So you’re considering booking a hot air balloon ride at sunrise…is it really worth the money? Is it the magical once-in-a-lifetime experience the brochures promise you it will be? Before you decide, here are a few things the marketing brochures won’t tell you that might help you make your decision:
1. You’ll have to get up at the ass crack of dawn.
We got up when it was still pitch black, with a 4:45am wake up call we were wondering whose idea this was in the first place… (mind you, 4:45am was a gift compared to my friends who had to get up at 3:00am to be picked up for their sunrise hot air balloon flight…) So you’ll need to be able to cope with an early morning start!
2. It’s cold AF.
Without the sun to warm us up, there was frost on the ground and it was -2 degrees Celsius. Eeek! Bundling up in layers was key, may I suggest thick socks and gloves to cushion the blow…
3. You have to wait.
Once you get to your take off location you have to wait for them to fill up the hot air balloon (duh). But what you didn’t plan on is how long it takes to do that…and again refer to above “cold AF.” Google AF if you’re not familiar with the term…
4. Don’t wear a skirt or heels…
Someone on our tour, who will remain nameless, dressed for her Instagram photo shoot in the clouds. Not only was she freezing but she also flashed us all as she climbed into the basket. As our tour guide said, “there is no lady-like way to climb into the basket,” and he was right.
5. Don’t over hydrate.
Once you’re up in the air, there are no bathrooms on board. Again, duh. But if you drink too much coffee to help you with that early morning start you’ll be hurting at a high elevation with no bathroom in sight.
6. It’s probably not a good idea to go on a hot air balloon ride if you’re afraid of heights.
I know this probably sounds obvious but I’ve never been afraid of heights, ever, but at 3,000 feet above ground…well I looked like my eyes were going to pop out of my head. I was so focused on the excitement of “Oh boy, we’re going on a hot air balloon ride” that I hadn’t ever considered it might be a little scary… after all, you’re free floating in the air with no parachute. It was at this moment I thought of all the worst case scenarios possible and had a moment of panic. I asked my best friend why she wasn’t freaking out…she said, “I can’t think about it….or I will WIG.” (As in “wig out”). This advice was key, if you just breathe, enjoy the view, and relax you’ll enjoy yourself.
7. Your position inside the balloon matters
If you’re going for the best photos in Insta history, like I was, you should ask your driver what side of the balloon will have the best views before you get in. We got totally boned on one side with all the other hot air balloons on the other side of us. More than a few times I asked people to duck down on their side so I could snap a quick pic. Aren’t you glad we weren’t on the same trip?
8. Landing probably isn’t what you had in mind
I pictured landing the same way as we took off, gently, softly, touching down like a gently deflating balloon. Wrong! You’ll be instructed to get into “brace position” where you hold on and lock your knees while the balloon slams into the ground. That said, it’s not as scary as you think it’ll be when the ground is racing towards you, but definitely hold on tight!
9. Pack it up, pack it in…
If you think you’re going to waltz away after you land, you’d be wrong. They need to deflate the balloon and pack it back up the same way they took it out. I’ll admit I was relieved to find how long it took to deflate considering that same giant balloon had just held us 3,000 ft up in the air!
10. It’s even more amazing than you’d expect.
Riding in a hot air balloon had always been a bucket list activity for me. I went with my best friend – we both celebrated our 30th birthdays, and it was even more magical than we ever expected. It’s pretty much the only way humanly possible to fly…gliding with the clouds, overlooking incredible views (we were in Australia’s Hunter Valley wine region). Despite the early start and a few moments of terror it really was an incredible experience.
Now that you know exactly what to expect your fears should be put to rest, so go on a hot air balloon ride if you possibly can – you definitely won’t regret it!
- Christina is an LA native and former TV Producer on high profile productions such as "Queen Latifah," "Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris," "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," and "Last Call with Carson Daly." Christina is passionate about travel and now lives in Australia. She writes about her adventures, travel tips to make your life easier, the most instagrammable places you need to visit, foodie finds, and what it's like living in Sydney.