Our hot air balloon took flight just before sunrise, the sky still blanketed in pale blue light. As we continued rising higher into the air, the other balloons still on the ground started getting smaller and the houses began looking like tiny miniature models. When we reached a sufficient height, the pilot turned off the burner, eliminating all sound. In that moment, we were suspended over sleeping Temecula, practically shoulder to shoulder with 10 other breathing souls, in a basket high above the city. Below is more about my experience, and some tips on how to prepare for your own Temecula hot air balloon ride.
How to Prepare for a Temecula Hot Air Balloon Ride
What to Wear
Most hot air balloon rides happen at sunrise, and some companies offer rides that happen at sunset. Either way, part of your experience is going to be in the dark. Be sure to dress warmly. My hot air balloon ride experience happened in Temecula, California in February and the temperature was about 35 degrees Fahrenheit (1.6 Celsius) when we set out at 5:00am. We stood around in a field while the air balloons were being prepped, and it was pretty cold. I would recommend a heavy jacket, gloves, and hat, and some leg warmers or long underwear if needed. I also recommend comfortable shoes, as you will have to climb over the side of the basket to get in and out.
What to Pack and Bring on a Hot Air Ballon Ride
One of the major points of how to prepare for a Temecula hot air balloon sunrise is deciding what to pack. If you’re going to bring a purse or backpack, make sure it is small and that you don’t mind having to put it on the floor if needed. If you’re booking a shared hot balloon ride, there isn’t a lot of room as you are sharing a very small space with those around you. Here are some other suggestions on what to pack:
- Hand warmers. These were lifesavers and amazing to have in the cold.
- Cell phone strap. The last thing you want to do is drop that expensive cell phone out of the balloon.
- Touch screen gloves, so you can keep warm while operating your camera and phone.
- Camera. If cell phone pics aren’t going to cut it for you, I recommend my favorite camera, the Sony Alpha 6000 Mirrorless Camera. It is lightweight and compact, and has great automatic and manual settings. Be sure to attach it to a camera strap. I like this strap with side pockets for wearing around my neck, and this wrist strap if just carrying my camera around. For more on what type of photography equipment I use, check out my related article on Travel Blogging Photography Gear.
How to Choose a Company for your Temecula Hot Air Balloon Ride
Quality and Safety First
When shopping around and preparing for your Temecula hot air balloon ride, be sure to keep quality as your priority over price. When you’re high above the city, you want to make sure you have an experienced pilot with sturdy up-to-date equipment to keep you safe. After reading dozens of reviews, I decided to book with Compass Balloons. They were very well organized, efficient, and friendly.
Check What’s Included
I noticed some of the other Temecula hot air balloon companies had their customers in the air for a shockingly short period of time. My group was up in the air about an hour total. Be sure to check the length of your ride to make sure it meets your expectations. My trip with Compass Balloons included breakfast pastries and mimosas after flight. Nothing like standing in the middle of a field and popping a bottle of champagne with new friends. Be sure to tip your pilot as well at the end of the trip if you feel they did a great job with the operation.
Choosing a Group or Private Hot Air Balloon Ride
Most hot air balloon companies in Temecula offer both group and private rides. I considered a private ride because it seemed more personal, spacious, and romantic, but when I saw the huge price difference I decided to take my chances with the group. Keep in mind that most companies require a minimum number of guests to operate each ride. So get ready to be flexible with your plans if you’re planning your ride on a weekday or off season.
How to Prepare for Take off on a Temecula Hot Air Balloon Ride
On my hot air balloon experience, my group met at a designated meeting point where the company then shuttled us to our take-off location. They had the basket, balloon and equipment attached to the shuttle and ready to go. When we arrived at our take-off location at a nearby vineyard, the team then rolled out the balloon and began preparing for flight. Although it was really cold that early in the morning, I had a lot of fun walking around and watching the various companies prepare their balloons for flight.
Prepare to Climb into the Basket
I don’t know why I thought all hot air balloon baskets had little doors, but ours did not. There were foot holds on the sides of the basket to help the riders climb in. It wasn’t a problem for me to climb in, but it’s something I would keep in mind if you’re traveling with family members who aren’t as mobile or able to climb. It’s also something to keep in mind when deciding what to wear for the ride.
Other Tips on How to Prepare for a Temecula Hot Air Balloon Ride
- Use the restroom beforehand. It kind of goes without saying, but there are no restrooms out in the field or on board the hot air balloon.
- Pack very light. You do not want to add more weight to the basket, and there is very little room for maneuvering around if traveling with a group.
- Dress warm if departing for a sunrise trip.
- Bring some headphones or earbuds if you want to add a great soundtrack to your experience.
- Be sure to get a photo in front of the balloon before or after take off. Since most of your pics will be of the landscape below or of each other in the basket in really close proximity, you will be thankful you snapped a photo of the balloon and basket as a whole on the outside.
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