In Flight And Landing
How high you go will depend on your pilot and the wind conditions on the day of your ride. In general, you can expect a mellow, easy ascent where you’ll climb to about 1500 feet. Remember, you’ll be riding with the wind, so it won’t be windy in the basket while you’re in flight.
As the flight path itself literally depends on which way the wind blows, no ride is ever the same twice. The pilot will “go with the flow” with that day’s wind currents and will decide where to land during your flight. Because of the size of the balloon, pilots need large spaces for a safe landing; they typically occur in wide, open fields a few miles away from where you took off. This is why many companies recommend wearing sturdy shoes and long pants: there’s always a chance you may land in a field where you’ll have to walk through long grass or other not-quite-paved, mother-nature-like conditions.
Getting Back To Where You Started From
The pilot isn’t the only member of your flight’s crew. While you’re gliding around in the air, your pilot will be in constant, subtle radio contact with a “chaser” crew who will be following your flight by van (or other such vehicle) on the terra firma of the streets below. The chaser crew will be waiting for you at the landing spot, ready to help deflate the balloon, disassemble the balloon and basket, and drive everyone back to the original starting point.
A great way to determine whether you a hot air balloon ride is for you is to try a tethered balloon ride at a fair or publicity event. In a tethered ride, balloons are anchored and pilots simply fly the balloon up and down with passengers in tow. Rides are short and last just a few minutes each. Costs will depend on the event and are sometimes free. Check local listings for possible tethered balloon events in your area.
- Couples-only rides - $550 to over $900 per couple
- Group rides - $200-$250 per person
A Word Of Caution
Some companies may advertise a low hourly ride rate, only to hit customers with additional fees and taxes when it comes time to pay in full. Confirm the final price with your company when you make your reservation and ask if you will have to pay any additional fees at any time. Additionally, be wary of national certificates that claim to be accepted by balloon companies nationwide. Research these certificates thoroughly before you buy them and make sure that the local company you select for your ride does, in fact, honor and accept the certificate.