Several days ago, I took to the skies again for one of my bucket list items. Not to some far off land or country, but instead I took to the skies in a hot air balloon! I teamed up with Field Trip for a hot air balloon ride across Miami and South Florida. Talk about major bucket list experience!
Hot Air Ballooning is A LOT more complicated than I ever thought it would be. Of course, I had never really thought about all the considerations and concerns that it entails. We had tried to schedule the hot air balloon experience a number of times, but thanks to South Florida's unpredictable weather (and a crazy El Nino this year), it took us a while to find a day to get off the ground safely. It was well worth the wait though! This is something you need to take into consideration when booking the experience, the weather is unpredictable, and the crew won't fly if the weather isn't favorable.
I left The Traveling Ninja's house at around 4 AM in order to make it down to a random parking lot of Winn Dixie somewhere in Homestead, Miami. Needless to say I was tired, but very excited. I met up with the crew and was introduced to the Hulk - the hot air balloon transporting machine who was to carry around Betty, our hot air balloon.
Getting ready for the Hot Air Balloon Ride
Setting up for a hot air balloon is pretty complicated. Hot Air Balloons have no steering wheel... They kind of just go with the wind. So that wind has to be right! A much more complicated and intricate ordeal. We drove over to our first location in vans and then set off a Chinese lantern, as the sun wasn't up yet. The wind was going in the wrong direction, so we packed up and set off for another location.
The next location was ok, up until we found FIRE ANTS! - which I'm pretty allergic to and carry an Epi pen around for. By this time, the sun was coming up and starting to heat up the fog that had set in in the early morning. We were going to miss the actual sunrise, but this is the deal when you're dealing with the elements and a hot air balloon. We trudged over to the next location, a short walk to the opposite side of the field, me carefully watching my foot placement.
Our new location was deemed perfect by the crew. This was our final spot, so up went the balloon. It takes a while for this to get set up, with the crew having a fine-tuned plan and technique. Some of our party assisted, and the rest of us took pictures and waited excitedly.
How to Prepare for your First Hot Air Balloon ride:
- wear comfortable and breathable clothing as it's really hot in the basket (especially in South Florida)
- bring a hat to help keep the heat off your head
- keep in mind flights are a no-go in bad weather. The slightest of wind or rain can delay or cancel a trip completely. It's a tricky business
- wear sneakers or comfortable shoes as you have to climb into the basket and stand for the duration of the flight
- take a camera, but make sure it's strapped to you somehow - you don't want to drop it!
Hot Air Balloon Lift off!
After waiting for set up, you don't have much time to think before jumping into the balloon. The crew asked another passenger and I to help tilt the basket with our body weight - though I'm not sure how much we helped! Once we had climbed in, the rest of the passengers boarded. While the crew were making their final adjustments, one of the crew members took photos with our cameras of us. I was sharing the basket with a couple celebrating their second year anniversary, along with the presenter and filmer from Miami TV and the gang from Field Trip. I got a whole section to myself which was pretty cool, so there was plenty of room for me to take photos and move about. Before I could really process what was happening we were starting to drift off the ground and into the air. What a surreal experience. You would think it's some what of a choppy, bumpy ride into the heavens, but it's the smoothest process ever. You just glide up and away into the air!
In the Sky in a Hot Air Balloon
I couldn't help but feel like the Wizard of Oz! Hot Air Ballooning is one of those surreal, magical moments. You're expecting this completely choppy, scary, bumpy ride, and it is completely the opposite. It is one of the most peaceful things I've experienced. The world lies below you, the sun is warming your face (the hot air the top of your head too), and you're gliding peacefully across the sky. We didn't go up very high as a result of the winds picking up, but we floated across Miami's greater Homestead and Redland area. It is hard to describe the feeling of being in a hot air balloon. It is as if you're completely weightless. It is completely peaceful and perfect.
All the while we were traveling in the hot air balloon, the crew was below us following us. Communicating with each other, our pilot picked out a flat and what we thought was an unplanted field, to make our landing. The crew did prepare us and explain that the landings can be a bit bumpy. Our's was perfectly peaceful. We didn't even hit the ground with a bump, we kind of scraped along the floor, with our bodies tucked in the basket, crouching on our knees. Our landing spot however was not an unplanted field! It had just been planted with squash. The land owner and farmer came over, and he was really nice. We shared a beer with him and he took a photo of the balloon with all its equipment too.
Hot Air Balloon Experience Success
After we got out and the balloon was packed up, we headed over to a recreation area, where we had a picnic. We toasted with champagne, and our crew recited this beautiful air balloonist prayer:
The winds have welcomed you with softness
The sun has blessed you with it’s warm rays
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
A perfect send off!
This was definitely one of the most peaceful and surreal moments of my adventures so far! It is an incredible experience, and if you ever get the chance, you need to do it! I wish we could do it all over again!
I am grateful to Field-Trip Lifestyle for inviting me to be a part of their #WhenInMiami series.
Have you ever flown in a hot air balloon before? What is on your bucket list? Tell me in the comment section below :)