It is no secret that I am not a planner. I love the thrill of going where the winds and the spirit moves me and thanks to TripAdvisor and Orlando Balloon Rides I was able to do just that and cross yet another item off of my Bucket List which was made even better because I didn’t even know until that fateful night, that soaring in a hot air balloon high over Orlando was something that even existed much less something I could do-especially on a 12 hour notice but that is exactly what I found myself doing on a recent visit to Orlando.
There’s just something about deciding in the morning to get up and go somewhere and that night you’re on the beaches of Hawaii, or making the decision at 11:00 pm on Tuesday that instead of shipping your son his car from California to his new home in Florida, why not drive cross country instead and at 7:00 am on Wednesday it was Florida here I come.
Now just because I don’t plan months in advance does not mean that I am not a smart traveler and look for as much information as I can and that’s where TripAdvisor has always been my number one travel resource. Whether it was searching for hotel reviews as I was pulling into New Orleans in the middle of the night, or searching for that perfect Mexican place to try, the reviews and recommendations on TripAdvisor have led the way for me and have never steered me wrong! My TripAdvisor app has always had the information I needed at the exact moment I needed it.
I am always seeking those true Bucket List items whether I am at home or on the road and with the help of my TripAdvisor phone app I can quickly scroll through their easy to use Attractions section and before I knew it I was booked and ready to go. No more searching through hundreds of websites, or calling places to check for availability or looking for coupons to get me the best price because TripAdvisor had taken care of all of that for me.
Did you know that TripAdvisor is the world’s largest provider of tours, activities, and attractions, with more than 56,000 bookable experiences in 2,500 destinations worldwide? TripAdvisor Attractions offers something for every kind of traveler. Book everything from walking tours, skip-the-line access and theatre tickets to hot air balloon safaris and Everest base camp treks and luckily for me I was able to find more choices than I could ever possibly do in a lifetime so I looked for things that would help me check things off my Bucket List. The best part of the story was this was one of those rare instances where I actually did try to plan in advance.
On my bucket list for Orlando was swim with the Manatees and ride in a gator boat and I actually had them booked well in advance not once but twice. Both times, however, the weather gods were not in my favor because let’s face it, as much as I had dreamed about coming face to face with a manatee, there was no way I was diving into ocean water when it was 30 degrees outside but luckily for me, while I was scrolling my TripAdvisor app, one of the suggestions that popped up based on previous searches was a hot air balloon ride over Orlando.
Having been on several balloon rides over the Sonoma and Napa WIne Countries and thanks to TripAdvisor, a helicopter ride over San Francisco I knew it was something I had to experience and with a quick swipe of the app, I was booked and ready to experience a high-flying adventure like never before!
The adventure starts VERY early in the morning- in my case 5:00 am- when Orlando Balloon Rides picked me up right at my hotel for the quick 20-minute drive to the launch site. I am sad to admit that with all of my trips to Orlando, this was the first time I had really seen what the surrounding areas were like.
Suddenly there was nature all around from huge forests to countless small towns and communities and yes, swamps too. The staff of Orlando Balloon Rides could not have been more welcoming. They treated me as if I were an old friend come back for another visit and went over the basics of what to expect. I quickly went from being the only person in the waiting area to a room packed with dozens of people awaiting what for most was to be their first flight.
We were divided into groups and vans and after several wind checks, we were off to our morning launch site, an empty field that not only served as our staging area but several other companies in the area as well.
To watch the sun start to break through as balloon after balloon inflated and quickly lifted off will remain in my memories forever.
To suddenly find yourself literally floating over the earth, gazing down gives you an entirely new perspective not just on the area but life itself. The peace and calm that takes over can’t be explained but must be experienced at least once in a lifetime.
Suddenly the noise and the hustle of life gave way to a new kind of serene with only the occasional noise of the burners that keep the balloons afloat, igniting. Mark our balloon pilot was humorous, knowledgeable and it was obvious from the moment we met him that this was not just a job but a passion for him.
He told stories of the beginnings of what Orlando used to be like decades before, how it had grown, made sure that I got to see Walt Disney World from a whole new point of view and explained to me about the different terrains we were flying over from the deep forests to the neighborhoods to the swamps and sinkholes below.
His wealth of knowledge that he so readily shared with me was almost as good, if not better than the flight itself.
Balloons go with the wind and the day before our flight had actually been too windy to navigate the skies and as the winds picked up towards the end of our one hour flight, the pilots were in constant communication with each other making sure that each and every basket came in for a perfect landing.
Apparently, hot air balloons are a must where romance is concerned because although we did have a family with small children on our flight, we also experienced not one but two proposals -they both said “yes” -as well as an actual wedding. It seemed only fitting that at the end of our journey that a champagne toast was held but that’s actually just a part of the package when you book a flight with Orlando Balloon Rides.
With memories to last a lifetime and an official certificate to hang on my wall, it was back to reality and to my resort where I returned just as most people were waking up. It was a picture-perfect ending to a picture perfect day.
The next time you are looking for an extraordinary experience to cap off your visit to Orlando, put Orlando Balloon Rides at the top of your list. Here you have the chance to view Florida as you’ve never seen before!
Their sunrise flights are scheduled seven days a week, 365 days a year, weather permitting. It is so worth getting up in the wee, wee hours of the morning 1 hour prior to sunrise to travel to one of their many launch sites and with Inflation taking only about 20 minutes you are up, up and away and airborne!
Your 1 hour has you ascending anywhere from tree tops to several thousand feet high and incredible top-notch pilots such as Mark are all too happy to point out the spectacular sites of the area, from theme parks to the Orange groves and forests, to swamps absolutely untouched for thousands of years.
And Booking with TripAdvisor took all of guess work out of booking my choices because not only did I find suggestions for other travelers of things I didn’t even know existed in Orlando but I was able to have all the information I needed, check the availability, book and have the voucher right on my phone and the best part, I had the option of booking weeks or months in advance, as most people do, or in my case I picked from the list the night before and was on my way the very next day.
Talk about as easy as 1-2-3! And if I had needed to change my plans or had questions after I booked, TripAdvisor has someone there to answer it all for me 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It just doesn’t get much easier than that. Thank you to Orlando Balloon Rides and TripAdvisor for helping me to check yet another amazing experience off of my bucket list!