Up & Away at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta (Part 1)

Up & Away at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta (Part 1)

600 500 Kristi Corder

RVing in a cemetery parking lot probably doesn’t sound like much fun to many of you. Of all the trips we’ve taken in our RV, we would rank boondocking at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in our top 3. With 50 full-time RV families and hundreds of hot air balloons floating overhead, it was an adventure we will never forget.

RVing at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

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Once we decided we were going to make the leap to full-time RVing, we became members of a group called Fulltime Families. This is a community of thousands of families who all live and travel in their RVs full-time. Many times a year they gather in locations all over the country for rallies, and it just so happened that this year we joined in time to register for the Up & Away rally at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

Where Travel Meets Community

I grew up going to the balloon fiesta. We lived in southern New Mexico and my mom worked for a bank that had hot air balloons at the fiesta every year. It was fun as a kid seeing so many huge balloons in one location. Now I was excited to get to take my kids!


We spent the week before the balloon fiesta at the Dancing Eagle RV Park just an hour west of Albuquerque. This is where we met four different families that are also members of the Fulltime Families group. My kids had a blast hanging out with one family that was parked right next door to us.

Our site at Dancing Eagle

Me? I spent a few days in bed with the flu. But at least I got over it before the fiesta.


We had planned on checking in to the balloon fiesta on the first Sunday of the event, but we got told that if there was any possible way to get there early, we needed to come. It seems that the balloon fiesta event coordinators OVERBOOKED the campground and the Fulltime Families area was in jeopardy of losing some of the RV spots we had reserved. So, we ended up heading to the area on Saturday instead. Here’s what the line to get into the campground looked like when we got there:

Line of RVs waiting to check in at the balloon fiesta

Once we got through, we were directed to the cemetery parking lot where all of the Fulltime Families members sites were reserved. We hadn’t even put the truck in park when Peyton asked if he could get out and go play.


The little girls in the camper next to us quickly took to our big girls and had fun hanging out near our camper most of that day. But Peyton? I don’t think we saw Peyton for most of the week. He came back to the camper to eat lunch, eat dinner, and go to bed. Many times he was up and out of the camper in the mornings before we ever saw him.

We spent the rest of the day Saturday and all day Sunday watching other full-time RV families roll into the rally area. Here are a few pictures of our campsite and what the rest of the cemetery parking lot looked like for the next week.

Our campsite at the balloon fiesta
RVs lined up in the cemetery parking lot
Campsites from the air
Photo courtesy of Dustin Schroeder

Did I mention this parking lot was filled to the brim with almost 50 Fulltime Families?

Fulltime Families
Photo courtesy of Nathan Moss

Typical mornings

Most mornings, the girls and I would get up at 6:30 AM, put on two layers of clothes, and climb up on the roof of the RV to watch the balloons launch and fly right over us. Here are some highlights from those mornings:

I can’t even explain how amazing this was. Being on the field is quite amazing as you will see in part 3 of this series, but having all of these balloons fly overhead and then watch some of them land right near us was pretty darn cool. One morning, one of the pilots landed in the field near us and gave tethered balloon rides to the kids. The girls were eager to go up, and if you play this video in full screen mode, you can even see our non-smiley girl with a smile on her face.

Thoughts from the kids

Camping at the balloon fiesta was fun. There were lots of kids there. The balloons were pretty because they came right over our heads.


It was fun because there were lots of kids. I liked watching the balloons and riding my bicycle around the parking lot. We had lots of fun with the friends parked next to us because they reminded us of our neighbors back at home.


I liked waking up early in the morning and watching the balloons fly over us, and I had lots of fun playing with new friends.


In part 2 of this series, I’ll talk more about our days and evenings at the Up & Away Rally and introduce you to some of our new friends.

What do you think you’d like or dislike most about RVing at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta? Leave a reply in the comments below.

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RVing at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
  • This looks like so much fun! It’s definitely something I would have never known about before reading this post. Thanks for sharing

  • This was so great!! My family and I drove through Albuquerque last summer. I wanted to do this because we had read about it. We spent some time in Santa Fe and I fell in love with Santa Fe, but this definitely makes me want to go back and spend more time in Albuquerque.

    • Hi Lana!

      My husband and I spent some time in Santa Fe for our anniversary one year. It was great! So many people love that area. You definitely need to check out the balloon fiesta in Albuquerque. You’ll really enjoy it!

  • I love this festival!! It’s definitely something someone should put on their bucket list.

  • Love it! Adding to our bucket list. My husband is looking at RVs too. Great post. Thank you.

  • Sounds awesome. We have something like that here in Iowa, although I’m sure it’s much smaller. I think it may even be coming up soon, we’ll have to check it out!

  • Wow!! I have always wanted to watch a balloon festival like this. What an amazing opportunity and memory to create.

  • I love watching the Hot Air balloons they are so beautiful. It looks like you had a great time and it’s amazing how many people were in attendance in the RV family!!

  • What an amazing experience! This is on my bucket list.

  • WE have an RV! It’s new and yet to be traveled in! Such an inspiration! Thank you!

  • I liked that you are right there in the action. You can wake up and sit outside to see the balloons.

  • This looks like so much fun! I enjoy so much reading posts about fulltime traveling families. I love the idea, although I know it’s not for us. I would love to see a Ballon Festival!

    • Hi Flor!

      I’m glad you enjoy reading our posts. I didn’t think we would ever do something like this either, but here we are!
      Add the Balloon Fiesta to your bucket list. You’ll be glad you did!

  • This looks so cool. There are several balloon festivals around the Atlanta area that I have been wanting to check out. Going on a hot air balloon ride, even just tethered, is on my bucket list!

    • That’s awesome Katie! I hear there are festivals all over the country. This just happens to be the largest one in the world. Crazy cool! Hopefully you’ll fulfill that bucket list item someday soon. =)

  • I think I need to put a balloon festival on my bucket list your son sounds like my youngest at a festival we never see her. I used to freak out when she was younger but it gets easier to let them go. I can’t wait to get a motorhome so we can travel more

  • This is been on my bucket list for too long! Love seeing this post! And great pictures and videos! I’m going to have to make it there soon! Thanks for a great post!

  • This looks like so much fun! I am absolutely going to have to add this to my list of places to go! Thanks.

  • We live in Colorado and were able to go to the fiesta about 12 years ago. It was amazing! How does it work that you are full-time RVers? Does your husband work on the road? It sounds like an interesting life. A friend of mine did it for 3 months with her family and homeschooled her children during that time.

    • Hi Heather!

      Yes, my husband works on the road. He’s been remote working for quite a few years now and I’ve homeschooled my kids ever since kindergarten. I work a little on the side as well (online). It’s just a great time and opportunity for us to be able to RV full-time.

  • Wow! just wow! Loved the photos and the story! We plan on retiring to an RV and this will deffinitely be on my list of things to do. I actually got to ride in a hot air balloon once. I expected a big thrill like a roller coaster, instead it was real serene! just beautiful and peaceful floating. Then a storm started to brew and we had to land in a nearby cornfield! That was an experience I will never forget!

    • That sounds amazing Tricia! We’re planning to crew a balloon this year so that we can potentially be taken up. I hope it’s just as serene as you’ve experienced.

  • Ruth Iaela-Pukahi January 4, 2019 at 11:51 am

    That is so cool! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a hot air balloon in real life yet. To see so many at once! Is this the best time of year to fly them is that why they have a festival? I’m clueless about hot air balloons except what I’ve seen in movies. lol Thank you so much for sharing!

    • Hi Ruth!

      I actually have no idea if it’s the best time of year to fly them. But Albuquerque has what’s known as “The Box”. It’s a specific flight pattern that makes it great for hot air balloon flying. I think it’s time for you to get to a balloon festival!

  • Would be lovely to see all the balloons – but I will keep my feet on the ground! ha!

  • You couldn’t get me in a balloon, but the rest of this event sounds like a ton of fun! Thanks for sharing.

    • Afraid of heights, Shelly? No need to get in a balloon though. Definitely a great event to experience at least once in your life.

  • That is so cool that there is an entire full time RV community. Love it. So much fun going to a balloon festival. To bad they oversold the spots, but it sounds like it all worked out and was a great event.

    • Yes, Alison! We were very thankful that the rally was given their own area and no others were put into our spots. It was definitely a great event.

  • This is so cool. Part of me thinks, “I could totally do this, we could do this!” Then the other part remembers how much of homebodies we are 😛 lol

    • Ha ha! So you think you could do the RVing part or the rally part or the balloon fiesta part? We are homebodies too…but we loved every.single.aspect of this trip. And to have your home with you? Even better!

  • What an amazing experience! I love the picture of the parking lot full of RVs. What a fun place to find people going on a similar adventure.

    • Yes, Janine, it was a very amazing experience. One of our favorites by far. The kids keep asking to go back. Luckily we’ve already got our spot reserved for next year.

      We love that the Fulltime Families community exists. It’s been such a great way to introduce our children to this lifestyle. It was quite the difficult first few months after we told the older kids that we were going to start traveling full-time. They actually look forward to the experiences now.

  • Ooooh, I’ve always wanted to go to a balloon festival. It looks amazing! Another one for the bucket list! This might be a silly question, but is it possible to go if you don’t go in an RV? Are there hotels and such in the area?

    • Hi Dawn,

      Yes, absolutely! It’s in Albuquerque, so there are tons of places to stay. No need to have or rent an RV.

      However, here are a few tips. Hotels book way in advance, so you’d want to book soon. Prices are higher when balloon fiesta comes to town, so make sure you save for it. And mass ascension starts at 7am, so you have to be sure to allow for enough time to get to the park in all the traffic…which means EARLY mornings.

      Definitely a bucket list item. You’ll love it!

  • Sounds like an amazing time! I would love to get to this festival someday.

  • Looks like lot of fun and a big crowd

  • I have family in Albuquerque and they’ve always asked me to come visit. This is one of my goals! I want to experience it! My parents went a few years back and couldn’t stop talking about it.

    • Hi Rachel,

      Yes, you should definitely go…especially if you have family that will let you stay with them. Hotels can be quite expensive during the fiesta. Hopefully you can make your goal a reality soon!

  • Wow looks like a great time!! Thank you for sharing this!!

  • Looks like a ton of fun! And beautiful!

  • Dawnmarie @ EnjoyingtheDays January 3, 2019 at 10:43 pm

    This article has given me some inspiration. We have been considering becoming RVers, and I would like to look into Fulltime Families. The balloon festival looks like it was a fascinating thing to see!

    • Hi Dawnmarie!

      That’s awesome! If you’re considering becoming RVers and you have kids, I’d definitely recommend checking out the Fulltime Families membership. We’ve only been members for about 6 months, but it’s been well worth our investment. It is such a great community to be a part of. Let me know if I can help you in your RVing research. =)

  • This looks like such fun! I love seeing hot air balloons as they soar above the land. If I’m ever in Albuquerque again, I will try to plan to visit during the next balloon festival.

  • What a great way to experience the balloon fiesta! I have never traveled in a RV, it’s on my bucket list though! Also the balloon festival was just added to the list as well!

  • Sounds like a fun experience!

  • This looks like so much fun!! That is amazing that you have such a great community to gather together with to experience things like this! I have been wanting to take an RV trip…can’t wait!

  • Would love to see this one day, hopefully camping too. I’ve been to several balloonists in Michigan, but nothing like this. I had the pleasure of editing my mother-in-law’s photos from the festival many years ago, and I knew I wanted it on my bucket list!!

    • That’s great! Did your mother-in-law attend the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta or a different one? It’s definitely a bucket list item. =)

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