My Hot Air Balloon Ride Adventure in Arizona

By Adele Sharman

18 November 2022

What to do in Scottsdale while the husband is golfing? Kick the morning off with the pool? Spend the day at the spa? I choose to take a Hot air balloon ride to see the sunset. I reached out to the concierge Deborah at the lovely JW Marriott Camelback Inn. Please be mindful when you choose the time of year to visit Scottsdale. Some trips and excursions are fully booked when it gets really busy.

I chose to live through this adventure with Rainbow Ryder. Their balloons fly in any direction from a couple hundred to a couple of thousand feet, depending on wind speed. Rainbow Ryder is the official ride operator for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. They have been in the business for 40 years now. Also, if the weather is favorable they operate in PHX and ABQ 365 days a year and run seasonally in Colorado Springs from June to September.

Why is flexibility important?

The pilot wants to take off as much as you do. Be prepared for changeable weather conditions. They don’t provide transfers from hotels, I went for Uber. It cost me $30. I had my drive pre-booked because I didn’t want to be late, remember this can cost a little bit more. Make sure you take a screenshot of the vehicle registration when you make the booking. It is necessary in case you have any issues with the app. With a screenshot, you will know which vehicle arriving is yours. My return Uber was $21. It’s not just the ride itself, I like to give you a cost for everything. You can also drive yourself, they have ample parking. 

It took around 25 minutes to get to the destination. The Uber driver kept asking me if I was nervous. I wasn’t at first. Not until I arrived. I was greeted by friendly staff which was a good start before I put my life in their hands. After I checked in, they gave me a waiver to sign and introduced me to my pilot. There were mainly couples and groups, so I did feel a little out of place to start with. I asked a couple to take a picture of me because I didn’t want to miss a single moment. I  got to chat with two young ladies from Essex in the UK. I love meeting new people and sharing interesting travel stories.

When the pilot called me up I jumped in the van that took us to the sight. During our ride, I had a conversation with a friendly driver and a lovely couple from New York. I am not a shy person, so striking up conversations with people is a piece of cake for me. Not everyone is like this. Apologies if you are on a trip with me. I will chat all day long. 

What should you wear?

Observing the balloon getting filled is an amazing experience. When it was time to climb aboard I was glad I had my trousers on. I don’t think a dress or skirt would be the appropriate outfit for such a case. It was quite warm when we got into the balloon, so my jacket wasn’t needed. I would recommend taking a lightweight jacket or shirt since it can get a bit nippy. As for footwear, no high heels or flip-flops. Boots, sneakers, or any other closed, shoes are preferred. Don’t forget sunglasses if you want to look cool even in the air!

How does the air balloon work?

The one thing that surprised me was how hot it was in the basket. Here is how they work. Hot air is pushed by burners into the envelope of the balloon, allowing the balloon to ascend. A scoop is at the bottom of the balloon. It protects the burners from wind, allowing the flame and hot air to blow straight up into the envelope. The envelope, typically made of nylon, features vertical sections called gores. The gores are stitched together with panels to create an airtight seal. There is a hole at the top of a hot air balloon called a parachute vent. One is opened by pulling a rope that releases hot air, making the balloon descend. The pilot controls how much hot air is pushed into the balloon, and how much is released. Hot air balloons are directed by air currents. If you are afraid of heights, this is your chance to get a real adventure! “We have flown many people with a fear of heights who have loved the ride.” 

Enjoy the ride

I’m not scared of heights, but I do get motion sickness. I was hoping this wouldn’t be the case. 

This is a completely different feeling. You just glide along and watch the ground below getting smaller and smaller. The peaceful atmosphere gives you a sense of freedom. The basket remains motionless. Don’t forget to bring your camera. This is the perfect timing for photos. I loved seeing the other balloons in the sky and looking down at the cactus and Burros. 

What I liked about our Captain was that he was knowledgeable and chatty. He encouraged us to swap cameras and take pictures of each other. I loved watching other people taking photos, finding their best pose, holding the sun and moon, and capturing the sunset. I had a sunset ride, so it was relatively warm. If you plan to take a sunrise ride, you need to get up early and put warmer clothes on. I will do a sunrise ride one day. Not necessarily in Arizona, maybe somewhere else. 

We were up in the air for one hour or so. As we were about to land, we were given instructions on how to hold and prepare for a little bump. I didn’t expect our landing to be so smooth. The sun was just starting to set, which was a good opportunity for another photo. Part of the experience was watching these guys and gals taking the balloon down and packing it away. We celebrated the end of the trip with a toast and champagne. Few people know, but there is a story behind this tradition.

Have a Glass of Champagne After a Balloon Ride

The practice of drinking champagne after a balloon flight comes from France. Villagers were initially frightened of the large, colorful vessels, and farmers could become angry if a balloon landed in their fields. The tradition of drinking champagne was established to please the observers and continues today. 

You don’t land at the place from where you took off! While we were in the sky, the van driver was following us, and the pilot was given instructions on which road to take. Upon returning, you receive your certificate, which will be added to your memory book. 

This trip cost me $209 plus (You can give an optional tip). Feel free to get a snack if you are hungry. The water and snacks are free of charge. I know lots of people have this experience on their bucket lists. It was a spur-of-a-moment decision for me. Thanks so much to Deborah for arranging such a wonderful trip! Special thanks to my Pilot Patrick and the amazing team at Rainbow Ryders! I know some of you have fear of heights, but believe me, it’s worth it. And YES, you can do it on your own.

The winds have welcomed you with softness 

The sun has blessed you with its warm hands

You have flown so high and so well

That God has joined you in laughter

And set you gently back again 

Into the loving arms of Mother Earth

-Irish Balloonist Prayer

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