Colorful hot air balloons rising into the sky in the early hours of the morning may be one of the most beautiful sights. Our entire family gets excited every time we spot one. We watch transfixed until they disappear from sight. So when the opportunity arose for our daughter (age ten) and I to take one at the Snowmass Balloon Festival I jumped without even giving it a second thought. Our son at age five was too young. So, we promised him that when he turns ten we’ll take him. I think that is one promise either of us would be happy to keep. In fact, I am pretty sure my husband is angling for it. I don’t blame him. Let me tell you a little about our hot air balloon experience: What I didn’t know about taking a child on a hot air balloon ride. And, what I know now.
Prior to this opportunity I hadn’t asked the questions I probably should have: Should you take your child on a hot air balloon ride? What should you know about taking kids on a hot air balloon ride? Are hot air balloons safe for children? Is there an age limit for a hot air balloon ride? How old should a child be before taking a hot air balloon ride?
Are there age limits for taking your child on a hot air balloon ride?
The answer is yes. But the age limits for taking a child on a hot air balloon ride will vary. Different hot air balloon companies will have different age requirements. The Snowmass Balloon Festival, who was our sponsor, requires children to be ages ten or over. But many hot air balloon pilots will take younger children on rides. However the wicker basket is about four feet tall. So children that aren’t much taller than four feet won’t be able to see over the basket. And, riders do need to keep their feet flat in the basket. A hot air balloon ride may range from a half hour to two hours. Your child will need to be able to stand for that amount of time. Riders also certainly need to be able to pay attention to the pilot’s instructions and even help out. Some of the help needed does require strength. Older children will be more likely to appreciate the experience of a hot air balloon ride overall.
What other factors are important in deciding whether to take a child on a hot air balloon ride?
Propane burners power hot air balloons.
The hot air balloon rises when the hot air balloon crew first blows cold air into the envelope and then heats it with a loud and hot propane burner. When you are in the air there is no warning as to when your hot air balloon pilot will need to start the heater other than watching their movements. This noise of the burner is loud and can be unexpected. This will certainly bother children with sensitivities to noise.
Hot air balloons are steered by catching winds.
The pilot really doesn’t have complete control over which direction the balloon will fly. The hot air balloon pilot controls how high the balloon goes in the air and uses this to try to catch winds. But it is very possible for a hot air balloon to get blown off course and land somewhere that is not easily accessible. As a passenger you and your child could end up with a challenging hike out of somewhere unexpected.
Hot air balloon passengers ride in a wicker basket.
Sport hot air balloons can only hold three to four people including the pilot. Depending on the size of the hot air balloon and the size of your family, you may not all be able to go up on a ride together. In our case, my daughter and I rode with our pilot. There was not much space to spare.
The wicker basket is the only thing between you and the ground below. For those scared of heights, a hot air balloon ride may be a bit scary.
There’s no guarantee of exactly where you will land. We had a very smooth landing, but it is possible it could be a bit bumpy.
Would I do it over again, and take my child on a hot air balloon ride?
My answer is a resounding “Yes!”. A hot air balloon ride is such a unique and beautiful experience. It is really almost indescribable. Rising into the air surrounded by nature, beautiful skies and colorful balloons is a pretty special experience. And, it was educational too.
My daughter is on the fence about whether she would go up again. She does have a fear of heights. Being up in the sky in just a wicker basket was definitely pushing her comfort zone. I don’t think she regrets going though. After all, we did have the best hot air pilot in Team Howe. Pilot Skip instilled confidence and was entertaining too.
Have you taken your child on a hot air balloon ride? What was your experience? Anything else you think parents should consider before taking their child on a hot air balloon ride? Tell us in the comments below!