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By now, you’ve got the message loud and clear – I need to go to Albuquerque! We truly believe it’s one of the best events that you can experience by RV – and no, we’re not being biased, promise!. So we’ve put together some advice and tips on how to optimize your RV camping experience, know what to expect, what to plan for and how to make the most of your visit, while giving you a real feel for the event. We’re confident you will love it as much as we did!
In the video we take you from the RV grounds to the balloon launch field and share our tips along the way, to help give RVers a sense of the atmosphere and what to expect at the Balloon Fiesta – complete with highlights from the Evening Glow. In this blog post, we go into even more detail and include additional info on the Xscapers rally and the actual RV camping, that we hope you find valuable.
How to make the most of RV camping at the Balloon Fiesta
1. Consider attending with an RV rally group
The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is one event that we recommend as a GREAT one to enjoy with friends and fellow RVers in particular. It’s just so much fun parking together in the same area, socializing, sharing meals, making new friends and watching hundreds of beautiful hot air balloons float gracefully by and over you daily. If this interests you at all, we recommend seeking out some RV groups organizing a rally at the Fiesta that are a fit with your demographic and interests and join them!
This was our first ever RV rally and it was with Xscapers, a subset of the Escapees RV group created in 2015 for the younger generation of working age RVers, like us. Xscapers call their RV events “convergences” instead of rallies, as instead of a busy schedule of events, they provide more of an opportunity to connect with RVing peers during afternoons and evenings – to allow time for work commitments and/or meeting the needs of children for roadschooling families.
Our hosts were the awesome Travis and Melanie Carr (President and Vice President of Escapees/Xscapers) who organized a light, informal schedule of events, including an introductory meet and mingle, a few evening get togethers, a couple of afternoon group discussions (one on what we all do for work and another on our favorite apps), RV open house tours, a potluck, dinner at a restaurant followed by a brewery tour plus an evening farewell, with some musical talent and karaoke stars among the group entertaining us.
We had already organized to reconnect with and park alongside our friends Erik and Kala of Livinlite.net and Glenn from Great Escape so we shared meal prep duties between us most nights. This not only lightened the workload, water usage and dishwashing for our group, but also made for some amazingly tasty meals, shared with good company.
About 25-30 rigs formed our group (around 60 people) taking up 2 full rows of RV spaces. We had a fantastic time with all of our fellow Xscapers and look forward to our next convergence with them in Quartzsite, AZ in January!
We saw many other RV groups at the Fiesta – Escapees, Boomers, Newmar, Airstream, Alfa, Monaco and more – and we highly recommend attending with a group that aligns with your interests. But Xscapers/Escapees is a great place to start and are a terrific group of people. It was only the second year at the Balloon Fiesta for the Xscapers but the Escapees group has been attending the Fiesta for years and have secured a pretty sweet spot along a back field where many of the balloons land, giving them a bird’s eye view! Of course, they pay a premium for that location but I’m sure it’s worth it for many!
2. Book early and stay at Fiesta Park
The Balloon Fiesta is becoming more and more popular each year and attracts hundred of thousands of people. Some 8,000 RVs come into the area for the event and RV parks, hotels and other accommodations also book up way in advance. While you can stay in local RV parks and campgrounds, we strongly recommend staying at Fiesta Park in the South RV lot opposite the Balloon Fiesta Grounds as the most affordable option while being close to the action. Who doesn’t want to be surrounded by hot air balloons all around you and your RV each morning? Besides, the sheer volume of traffic during Balloon Fiesta week is insane, so you’ll want to do all you can to avoid it!
In 2017, the Balloon Fiesta runs from October 8-15 and you can find the details here. As a guide, we made our reservation for the 2016 Fiesta about 3 months earlier in June, but we know of others who didn’t book until the week prior. We understand there are also some ‘first come first served’ spaces but those would be only for individual RVs and subject to availability. Overall, we advise booking as soon as you can to avoid disappointment. It just seems to be getting busier each year. Should you make a reservation and your plans change, the cancellation penalty is only $10 up to July 14. After that it’s 50% to August 31, but note there are NO refunds after August 31. If you book with a rally group, the organizer should provide you with instructions on how to book so you can be sure you are situated with your group, or use the Fiesta group booking form – click for more info.
3. Camping options
As the Launch Field and Fiesta Park are on a temporary lease from the city for the event, it’s mostly dry camping with only a handful of partial hookup sites. Fiesta Park is basically a big parking lot for RVs (a combo of dirt, gravel and asphalt) which can accommodate about 1.800 RVs and they really pack them in! Sites are about 19 feet wide and 50 feet long.
Dry camping in the South RV Lot is the way to go – it’s affordable, only a 5 minute free shuttle ride across to the action and you get to soak up the vibe of the entire event all week, with balloons floating over your RV, which is pretty special! Dry camping is $35 a night (half price $17.50 a night on non-event days prior to the Fiesta). If you’re willing to spring $75 a night for a Premium site, you can get 30A and water in the same lot, but personally we don’t think it’s worth that. Across the road, VIP camping sites are $90 a night to dry camp adjacent to the Launch Field and if you’re feeling the urge to spurge, a spot in the President’s Compound will set you back $175 a night for 30A + water on the bluff overlooking the launch field – this includes 4 entry passes. While this would be an incredible location to enjoy the event from, these spaces book out immediately and are simply cost prohibitive for most of us. You can find more details on the various campsites and prices here.
4. Handy services on-site
There is a water-fill service on site ($25 cash) and a pump-out service for your tanks ($25 cash for grey/black) which you can usually book just a few hours ahead of when you need it. And, while some people have solar, many do not, so be prepared for the hum of generator noise going on around you – day and night. Quiet hours are 10pm – 5am but not all follow the rules. It’s just something you have to deal with. You can learn more about the RV rules here. There is a free shuttle at the RV park entrance that drives across the road to the balloon launch field from 4am–10pm. We never had to wait more than 5 minutes for a shuttle to go to the launch field, and it’s also an easy bike ride or 10-15 minute walk if your prefer. However, coming back to the RV park can take a lot longer, especially as the sessions come to a close and the crowds are leaving. We walked back to the RV one night instead of standing in the long queue for the shuttle after the fireworks.
5. Arrive early to avoid the crowds
On the Friday before the Balloon Fiesta starts, thousands of RVs all started pouring into the Fiesta Park and the registration office is staffed by mostly retired volunteers who (bless their hearts) were a bit disorganized and rather slow in processing people. We’d heard from other RVers arriving on the Friday that they waited in line for over 2 hours just to get to the registration office and be escorted to their space, so bring your patience! Check-in is from 12noon–7pm and they won’t park RVs after dark, so arrive in plenty of time! It’s rally style camping – first come, first served – unless you’ve already booked in advance with a rally group, like we did. Even then, if you want to park beside your buddies, you’ll need to arrive together.
Fortunately, our Xscapers Convergence kicked off on a Thursday evening (two days before the actual Fiesta) which allowed time for us all to meet and get to know each other before the ballooning fun and festivities began on Saturday. Many arrived on the Thursday and as we REALLY wanted to avoid the crowds we actually pulled in on the Wednesday night, giving us a chance to settle in without rushing. This turned out to be an excellent plan, once we witnessed the madness of RVs arriving on Friday.
6. Other handy things to know
There is a 3 night minimum when making RV camping reservations. There are public restrooms (Porta Potty) but NO showers on site. Golf carts and ATVs are not allowed. Leashed pets are allowed in the Fiesta RV Park, but no pets are allowed on the Balloon Launch Field at all. This is another reason why attending the Fiesta with friends or a rally group is a good idea, so you can share pet minding duties if needed. A free Bike Valet service is available by the museum – it’s like a coat check service for bikes. If you do need to drive your car, say to the grocery store, aim to go between 10am–2pm when traffic is lightest.
Learn more about the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta