Whether you want to go ballooning in Napa Valley or you wish to fly over the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida, you’re not sure when to schedule the trip. You’d imagine the waiting list for a hot air balloon ride is a mile long in the summer, so maybe you should go in the spring or the fall? When is the optimal time of year for a hot air balloon ride?
The most popular times of year for hot air ballooning are April through October. Not all ballooning companies stop operations in November onward though. Wintertime ballooning can be a fun experience, and you should be able to book any time slot you want at that time of year.
In this article, we’ll talk further about when during the year you can go hot air ballooning, from placid springtime rides to relaxing summer flights and even wintertime trips. If you’re booking your first hot air balloon ride, you won’t want to miss it!
When Do Hot Air Balloon Companies Stop Flying for the Year?
You like to plan your vacations outside of peak season. Not only will there be fewer people at the resort, but you can typically get some pretty sweet deals on airfare and lodging. Yet you worry that if you wait until the autumn for a getaway, you might have to nix your plans for going hot air ballooning.
Many hot air balloon companies operate year-round. That said, the availability of any ballooning company varies, so please contact your company for their schedule. We also want to mention that just because a hot air balloon company is open all year long doesn’t mean flights happen frequently during certain months.
We’ll talk more about the conditions for which ballooning is best a little later, but for now, we will say this. If it’s raining and storming or there’s snow on the ground, then you’re not going hot air ballooning.
What Time of Year Should I Schedule a Hot Air Balloon Ride?
Given that hot air balloon companies are open all year long, you can schedule a ride just about any time you want. You’re looking for comfortable conditions though, we’re sure. You want a day that’s not too warm nor too cold. It should be sunny and clear so you can take photos and videos as you sit in the gondola and float.
To meet all that criteria, hot air balloon companies recommend scheduling your flight anytime from April to October. Here are some things to keep in mind when ballooning during each of those months.
In most parts of the country, April is the true beginning of springtime, but vestiges of winter can remain. The cold-to-warm, warm-to-cold whiplash can make it difficult to plan a comfortable day to go hot air ballooning. Make sure you bring a jacket with you on your flight!
A predominantly warm month, the world is in bloom by May. It’s not like you’re going to see many trees since you’ll be flying in a hot air balloon and all, but you’re more likely to have sunnier, comfortable days in most of the country during this month.
The summer heat hasn’t really started yet by the time June arrives on the calendar, so it’s a good time to go hot air ballooning. The days are getting even long as summer gets underway, so late afternoon flights are as good as early mornings.
Lots of vacationers will want to ride a hot air balloon in the middle of summer. July is when the heat really begins kicking in if it hasn’t already. You might want to skip the later-day rides when the heat could still linger in the air.
A late-summer vacation can be a crowded one, not to mention August typically has some of the hottest days of the year throughout a lot of the country. Like in July, you’ll want to go hot air ballooning earlier in the day than later.
For many hot air ballooning companies, September is their busiest month. The summer heat is still in the air but it’s beginning to be replaced by cooler breezes. The days are sunny and the evenings are crisp but not too cold. You can see why for many people, September is the perfect time to fly in a hot air balloon!
Shorter days are on the calendar as October gets underway. Early in the morning when you may book your hot air balloon ride, you’ll feel a distinct chill unless you’re in a southern part of the country. Late afternoon flights will let you watch the burning sun as it starts setting, as it’s going down earlier. The fall foliage that surrounds you on the ground is often a lovely sight to behold!
Can You Go on a Hot Air Balloon in Winter?
Although October marks the end of the popular hot air ballooning season, as we said before, if a hot air ballooning company can send balloons out from November onward, they’re going to. Can you really fly a hot air balloon in the winter?
Yes, you can fly in a hot air balloon in the winter. If anything, the external cold air allows the balloon to be more buoyant than it would be when flying in warmer weather so you can float even higher.
Let’s explain that more for a moment. We talked about flying a hot air balloon in the cold in this post on the blog. The reason hot air balloons fly better when it’s cold is due to the changes in air density. The cold air is denser than the warm air within the balloon envelope. The difference in air temperature–provided the envelope stays warm–can create lift since the balloon is more buoyant than its surroundings.
That doesn’t mean you can’t fly in the summer when the air temperature of the balloon is about the same as it is outside or maybe even warmer (we’ll talk about envelope temps momentarily). If you fly in the winter though, you’ll notice that your balloon seems to float easier and rise higher than it does when flying in the summer.
There are some winter ballooning caveats to be aware of. The outdoor air temperature decreases by about 5 degrees Fahrenheit for every 1,000 feet you ascend. When the temperature is already 30 or 40 degrees, the extra cold can be jarring. You’ll certainly want to wear winter gear when ballooning, but make sure you can move freely, as you’ll usually have to climb into and out of the gondola.
How Warm Is It Inside a Hot Air Balloon?
How do you avoid becoming a popsicle during a wintertime hot air balloon ride? It’s simple: the burner system.
We’ve talked about the burners a lot in our posts about hot air balloons, so we’ll keep this brief. All hot air balloons have one or more burners pointed up at the envelope, which is the balloon material. The burners evaporate liquid propane and send a hot flame into the envelope so it has the warm air to ascend.
The burners might not be on the entire time you’re flying, especially when you’re landing. At that point, the balloon pilot wants to introduce cold air so the balloon can begin coming down. When the burners do operate, how hot are they?
Well, there’s no one uniform temperature, as the temp is dependent on how many burners the hot air balloon has, whether they’re on, for how long they’ve been running, and the size of the envelope. All that said, we’ve seen estimates of 90 to 140 degrees.
In the winter, you won’t mind the extra heat, but in the summer, ballooning might get a bit toasty. You’re always better off bringing layers no matter the time of year. This way, you’ll be ready not only for the fluctuating envelope temperature but the changing outdoor air temperature as well.
What Weather Is Good for Hot Air Balloons?
We mentioned before that inclement weather such as snow and rain is a no-no for hot air ballooning. Outside of stormy conditions, the biggest weather factor the balloon pilot will look at to determine if a hot air balloon can fly is how windy it is.
Wind gusts don’t generate lift like you might have thought. If anything, strong winds can send the balloon out of control. Your flight would be dangerous at that point, not to mention the landing would not be easy for the balloon pilot to make.
As the sun rises in the sky and warms up the ground, a byproduct known as air thermals develop. The air thermals displace the air around them and can create the windy conditions that balloon pilots want to avoid. That’s why hot air balloons will only fly early in the morning and later in the day.
When planning a trip to the skies in a hot air balloon ride, there are definitely certain times of the year that are better for this than others. We hope this post helped you decide when to schedule your balloon ride so you can make incredible memories with friends and family!