Minnesota Hot Air Balloon Flights... Come Fly With Us!
Q: Why should I choose Stillwater Balloons?
A: Because we're pretty, and people like us... okay, there are other reasons too (if you really need them). Take, for instance, that we launch only blocks from the beautiful St Croix River, every flight offering spectacular water views, or that we are a trusted business, offering commercial flights since 1976 and providing more rides than anyone else in the Midwest. You could be excited about the fact that you will receive an engraved keepsake Champagne flute. You will definitely like the fact that we have the lowest full price in the area, run great specials, and promise to match our local competitors' pricing (should we neglect to catch a great deal). Additionally, we offer certificates that never expire - the money you spend is waiting for you whenever you desire to use it. Finally, we are committed to making the world a happier place - we will start by striving to exceed your desires in customer service and flight, but we won't stop there.
Let the beauty overwhelm you.
Come fly with us.
Q:Why does everyone keep warning me about rescheduling?
A: Hot air balloon flights are completely dependent upon weather conditions. Ground winds in excess of 10 miles an hour, excessive winds aloft, precipitation, fog, wet landing conditions, and low cloud cover are just a few of the obstacles balloonists face. Each of these conditions can cause our pilots to cancel scheduled flights and ask our passengers to reschedule. We cancel in excess of 75% of our flights due to unfavorable weather conditions, and although some customers are able to fly on their first scheduled date, the average number of reschedules is five. We are perpetually turning our customers attention to this fact as foreknowledge reduces frustration. We want you to be aware of it such that is less likely to surprise and irritate. Indeed, this reality is part of what makes ballooning so spectacular and so completely enjoyable. You are all but guaranteed a gorgeous day and a smooth flight due to our careful attention to these details.
Q:How do I know if my flight will go as scheduled?
A: We continually monitor weather conditions, and the decision on viability is made two hours prior to the scheduled flight. At this time, you can call our flight information line to hear about the flight status. However, even with the most advanced meteorological equipment, forecasts can be inaccurate. Rarely, a flight is delayed or canceled in the field, and all flight times and flight lengths can be affected by changing wind or weather conditions. Our pilots are highly experienced, and we will work diligently to ensure the most enjoyable flight possible. Again, any change after the status is issued on the flight information line is quite unusual. Once you hear that the flight is going as scheduled, you can fully expect a sensational experience to be awaiting your arrival.
Q: I purchased certificates but was then mauled by a bear who whispered in my ear... "Don't take the flight..." Now I feel nervous. Can I get a refund?
A: Wow, we feel your pain (kind of). But, no matter how sad the story, no refunds... ever. We also cannot combine certificates; each flight certificate stands on it's own (unlike wolves, which travel in packs, I would watch out for them too). Finally (as long as I am throwing out cautions), since our certificates are fully transferable, you need to treat them like cash. Whoever holds the certificates can take flight, and if nobody is holding the certificates (big sigh) nobody takes flight. So, what I am saying is, the bear was only trying to intimidate you to get you to loosen your grip on the certificates (stinkin' tricky bears). Way to go! You win! Now... come fly with us.
Q: I have been warned about rough landings... tell me what to expect.
A: In addition to firmly adhering to FAA regulations regarding balloon and pilot safety, we constantly monitor wind and weather conditions to ensure that each flight is as calm and gentle as possible. That said, part of what makes ballooning fun is it's unpredictability. Every flight is completely unique offering a slightly different flight direction, speed, altitude, attitude, and landing (type and location). And because the balloon is at the mercy of the winds, the pilot makes his best determination on flight status based on forecasts... the forecaster makes his best determination on weather models... some days everyone is wrong and the weather wins. On those days, the landing is less than gentle. It is not altogether uncommon for the balloon to hit the ground with a significant force (like jumping off the third rung of a ladder). In some instances the basket may even tip over and drag for a few feet or even a few yards (a decade or so ago, before the newest quick release tops became commonplace, every flight landed with many yards of dragging!). However, if you are looking for a wild ride... I fear I will disappoint... most of our flights now touch down with a gentle bump. Often someone will ask if we have landed. The Cameron Balloons Easy Vent System is a thing of beauty! If you have any questions or concerns about your ability to participate in the sport of ballooning, please speak to your doctor.
Q: Do I really want to take a ride in a larger balloon? Wouldn't a Private flight be better?
(i.e.: What's the difference between a Private, Semi-Private and Standard Flight?)
A: Yes, you do want to take flight in a larger balloon! (I think...) Hot air balloon flight in larger balloons (with 8-16 passengers) is set forth as an incredible and beautiful adventure - quite comparable to a Private flight. Normally, those who tell you that smaller balloons are better, only have smaller balloons and/or are trying up-sell. We have balloons of many sizes - my advice is to purchase the least expensive certificates that we offer - they are, for all intense purposes the same. That said, nobody ever pays any attention to my advice anyway... we would be happy to provide a Private flight at your convenience. And... we also offer something rather unique: Custom flights. These flights, rather than being a carbon copy of the Standard flight (minus some company), offer you the ability to customize the launch location and add on details that will truly make this a once in a lifetime adventure.
Details, details... The only difference between a Private flight and a Standard flight is the number of individuals in the balloon. Our Standard flight balloons convey between 8 and 16 passengers depending on the weights of those flying, the weather conditions, and the balloon chosen. These flights are termed Semi-Private by many in the industry. Our baskets accommodate these passengers with the same amount of room, same level of comfort, and same spectacular views which are offered by Private flights. Additionally, the cost of a two person excursion is often cost prohibitive. As such, we encourage all who ask about Private flights to consider the savings and enjoyment offered by our Standard flights.
Now, the difference between Semi-Private and Standard flights... this one is even harder... Balloon baskets are partitioned to give them added structure. There is no added room or comfort in a basket that is being used in a Semi-Private manner. What is happening is that a balloon and basket have been chosen of a size that allows the pilot to place passengers with only "their" group rather than asking them to stand next to someone of another group. Thus, in a Semi-Private flight, you may be in a quite small basket with a small compartment and there may be just room for two in your compartment (and there may be four compartments like this) - lovely. In a Standard flight basket, there may instead be three compartments that are at least twice as big (or bigger) that four people stand in instead of two. Therefore, even though some companies will try to charge you extra for a Semi-Private flight, it doesn't actually cost the company anything extra... and we don't believe in charging you for something silly that offers you no additional value and costs us nothing... even if we could convince you otherwise. So, we don't differentiate, at all, ever, between a Standard and Semi-Private balloon flight. Our passengers often find themselves in a "Semi-Private" situation (alone in a compartment with only their group), that said, they likely wouldn't notice it one way or another - the flight will be spectacular and the moment will be filled with awe and joy whether or not there is a 1/2 in wicker partition between them and the next person.
Q: How far out do I need to schedule?
A: This is a tricky question... As I write this, I have availability today. That said, we normally tell our customers to expect two weeks. Some days and times are available much, much earlier, and you can often find availability within a day or two. On occasion, you will need a bit more lead time (esp. during fall colors or if you are only available Saturday evenings). Last year we took up over 900 passengers, and if your schedule was flexible, there was never a time when we were fully booked for more than two weeks. If you are anxious to schedule and would like to fly as soon as possible, take a peek at your weekdays, especially mornings - we often can get you on the schedule quite quickly. This is often not the case with smaller companies who cut their prices drastically, sell a ton of rides, and then do not have the balloons or pilots to support all of their customers. It is common for some of these smaller companies to schedule out a month during their slower times and multiple months for weekends. This becomes a great problem when you are in need of rescheduling or are fearful of your certificate expiring. Please hear me clearly, not all small companies operate in this fashion - enough do, however, to give balloon businesses a bad name. We are careful to never treat our customers in this manner.
Q: You just said Fall colors... I LOVE Fall colors. Can I go?
A: No. Okay, YES; you can go. But, no matter how beautiful and how enchanting, Fall is extremely difficult. Not only does the whole world want to fly, and not only are we under our normal flight restrictions, but Fall in Minnesota normally sees an increase in wind speeds and precipitation. We love flying in the Fall, and we would love to help you schedule a flight. If the weather is good, the views will be fabulous. But, if the weather is bad and your flight is grounded, remember: every season offers its own incredible beauty. Try a winter flight, or wait on lush summer views.
Q: I have a fetish for snow globes... what do you think?
A: Cool. We kind of have a thing for them too - only, we like to think big... really big. Imagine soaring over crystalline landscaping, the ground and roadways blanketed in white, every tree and chimney sparkling under the sun's early rays. If you're perpetually blessed, snow may still be silently falling about the balloon. Leaves are no more, so you will be able to see the wildlife darting through the sparse forest. Snuggling will be on the increase, and, with the snow absorbing ambient noise, peace reigns. Winter flights are amazing... really amazing. We think, "Yes!"
Q: I am pregnant, can I still take a hot air balloon flight?
A: No. Although ballooning is most commonly gentle and safe, there are instances where the landing is a bit more jarring. While this landing would cause no lasting harm to other adults in the craft, it could damage the placenta and thus be dangerous for mom and baby. We believe that pregnancy is an incredible miracle and would like to help you protect your baby against even the most unlikely of circumstances. We would be happy to take you flying after your baby is born - bring pictures!
Q: How do I change or cancel my reservations? What if I do not show up for my flight?
A: Twenty four hour notice is required for weekdays and forty-eight hour notice for weekend and holiday flights. Any cancellation not abiding by these policies will result in a fee of $50 per certificate prior to rescheduling. If you do not show up for your scheduled flight, there will be a $100 charge per certificate at the time of scheduling your next date. (Note, Groupon certificates have different guidelines, please refer to your certificates for more information.)
Q: Tipping, I never know what to do about tipping... tell me.
A: Wow, awkward. Tipping is present in most tourism and service industries. Offering balloon flights fits in here, so offering a gratuity would be acceptable. Additionally, tipping is nice. If you think that your pilot and crew were nice... go for it. That said, there is no sense of expectation or obligation... the situation is unique and we are easy! If you do decide to consider a tip, we are firm believers in earning not only your patronage, trust, and respect, but also any gratuities that you may offer. If you do not feel that our crew members surpassed your expectations... don't tip.