Learn about our first hot air balloon experience in Phoenix/Scottsdale, Arizona. Discover 5 of the most important things to expect on your first ride with Hot Air Expeditions, a leading hot air balloon tourism company in Phoenix.
(Note: This was a sponsored experience through partnership with Matador Network and Experience Scottsdale. All opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. That means that we may earn a commission if you make a purchase through one of these links. Those funds help to keep this site running.)
For many people, a hot air balloon ride is considered a true bucket list experience. A handful of US destinations come to mind when preparing to embark on a hot air balloon adventure, and Phoenix, Arizona is one of them. Phoenix/Scottsdale is known for its desert wellness retreats and luxury resort stays, but the reason why Phoenix is MOST famous for hot air balloon rides is because of the stunning Sonoran Desert arial views that only Arizona can provide. The Sonoran Desert spans northwestern Mexico, into western Arizona, and southern California and is home to a variety of animal and plant species. The amazing view of the Sonoran Desert landscape is one of the many reasons why Phoenix is among the most popular tourist destinations in the US Southwest, and there is no better way to see it than from 5,000 feet in a hot air balloon.
Hot Air Expeditions
We traveled to Arizona during a Summer 2022 press trip to Scottsdale and had the chance to set sail on a hot air balloon ride with Hot Air Expeditions. Hot Air Expeditions has been rated "Best Balloon Flight in Phoenix" for 26 consecutive years by Fodor's Travel. From their website:
The staff at Hot Air Expeditions truly prides themselves on providing a unique and memorable experience for all guests. This hot air company is also well known for its safety reputation. Each captain has a Federal Aviation Administration Certified Pilot's License and carries thousands of hours of flying experience. During our time with them, we were also assured that safety was their number one priority.
5 Things to Expect from Your Ride
1. Expect an early wake-up time.
It is very common for many hot air balloon tours to offer both sunrise or sunset tour options. We opted for the sunrise tour. Each Hot Air Expeditions tour conveniently offers shuttle pick-up from your hotel. We had a pick-up time of 4:00 am for our sunrise balloon ride, so it's important to go to bed early the night before! Especially if you're not morning people (like we're not).
From our pick-up point at our hotel, we rode for approximately 20-30 minutes to one of the potential balloon launch sites. At the launch sites, a lot actually happens prior to the actual take-off. The flight crews will test the direction and speed of wind using a small helium balloon called a "PiBall." The hot air balloon crew uses this to help determine the appropriate launch site and whether it's safe or too windy to fly.
2. Your launch site may change.
Because there are so many factors that determine whether a launch site is safe, expect your launch site to change. Before our hot air balloon experience, we drove around to three different sites before our crew finally decided on the official launch point. By the time they actually started to inflate the balloons, it was already around 6 am! Our "sunrise" balloon ride eventually transformed into an "early morning" balloon ride, but we were appreciative of the care and diligence of the crew to ensure that we had a safe flight.
3. Expect a tight space.
The baskets of hot air balloons are not large spaces by any means. We opted for the private experience with just us two and the captain. A smaller party however also means a smaller basket. Expect to get very cozy with the folks on your hot air balloon ride. On average, a smaller basket that accommodates the pilot and two passengers is about 3-4 feet wide. There are also baskets that can accommodate up to 12 passengers, and the dimensions of these baskets are more like 9 to 10 feet wide.
4. You may tip over on landing.
Prior to our take-off, our captain informed us that tipping over on our landing would be a possibility. In the world of hot air balloons there are three types of landings. Check out this @HotAirExpeditions Instagram Post to learn more about what they are:
Upon anticipation of landing, the captain will instruct you to crouch down in the basket. This helps to stabilize the basket and helps to protect your arms and knees inside of the basket. Although our basket did tip over, we were easily able to crawl out of the balloon without any injuries! Landing sideways also makes for fun stories and makes the experience that much more adventurous and enjoyable!
5. There's a champagne toast at the end!
It is a tradition around the world following hot air balloon rides to celebrate a safe take-off and landing with a champagne toast. Hot Air Expeditions takes this a step further and prepares a complete gourmet breakfast! Following flight, our captain set up a private dining table near our shuttle, complete with chef-prepared quiche, cheeses, crescents, and orange juice for mimosas. For just the two of us, we had an entire bottle of champagne all to ourselves!
At the end of breakfast, we were each presented with a balloonist certificate, certifying our ascent on the hot air balloon.
A hot air balloon ride when staying in Scottsdale or Phoenix is a must for any adventure seeker. A true bucket list experience, a hot air balloon ride over the Sonoran Desert is the perfect opportunity to relax, disconnect, and soar with the clouds.
Have you ever had a hot air balloon experience? What was it like? Let us know in the comments!
Be sure to pin for later!