Being that I am an adrenaline junkie, hot air ballooning has always been something on my bucket list.. & I recently got the opportunity to
cross it off my bucket list. It was wonderful and amazing, but in a totally different way than I expected.
You’d think floating in a wicker basket (the same stuff your grandma’s old hamper is made out of), 2000 feet in the air, with no seat belt, no control of your direction, and a 3 foot tall wall being the only thing between you and falling to the ground, would be a thrilling/adrenaline experience right? That’s what I thought too… but boy I was wrong.
Hot air ballooning was actually one of the most relaxing, peaceful, quiet, and beautiful things I’ve ever done. From takeoff to landing, it was like I was just standing on air. I am prone to motion sickness on boats so I was also worried I would feel sick from the movement… but I was very wrong about that too. You literally don’t even feel like you’re moving when you’re up there. It felt like I was standing on top of a building or mountain or something that doesn’t move (except when the captain turns the basket around.. which even that is done so slowly, motion sickness is damn near impossible on a hot air balloon).
The views were magnificent (I was lucky to go over the red rocks of Sedona). Most companies only fly at sunrise, which makes the views that much more beautiful. When our truck pulled up I snapped a picture of the sunrise and then looked at the truck like woah the entire balloon is in that truck? It sure was. They pulled basket and what looked like a small folded up balloon out of a trailer.
But within minutes they had it blowing up larger and larger and it was even bigger than I expected when it was fully blown up. After it’s blown up, they heat it up for a minute and then you hop on in. This balloon could hold up to 16 people (and it was full this day). There are 4 corners, each holding 4 people. If you don’t like to be close to people, you better get over it real quick for this ride.. not much personal space haha. But worth it!!
When we took off I felt like I was that little boy in the movie Up! when all the balloons lifted him into the sky. Only it happened so smoothly, with no jolts, no bumps, just gently into the air. From there it was just relaxation until landing.
SO, just HOW does this balloon work?! Our captain explained in great detail and was glad to answer any questions. It runs on propane. The one I rode in had five 20 gallon tanks adding up to 100 gallons of propane. The amount of time that propane lasts depends on how much weight is in the basket (less people=more flying time). We flew for just over an hour on our trip.
Typical tour balloons rise to 1,000-2000 feet in the air. The captain can only control up & down movements.. the rest is up to the wind that day. The captain can turn the balloon in 360 degrees to decide which way to face, but cannot control what direction the balloon in entirety moves. This is why trips are often cancelled if the wind is risky. The FAA and National Forest regulate the number of balloons allowed to fly per day (at least in Sedona).
Despite those facts, our captain kept asking “have you ever heard of a balloon crash landing?” and we all said no. And he would then say even if you have, guarantee nobody was killed or injured because a “crash landing” usually just means landing somewhere else other than you planned, and the basket might slowly (like a snail) tip once on the ground. The balloon itself is made out of fire retardant Nomex on the bottom and Nylon near the top, both of which cannot burn or catch fire. At very worst circumstances, the nylon can melt slightly… rarely. Every fact he said reiterated the fact that hot air balloons are one of the SAFEST forms of transportation.
The landing was funny because we were in a quiet area so we landed right in the middle of a road (planned to). A few guys on the crew grabbed onto the bottom of the basket once we were close to the ground and they dragged us to the exact spot they wanted to be. After that they folded the balloon up and packed it away back into the trailer like no big deal. Then the tour company (Red Rock Balloons) provided us with champagne/mimosas, muffins, and fruit when the ride was over. I recommend them 🙂
OVERALL: The views from a balloon are beautiful. The ride is calm. It is peaceful. It is smooth. It is like floating on your couch through the air. It is not something to be afraid of. It is not thrilling. But it is DEFINITELY something I recommend doing at least once in your lifetime. Get up and start crossing things off YOUR bucket list!!
Thanks for reading! Happy Travels!