On the last morning of my Florida trip, we had a very special activity planned as our grand finale: A hot air balloon ride! I’d never been on a hot air balloon before, so this was yet another first for me and something I was very excited about. Hot air balloon rides are very dependent on weather, so we crossed our fingers all week that we would be able to go. Luck was on our side and the conditions were right, so we left at 5:30 in the morning to watch the sun rise from a balloon!
We arrived at Orlando Balloon Rides and went outside to watch the process of setting up and inflating the balloons while we waited to board. A few volunteers, including Melissa, helped hold the balloon in place while it inflated!
Once the balloon was inflated, it was time to climb in the basket and take off!
Watching the sun rise from a balloon is simply gorgeous. We took off with two other balloons, and the captains would yell jokes at each other sometimes while we were in the air!
Look at the spectacular views we were treated to during our ride:
I’ve mentioned several times during my trip recaps that I have a healthy fear of heights. It was a little unnerving to me when we first launched because it takes a minute to adjust to being so far off the ground with just a basket between you and the sky. But I quickly acclimated! I did get some great shots with my Garmin VIRB camera, holding it with a death grip and pointing it down over the side of the balloon basket where my eyes didn’t dare to look (Or couldn’t see). I got a kick out of seeing the footage for the first time when I got home – my stomach lurches looking at this view!
The ride was smooth and simply lovely, with simply incredible sights. From this high up, Epcot Center looks like a marble!
The ride lasts for about an hour, and make a slow and gradual descent to the ground. Right before landing, you’re instructed to sit on the bottom of the basket and hold on to the handles in front of you – I was a little nervous about this part, but the land was completely effortless – you barely even felt it!
Once we landed and had the OK from our pilot, we climbed out of the basket. We landed in a field on a farm, and began the fascinating process of packing the balloon up.
First, the pilot invited anyone who wanted to help to walk over the deflated balloon to flatten it! This was really interesting – at one point, the top of the balloon started falling back on us and we were cracking up!
Next, the pilot gathered the balloon up, and asked us to kick the sides of it so he could grab it more easily. What the photo above doesn’t show is that while I was doing this, I accidentally kicked the pilot. I’m so sorry!!
Then, a group of volunteers held a large bag while the pilot and another group picked up the balloon and put it inside.
Once the balloon was in its bag, everyone leaned on it to help cram it in, just like it was an overstuffed suitcase!
Once the balloon was put away and loaded into its truck, we drove on the back roads from the farmland to a U-Pick Citrus grove right by the nearest major road. Here, we had a mimosa toast to our flight and looked around the storefront for a few minutes before driving back to Orlando Balloon Rides headquarters, where a breakfast buffet was waiting for us. We had to catch our flights home, so unfortunately we couldn’t stay, but I did have time to grab a piece of bacon and a Florida orange before driving straight to the airport to fly home!
Check out my video of the whole flight, from inflation to packing up the balloon:
I can’t think of a more phenomenal end to my unforgettable vacation than this hot air balloon ride – it was simply amazing, and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!
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