In last week’s post, I talked about how the event organizers are continuously trying new things. This isn’t only true for the event, but also for the RV accommodations at Balloon Fiesta. And, in fact, my experience in the North VIP Lot was a direct result of this.

Let’s start with the basic map. You can see there are multiple RV accommodations at Balloon Fiesta, each with different price points ranging from $40 per night to $250 per night. The price points, as I’m sure you’ll guess and can see, are directly related to vicinity to the launch field plus a few other factors such as likely view of balloons during the events.

Paper map with RV site ares highlighted for the RV accommodations at Balloon Fiesta.
I should’ve taken the photo before I used the map. Sorry for the wrinkles.

Below is a quick rundown of the lots. I took this from the RV accommodations at Balloon Fiesta page of the event’s website. These are for 2020 and all prices are per night.

  • Standard spot in the South Lot: $40 (dry camping)
  • Box View spot in the South Lot $50 (dry camping)
  • Premium spot in the South Lot $95 (30 amp and water connection)
  • VIP West/East/North $100, lots nearest the launch field and comes with two admission tickets (dry camping)
  • President’s Compound $250 with sites at mid-field on a bluff overlooking launch field and comes with four admission tickets (30 or 50 amp and water connection)
Line of RVs with a man standing on one with a camera. The background is filled with hot air balloons.
For an even better view, many people enjoy the balloons from the roof of their rig.

Where I Stayed

I got online to buy my tickets about an hour after sales opened. I’d forgotten to set my alarm as a reminder. In case you are wondering, RV slots go on sale nine days after the last event ended. Be sure you are paying attention to time zones.

By the time I got on, everything was sold out except the Standard ticket. I found myself kind of irritated at not having a choice but, then, I had to admit that I never had any intention of buying anything except the Standard site.

When I bought my ticket, everything was the same as above, including prices, except there was no VIP North Lot listed. In the spring, I got an email that event organizers were looking for beta testers to move to the North VIP Lot. They warned people that the lot is where the fireworks are launched so it is loud which might scare pets and children. I volunteered to move because I liked the idea of a smaller lot and being closer to the launch field. And that’s how I ended up in the North VIP Lot.

Many RVers in my lot were balloonists and workampers (more on that in a bit) so I’m not sure how many of us were beta testers. It wasn’t until I arrived and got settled that I remembered the Albuquerque Box which is where balloons head south (yep, over the South Lot) then rise up to another atmospheric level where winds send them back north to where they started.

So, the fact that most days when I stayed at my rig, I saw the balloons go directly overhead was pure luck. In fact, it meant the ideal Albuquerque Box didn’t occur those days. It was neat to be so close to the fireworks. Though, as promised, it was loud. On the first night, I came back into the rig (I watched from outside my rig, not the launch field) to find the cat huddled in her litter box.

Parked white trailer with two hot air balloons overhead.
One of the days I watched from my trailer. The red paper taped to my electric jack cover is my permit. I got so lucky that the Albuquerque Box didn’t exist on many days. With the wind heading north, balloons came directly over the North VIP Lot.

A Suspicion That Can Also Be a Tip

There are more than 13,400 nightly RV accommodations at Balloon Fiesta. That’s a lot, nearly 1,500 slots for RVs. So, how do that many get sold in an hour? I wondered about this myself and I have a theory.

Before I tell you the theory, let me back up and tell you another way to get an RV spot. Lots of like-minded groups attended the Fiesta. There is a group of Airstream owners, those who are members of Escapees, Newmar owners and, no doubt, many more.

Top of an RV with lots of hot air balloons over it, including one shaped like a fish with a top hat and cane.
Mr. Fish and others just overhead in the North VIP Lot.

Now, keep in mind, you’ll pay quite a bit more but you can buy a ticket through one of the groups. Everyone in the group will be parked together and there will be planned group events (meals, entertainment, etc.) Those tickets don’t sell out nearly as quickly. In fact, I found some still available as late as May.

Prices for 2020 Escapees HOP (Head Out Program) are already up. To attend the entire event as part of the group, it costs $1,245 for one person. It’s $110 more if you have two people and $855 more for each additional person. Personally, that makes no sense to me when everyone is still in one RV. I can see the $110 more per person because the cost does come with catered breakfasts and dinners every day plus four admission tickets per person.

Compare that to the $400 you’d pay in the same lot if you weren’t part of the group. Can you see why I decided to forego the group experience?

So, now to my theory. 13,400 is a lot of spaces to sell out in an hour. Plus, what if you work for Airstream and forgot to set you alarm that day? You’d be fired for sure. So, what I suspect is that the groups have an agreement with the event organizers where they get their slots prior to the general public or maybe a certain number are set each annually for each group. All of this means, if I’m right, there are a whole lot less than 1,500 RV slots for the entire event that go on sale nine days after the previous event which better explains the 60-minute sell out.

Hot air balloons just coming off the ground with a line of flags on flagpoles in front of them.
I was three rows back from the edge of the launch field. See the fence? The various country flags are just inside it.

Services and Rules

You’ll want to have your arrival plan in place so you aren’t fumbling when you get there. Each lot has a specific entry point for that lot. You’ll not use the way you came in again until you are ready to leave. To go out and have Albuquerque adventures or to run to the grocery store, you’ll use a different entrance/exit.

They only park RVs during daylight hours so plan accordingly. When you arrive, just like at an RV park, there is a sign that tells you to stop and park. Then you go to the welcome tent to register. It was here that I got my welcome packet (different from the media packet). It was filled with good information, local coupons (mostly for restaurants) as well as the rules.

The rule most notable concerned the use of generators. After all, it is dry camping. Each day, you’ll know when it’s exactly 5 a.m. because the loud monsters start up all around you. Likewise, each night you’ll know when it’s 10 p.m. because that’s when quiet hours go into effect. If you use an external generator, they don’t allow those to be on the ground. So, bring a table or similar for your generator to sit.

Since it’s dry camping, one of the services offered by a local business is pumping out your gray and black tanks should they get full before the end of your stay. Similarly, a water truck will fill your fresh water tank. Each service was $30 (cash only) and you signed up at the welcome tent. At the welcome tent, they also sell 10-pound bags of ice for $6, also cash only.

When the sewer trucks are in your vicinity—regardless of whether the service is for you or not—both are loud and a little stinky. There isn’t anything you can do about it but be aware. The good news is that they are fairly quick.

RV Accommodations at Balloon Fiesta Tips

Have you heard the term rally-style parking? That’s where the people you are parked next to will be those who came in before and after you. In other words, you can’t park wherever you want and you can’t hold a spot for your friend. If you are attending the event with a fellow RVer, be sure you go into the parking area together if you want to be parked together.

Black surface with a layer of dust where three fingers have been dragged through it.
Not the best photo but can see see where I ran my fingers through the dust? The thing in the top right corner is one of Solstice’s toys. Her duck.

My lot was half paved and half dirt. Several times during the Fiesta a water truck drove up and down each isle spraying water to keep the dust down. Even so, expect dust. In the 12 days I was there (I arrived two days early and stayed an extra day after to avoid the rush), I wiped things down every other day.

Even though I highly recommend staying the entire Fiesta if you can, one tip for getting an RV spot is that fewer days increases your chance of getting an RV spot, especially if you are flexible as to which days. In other words, the full nine-day RV accommodations at Balloon Fiesta sell out first and fast. Today, for example, three months after RV slots went on sale, there are still a few weekday slots available. All the weekend slots are gone.

If you end up in the South Lot, the farthest away from the launch field, and have a bike, one way to get back and forth is by bicycling. They introduced the bike valet in 2010 and it has been extremely popular. At no cost to you, drop off your bike near the South entry and pick it up when you leave. It’s guarded by volunteers the entire time.

Free RV Accommodations at Balloon Fiesta

If you are reading this and shaking your head at the expense, there is another option. You can get an RV accommodation at Balloon Fiesta free in exchange for labor. It’s workamping. You work a minimum of 51 hours in exchange for a spot, free admission to all sessions, access to the hospitality tent with snacks and food, as well as swag. My friend who did it in 2019 not only got a volunteer t-shirt but a very nice Balloon Fiesta jacket that probably sold for $100.

Workampers start a couple days before the event and stay a couple days after. RV workampers, basically, assist all the paying RVers. They welcome them, get them into their assigned space. In the days prior to the event, they prep welcome packets and clear the parking area (such as pulling weeds and moving rocks).

A balloon-filled sky over the tops of RVs.
A balloon-filled sky over the tops of RVs in the North VIP Lot, taken a minute or two before the feature image.

When you consider these extra days, it means on average, you’ll work 4 hours a day. It’s a pretty good deal. And, my guess, is that the coordinators give you a variety of shifts so you have plenty of opportunities to get to the launch field for both Morning Ascension and the evening Glows.

Other Volunteers

I estimate the Fiesta uses about 3,000 volunteers. Their official number is 1,300 Navigators but that number doesn’t include Chase Crews or workampers. Navigators are volunteers who provide guest services, administrative services, balloon coordination and safety, set-up and logistics, and more in over 40 different areas. I didn’t talk in-depth to any so I’m not sure what they get for the effort. I’d guess admission and swag.

Photo of a sky filled with hot air balloons taken from between two RVs .
This is taken between two RVs. You can see how close together they are parked but keep in mind, in this photo both RVs have slides.

If you volunteer to be on the Chase Crew, you do not get a free RV space but you do get free admission for all sessions. Plus, as I understand it, the balloonist you are assigned to takes each Chase Crew member on at least one balloon ride.

None of the applications are open yet, but you can find more information HERE. One note: if you are interested in volunteering and staying onsite in an RV, you’ll need to secure your site per all the tips above. Since the applications don’t open until after the RV spots sell out, you’ll need to secure your site then get reimbursed for the cost should you get approved to be a workamper. However, you can always cancel your onsite reservation. Up until mid-July you get a full refund minus a $10 processing fee. With a wait list of 1,000, they have no problem selling your spot.

If you are considering attending using the RV accommodations at Balloon Fiesta, will you apply to be one of the volunteers? I still haven’t decided if I will do that in the future. I loved doing whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. On the other hand, as a workamper, the savings are substantial. As a Chase Crew member, you’re on the field most days and you get a balloon ride. So, lots of reasons to volunteer.

Links to Other Balloon Fiesta Posts & Other:

To see products recently purchased by readers or to browse and shop at Amazon, follow either of these links. Huge thanks for your support.

Affiliate Link Disclosure. As a result of being an Amazon Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.