Balloon Flight
Destination Just for Us UK

Up, Up and Away with Virgin Balloon Flights

Posted on
May 16, 2016

For years going up in a Hot Air Balloon was top of my bucket list and I dropped so many hints to Hubby about it that he completely ignored that I thought it was something I would have to book myself.

Finally for my 40th birthday he bought us the opportunity to go up in a Hot Air Balloon with Virgin Balloon Flights and I couldn’t wait to book a date.
I wouldn’t normally start a post with a negative but I have to admit that I found the whole booking process frustrating, although it is no fault of Virgin Balloon Flights who did their very best to help us and make things as pain free as possible. I found the places they flew from quite restricting and all the dates we were available they either fully booked or Hubby was working. The staff advised us when flights were released for each location, in our case every Wednesday at 5pm, and to login as close to that time as possible as they were snapped up almost immediately

Using this system I finally had our flight booked and we were really excited. We were instructed to call the flight line to check if the flight was going ahead a few hours before hand, as they need to be sure the weather conditions are favourable. Sadly I seemed to book our flights when the weather was atrocious and our flight was cancelled not once, but seven times.

I always dreaded phoning the flight line as I was literally stalking weather forecasts each time we booked and knew the answer before we heard it but finally, 99 weeks and 1 day from when I received my gift our flight, we were good to go!

We set off from home on Saturday to get to Henstridge Airfield at 6.30pm, although arrived super early with no sign of a crew or a balloon but were reassured that we were in the right place as other passengers started to arrive. I have to admit that I had assumed the balloon would be ready to go, in  we climbed and off we went, but we had to muck in and help unpack it and get it in the air.
Virgin Balloon Flights
Richard, our pilot, and a colleague arrived and immediately put us to work getting the fans and basket off a flatbed lorry, before laying out the fabric that would be our balloon on the field. I loved that we got to be involved in the whole process and it was fascinating seeing how everything was done.

Virgin Balloon Flights
The first thing we had was a safety briefing, followed by spreading the balloon out on the floor whilst Richard attached all the ropes and wires to the basket.

Virgin Balloon Flights
Once it was all attached and spread out it was time to inflate it with two giant fans. Hubby bravely volunteered to help hold the balloon open to get the air inside, with another volunteer the other side and a couple holding a rope at the top of the balloon.

Virgin Balloon Flights
I did look nervously on as Richard lit the burners to warm the air inside the balloon as Hubby was really close to the fire and he did admit he got a little warm doing it, but soon the balloon itself was in the air and we were ready to board.

Virgin Balloon Flights
Clambering inside a huge basket is not the most graceful of things to do but we all helped each other inside. At this point the basket was still attached to the flatbed truck and you could feel it trying to pull away. Richard took us through another quick safety briefing and we all practiced our landing positions before being released.

Virgin Balloon Flights
Drifting gently into the air was probably the most magical experience I have ever had. It was incredibly peaceful and we were soon high above the fields below. It didn’t feel like we were flying and there was no fear of heights at all.

Virgin Balloon Flights
We could hear animals below such as dogs barking and the occasional roar of the burners but other than that it was silent and relaxing. The views were quite spectacular and we could see as far as Southampton to the East and Glastonbury Tor to the West.

Balloon Flight
We rose to around 2000ft at our highest point and drifted along with the wind for around 75 minutes before it was time to find a landing spot.

Virgin Balloon Flights
Richard made sure he didn’t land in a field of crops or with animals in and soon identified a large green field to land in. We came down as gently as we took off and assumed the landing position which involved sitting on a padded seat and leaning into the basket wall. We touched down and bumped off the ground gently two or three more times before coming to rest – a perfect landing apparently. Richard then let the air out of the top of the balloon to help it fall down to earth.

Virgin Balloon Flights
Once we had got our of the basket it was time for a quick photo before helping pack it all away again and we started off by trampling over the balloon to get the remaining air out.

Virgin Balloon Flights
Deflating and repacking a Hot Air Balloon is an art in itself but I was really surprised by how little time it took. With most of the air out we gently folded it in to a compact strip ready for it to be put back into its bag.

Virgin Balloon Flights
It took everyone’s help to get the balloon into the bag, with the ladies pushing it in and the gentlemen lifting it in bit by bit. We had to stop at one point and all sit on the bag to get rid of the air that was still inside. By this time Richard’s colleague had arrived with his lorry to help.

Virgin Balloon Flights
Once everything had been winched onto the lorry we were treated to a glass of Champagne to celebrate our flight, which was much-needed after all that work.

Virgin Balloon Flights
The final journey of the trip was a minibus ride back to Henstridge Airfield to collect our car and head home. It really was the most magical trip and I would do it again in a heartbeat, despite the trouble with booking the flight itself. I only wish we were flying for longer.

Have you ever been up in a Hot Air Balloon?

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31 Comments
  1. Reply

    Jenni

    May 16, 2016

    Being cancelled that many times would have annoyed me. I would love to go in a hot air balloon but D doesnt like heights x

    • Reply

      Kara

      May 18, 2016

      It did frustrate me but it was worth it in the end

  2. Reply

    Clare aka Emmy's Mummy

    May 16, 2016

    Oh my gosh. Seven times……. That’s just awful bad luck and I would have been fuming especially after the hassle of booking in the first place.
    It’s something is like to do too. It looks ace

    • Reply

      Kara

      May 18, 2016

      Good old British weather!

  3. Reply

    Anosa

    May 16, 2016

    7 times cancelled, love you have the patience and because it’s on your bucketlist I guess it had to be done. Looks like a great experience, I just need to get over my fear of heights (i fly just fine though lol) and I would book.

    • Reply

      Kara

      May 18, 2016

      I sometimes feel wobbly at the top of a high building but this was fine – so gentle it didn’t bother me

  4. Reply

    Joanna

    May 16, 2016

    Wow at being cancelled 7 times, least u managed to go eventually. I would love to go in a hot air balloon its on my bucket list too.

    • Reply

      Kara

      May 18, 2016

      Do it – best experience ever!

  5. Reply

    Ana De- Jesus

    May 16, 2016

    At least you got to fulfil your dream all those many days later! I love that you were able to muck in with the other passengers too!

    • Reply

      Kara

      May 18, 2016

      It really added to the experience, we thoroughly enjoyed it

  6. Reply

    Jen

    May 16, 2016

    99 weeks, woah, I am not sure I would have waited that long. I have never been up in a hot air balloon. I am hoping when we eventually to the grand canyon that we can do a family one!

    • Reply

      Kara

      May 18, 2016

      Now that sounds amazing!

  7. Reply

    Niki - Play & Learn Every Day

    May 16, 2016

    That sounds absolutely incredible! Such a pain that the weather has to be absolutely perfect, but I suppose it’s best to be safe. It’s definitely something that we’ll have to try someday!

  8. Reply

    Coombe Mill - Fiona Cambouropoulos

    May 16, 2016

    Oh Kara that sounds simply brilliant! I’ve never been in a hot air balloon but guessed from your Sunday photo that you must have. I’m delighted to read the full experience and what a clever birthday present idea. I do find booking anything on line a tad frustrating, sounds like booking hot air balloon rides is no exception but definitely worth it.

    • Reply

      Kara

      May 18, 2016

      It is more to do with the weather than anything else as the conditions have to be perfect

  9. Reply

    Becci

    May 17, 2016

    That’s a shame you had a bit of nightmare with booking but it looked amazing when you finally got there!! I too keep dropping hints to Hubby I’d love to go in a hot air balloon! Xx

  10. Reply

    Jess

    May 17, 2016

    Wow that sounds amazing and what an experience to remember forever !!

  11. Reply

    Michelle

    May 17, 2016

    Woah, that’s some time to wait for your gift! I’m sure I remember you saying about that gift a few years back – did you?? Despite the wait, it looks and sounds to me that it was well worth it! x

    • Reply

      Kara

      May 18, 2016

      Yes, sadly I managed to pick the bad weather days

  12. Reply

    Emma | The Mini Mes and Me

    May 17, 2016

    That’s quite a wait but well worth it I’m sure. I found it amusing that your pilot was named Richard, I was waiting for Branson to pop up in your pictures hehe x

  13. Reply

    Renna

    May 17, 2016

    Well done, I would have loved to have done this years ago, but now, you’d find me sitting in the basket hiding. The views looks incredible.

  14. Reply

    JuggleMum, Nadine Hill

    May 17, 2016

    Going in a hot air balloon was always on my bucket list too and we booked one in Melbourne when we were on holiday – we also had it cancelled twice due to the weather and ran out of time to do it! So you have been VERY patient to get on this balloon! I have to confess, after reading this post I’m now not feeling as keen to go on one. I would have thought it was all ready to go upon arrival too! I wouldn’t want to get up so early then unpack it and re-pack it. Doesn’t make for a relaxing adventure!

  15. Reply

    Emma T

    May 17, 2016

    I’ve never been in a hot air balloon but would love to. It’s definitely the unpredictability that puts me off. It would probably never happen in the limited time I ever have to try and organise things.

  16. Reply

    Rachel

    May 17, 2016

    I am glad you got to do it, I have to admit, it does terrify me slightly, but the views you had – wow x

  17. Reply

    Sonia

    May 17, 2016

    This looks like an amazing experience, but I would be absolutely terrified x

  18. Reply

    Baby Isabella

    May 17, 2016

    You’re very brave Kara! I’m not so sure my mummy would want to fly in a hot air balloon! What amazing views once you up there though!

  19. Reply

    Kerry Norris

    May 17, 2016

    Sounds like you had a fab time. Shame it was such a palava booking it. You’re much braver than me. I’m not very good with heights. Hubby would love to do this though. X

  20. Reply

    Cass@frugalfamily

    May 18, 2016

    Looks like it was well worth the wait in the end – it must have been amazing x x

  21. Reply

    Nicola

    May 18, 2016

    Looks amazing! I’d love to do that. When my Gran was in her late 80s, she suddenly announced she’d always wanted to do a glider flight, a hot air balloon flight and a parachute jump! We bought her the glider and balloon flights as birthday presents so at the grand old age of 87 she hopped into the basket and went for a ride, we all went along to watch and it was fascinating watching the balloon get unrolled and packed away by the participants. She never did the parachute jump, nobody would insure her, but I think she was content she did the balloon flight – she loved it!

  22. Reply

    Nayna Kanabar

    May 21, 2016

    What an amazing experience, so glad your wish finally came true.

  23. Reply

    Charly Dove

    May 23, 2016

    Oh how wonderful Kara and what superb views. You must have thought it was never going to happen after all those weeks. I’ve always fancied a balloon flight although I’m a little nervous at the prospect! I need to get a grip before the summer, there’s a cable car to the mountains with my name on it 🙂

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KARA GUPPY
Bournemouth

Are we nearly there yet? is a new online blog run by me, Kara Guppy, and is named as such thanks to my daughter Eliza who always asks that very question when we are less than 5 minutes up the road heading off on our adventures. You may know me from my other family blog chelseamamma.co.uk