winds to come down, which took over an hour. The flight itself was another hour or so. Finally, the sparkling wine experience while the crew was packing up the hot air balloon and drive back to our meeting place took almost an hour as well.
All in all, it was an amazing experience, totally worth the wait, and one more thing crossed off of my ‘carpe diem’ list.