Balloon Rides: Why I chose it for my romantic occasion
Don't tell anyone, but I am planning on proposing to my girlfriend later this year and I have been thinking, what would be the most romantic way of popping the question. After going through a number of scenarios in my mind, I decided that the best place to pop the question would be on a balloon ride as it's nothing you get to do every day (neither is getting engaged) and there is something romantic about floating above the world which is just what I am looking for.
With so many locations and companies to choose from, deciding the venue for my proposal is no easy task. Out of the multitude of hot air balloon companies on the net I narrowed down my search to two companies who certainly look the part, but what is the service really like?
The Virgin Balloon Flights website was the first place I visited while performing my research for my up and coming balloon ride. I have personally been a big fan of most of Virgins products through the years so I expect a certain level of service from their balloon rides. The Virgin website is very basic in its design and I almost felt let down by the lack of imagination. At the end of the day as long as it provides enough information and an easy booking form, this can be forgiven.
My favourite part of the website is within the gallery section where it illustrates full 360 degree views from one of their balloons which gives you a taster of what you can expect to see when you go up in one of these balloons yourself. In terms of locations, Virgin Balloon Rides offers up to 60 individual locations across England, Scotland and Wales but no Northern Ireland I am afraid. It would have been nice to have a balloon ride over London City at night however there are no launch sites anywhere near. You can search for a launch site by both Country, Town or by Google Maps so finding your nearest site is a piece of cake.
When you drill down to an individual launch site it will give you a page of information about that launch site with historical data, address and booking information. In order to book your Balloon ride you must first purchase a voucher online. For £99 you can buy a ticket that covers a certain region or pay an extra £20 and be allowed to fly from any one of Virgins launch sites across the country. Once you have your voucher you can use the number to book your launch on their online system which seems a bit long winded but I suppose most people go on these kinds of experiences as a gift rather than something they do themselves.
Each Balloon ride lasts for between 3 and 4 hours and there can be anywhere between 10 & 16 people on each flight. Champaign will be served to everyone when you land and you can book your flights between March and October.
In contrast to VirginBalloonFlights, the Hotair website looks outstanding and illustrates all the information I require in a well laid out website. The gallery has three photo albums filled with professional looking pictures although they not as exciting as those 360 degree pictures found on the Virgin website.
There are 15 launch sites around the UK so if you live anywhere else but England, I suggest you take another look at the Virgin website which has more locations to offer you. My local venue for a Hotair balloon ride would be Chelmsford in Essex and like the Virgin website, it has a one pager that describes the area and what you can expect to see. In addition to just text information, the Hotair website shows a photo gallery for each venue they look after so you can see exactly what type of sights you will see on the day.
In terms of Pricing, there are a number of options. The cheapest ticket is their sunrise ticket which for just £99, you get a 4 hour balloon ride when the sun just starts to come up, around 6:00am. I'm not really a morning person so I would be more tempted by the sunset flight which launches about an hour before the sun goes down for £110. Similarly to the Virgin website, you must purchase as voucher before you book your balloon ride. If you are buying a balloon ride as a present for someone why not spend an extra £15 and have the tickets attached to a helium balloon that is delivered in the post.
Due to my intentions, proposing to my girlfriend in a basket dangling an thousand feet about the ground sounds great, but not with another 8 strangers in my basket. For those who want a bit of privacy, HotAir.com offers a VIP ticket for two which allows you to book out the entire balloon for £595.
After taking a look at the strongest two contenders for Balloon rides I have to make my decision as to which company to use for potentially the most important day of my life. Both companies offer similar services but only one offers the privacy that I require for our big day. £595 is quite an expense for a 4 hour ride, but at the same time that is little expense for a memory that will hopefully last forever. Due to the unique offering of VIP tickets for two, I will be booking my balloon ride from HotAir.com later today.