A hot air balloon ride is something this Hertfordshire family will never forget. After many weather cancellations, the Duglan family were used to the ‘Great’ British weather letting them down. But, when their flight went ahead one beautiful July morning, the adventure was everything they had hoped for.

“It was a surreal, magical experience,” says Sue Duglan.

“I checked the weather forecast the night before we were due to fly and the wind speeds looked ok (below 10mph), but it looked a little overcast so I didn’t get my hopes up too much.”

“I couldn’t believe it when I rang the flight line and heard our pilot Kerry saying the flight was going ahead. I frantically told my husband and daughter – we were all so excited, I struggled to get to sleep!”

Sue’s husband Darran had bought the flights to treat Sue when she completed a Master’s Diploma.

Making Dreams Come True

“It was a lifelong dream of mine to go on a hot air balloon ride. When I was a young girl I had a dream about a hot air balloon landing in my parent’s front garden – it’s been on my bucket list ever since.

“We had to wait a while because of the weather, but it was actually quite fitting as my daughter had just finished her nursing qualifications so it was a double celebration.

“It was a bit like fate – we were meant to fly at that time,” says Sue.

The hot air balloon flew near Lister Hospital where daughter Nicky had been training.

“It was a really special moment, as she’ll be going off to work in Wales soon, so it was nice for her to say goodbye from the sky.”

Some Flyers Go Up First Time

When the family arrived at their launch site in Graveley, Hertfordshire they met a couple celebrating their wedding anniversary.

“It was their first booking and their wedding anniversary was actually on that day! It was great to see the flight was meant to be for them too,” says Sue.

All passengers mucked in with getting the balloon ready for inflation – a great bonding exercise, which most flyers find great fun.

“All three of us loved the inflation and deflation of the balloon, the equipment and whole operation were really slick. I couldn’t quite believe it when we started unravelling this huge piece of fabric which suddenly became our mode of transport.”

Drifting Across Your Home County

The Duglan family often travel further afield when it comes to spending time together, so being able to appreciate their home county was amazing.

“We drifted across Hertfordshire and had some beautiful landscape and town views over Hitchin and our hometown of Letchworth Garden City.

“We could see planes coming into land at the nearby airport and as it was such a clear day, on the horizon we even spotted Canary Warf! We really weren’t expecting that as we’re quite far north of London.”

For Sue, the best part of her hot air balloon ride was getting a whole new perspective of her home county.

“You just see things you wouldn’t notice down on the ground and as it’s so tranquil and still you’re just fascinated. I’m really into archaeology so seeing the plough marks and tree formations from an aerial perspective was really interesting.”

“The only problem was that we were so in awe of the views, the hour in the sky went so quickly.”

A Smooth Landing Without the Bump

As we sat down and put our hands in the stirrups to land, I kept trying to peep over the edge of the basket to anticipate when we were going to land,” says Sue.

“I was expecting a massive bump, but it was actually really smooth and great fun – I had nothing to worry about.”

Sue had nothing but praise for our Hertfordshire pilot Kerry and his crew member Tom.

“They were both so friendly and informative – a credit to the aviation industry.

“All three of us are hooked and would love to do it again.”

Sue’s Top Tips for Future Flyers:

  1. Wear a hat: “Your head can get quite hot with the heat from the burners.”
  2. Take a camera and keep it on a lanyard: “I wouldn’t risk leaning over the edge of the basket with a mobile phone.”
  3. Don’t let flying fears spoil the fun: “You don’t actually feel like you’re that high up and it is a gradual, smooth ascent. You’re just so in awe of the natural beauty and interesting sites that you don’t notice the height aspect.”

Up, Up and Away Again

A hot air balloon ride may seem like a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but many passengers just can’t wait to hop into another basket and reach new heights again. Toni and Tony from Lincolnshire have now flown in a hot air balloon nine times.

Sue would love to fly again and take her Father who is 77 – it’s an adventure she knows he would enjoy.

“I’d love to take my dad, I just need to find the right time. All three of us are hooked on ballooning, it definitely fulfilled all my expectations and more.”

The Next Adventure

The fun doesn’t stop at a hot air balloon ride for this adventurous family:

“We often go to festivals and travel around in our VW camper. We love doing outdoorsy things as it’s a great way for us to spend quality time with one another. “We’d like to see the Northern Lights and stay in an ice hotel next.”

“As well as the balloon ride, another incredible experience for me was scuba diving in Cuba – it’s those breath-taking moments that you never forget.

We want you to go on your airborne adventure as soon as possible. Just like the Duglan family and Aiden from Cambridge, the unpredictable weather can sometimes mean it takes a little while before you get up in the air. Read our hot air balloon weather guide for more info on this.