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What to Pack for the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

We had such an amazing time last year at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta we could not wait to return! We had planned to attend the event which starts this weekend, but ultimately due to schedule conflicts, we decided we would have to wait until next year to go back. However, that doesn't mean a girl can't help a fellow visitor out! Based on my experiences last year, I've put together a packing list for the fiesta. Don't forget these items if you want to have a flawless trip!

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta


The temperature can widely vary while you are in Albuquerque for the fiesta. Events start early and can go late, so you'll want to wear light layers that aren't too cumbersome to carry around. You'll want a jacket and hat as well!

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The Dawn Patrol Show starts every morning at 6 am in the dark. We arrived at 4-4:30 am to ensure we got a good parking spot. Also in the dark. If you want to see where you are going and not trip and fall over objects and other people then I highly recommend you bring a headlamp.

The headlamp I use is a Black Diamond Gizmo Headlamp. I've had it for use and used it for hiking, biking, and walking in the dark!

Portable chair

While you are waiting for the Dawn Patrol and after the Mass Ascension, there is an awful lot of waiting that takes place. There is a field of grass, a few picnic tables on the edges, but not much in terms of seating. Best thing to do is bring your own. As you will be on the move a lot, I recommend something portable.

I have the REI Flex Lite Chair which I have used to watch all kinds of events and very often while I am waiting for Mr. Misadventures to take sunrise or sunset photos!


Did I mention that Dawn Patrol takes place at 6 am? There are food concessions, but they aren't open that early. It is also pretty darn cold in the morning so I highly recommend you bring your own hot beverage to keep you awake and warm!

I use a Zojirushi thermos we've had for years. We love this brand and have a Zojirushi rice cooker, bread maker, and water boiler!


Once the sun comes up and the Mass Ascension starts you will be warm – wear layers! And with all the excitement you will forget to drink! The concession stands are on one edge of the field, so depending on where you end up watching balloons, you may not want to make the hike to get water, so bring your own! You are at 5000-feet and it is super dry therefore it easy for you to become quickly hydrated.

Lip balm

Again, 5000-feet in elevation and high winds – which is why it is such an amazing spot for the balloons, but it will wreak havoc on your lips! Make sure you have lip balm in your pockets and use it! My favorite La Roche Posay which they don't sell in the U.S. so you will have to discover your own recommendation.


During the day it is usually bright and sunny. You are still in the desert. It's the high desert, but the desert nonetheless. Besides protection from the sun's rays, you should also have UV protection and this will help with windburn as well.

I use Kiehls Super Fluid UV Defense Sunscreen SPF 50+ which is the reason my legs still look like chicken legs even after making it through a Phoenix summer!

Cash only

The concession stands only take cash! There is an ATM but it occasionally runs out, so be prepared by bringing some with you. The merchandise tents do take credit cards, but you won't be able to buy any food or drinks with a card.

That's it! These are the things that would have made my life easier last year if I had packed them for the fiesta!

How about you? Have you attended the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta? Did I miss something you would recommend someone pack with them if they are going? How about suggestions for other balloon events? Do share!

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  1. That fiesta looks like a blast. I went up in a hot air balloon many years ago and loved it!

  2. I pinned this one. I would love to make this a family trip. I’ve always wanted to go up in a hot air balloon, and I think it would be a great introduction to a new city.

  3. This sounds like it would be TONS of fun! I’d love to do this with my hubby. I haven’t ever been in a Hot air balloon!

  4. How fun is this??? We had a balloon festival here a few weekends ago but it stormed!

  5. Kristine Nicole Alessandra says:

    I have never been in this kind of festival but it really looks like a lot of fun. I hope to be there soon and thank you for sharing your great tips.

  6. Our town just had their balloon fest! It’s so cool to see them in the morning – there has to have been over a hundred!

  7. My co-writer loved this fest so much! I hope to go next year – total magic. Great packing checklist. Will remember this for sure!

  8. I love ballooning and the Albuquerque Balloon Fest is on my must do list {along with Cappadocia, but let’s start closer to home}. I love seeing them all rise up first thing in the morning. Keeping this checklist and looking forward to getting out there!

  9. Very handy list! Especially the tip to carry cash. That’s always good to know and something I rarely think about ahead of time. I’ll definitely remember to layer up. I’ve already been unprepared for cool Southwestern weather and don’t want to make that mistake again.

  10. Janiel Green says:

    My Aunt lives in Albuquerque and I have wanted to go to the festival for a long time. I have pretty bad anxiety too, so knowing exactly how to prepare for a trip is a HUGE bonus for me personally. I really really really appreciate that you mention the payment option only being cash — a lot of people don’t mention those kinds of things on their websites and it really is an inconvenience if you don’t know beforehand.

  11. Andi, this is such a great list! Those are things I would never have thought of bringing! And small things like not having lip balm and suffering from dry lips can sometimes ruin your mood on a trip. Once I had bleeding lips and that’s all I worried about (instead of enjoying the moments).

  12. I’ve always wanted to go to a balloon festival, but I know they can be long and grueling. This is such a helpful list! Having the things you need to be comfortable really make the difference between having a good time and being completely miserable.

  13. These are really useful tips, especially the cash only one! I haaate getting stuck without cash when it’s the only thing places accept (as I basically never have cash on me!). And the balloon fiesta itself looks really fun and colorful! I’ve never been to one but I nearly went to the one in Bristol last year. This coming year Albuquerque will be a bit closer for me!

  14. Layers are definitely key. The best ballooning is the early mass ascension and the night glow (IMHO), both of which are surprisingly cold. Cash is a great option too. You never know when you need to pick up something to eat or a pin.

  15. This sounds like a pretty cool festival, early morning and late nights can def be cold. I am similar to you in that I always bring a thermos to have full of hot water/coffee/tea to get through the day. Cash is a key for any festival I always find

  16. Thanks for the info … do you know if you park at the event, can you leave to take things to and from your vehicle?