7 Tips for a Grand Canyon Helicopter Tour
Let me first say that not every member of our family is the biggest fan of helicopter rides. Perhaps one of the parents in our family (not me, so you can guess who) gets a little shaky in the knees at the very thought. So to work through those unfounded fears, we’ve taken several helicopter rides now and consider ourselves to be old pros.
Hands down, the beauty of a destination from the air is unmatched. There is something about the perspective from a helicopter that amazes people deeply and allows us to imagine ourselves as birds soaring through the skies over breathtaking scenic locations. There really is no feeling like it!
We recently had the privilege of seeing Grand Canyon National Park from the air, courtesy of Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopter Tours, on our summer road trip from San Diego to Phoenix to Sedona to Las Vegas. The whole family (even with shaky knees) was blown away by the thrilling experience of seeing the enormous canyons from above. We’ve had similarly amazing experiences on trips to Hawaii and Catalina Island. Helicopter tours like these have been highlights of these vacations, and we’ve learned some important tips along the way.
How to Enjoy Your Helicopter Ride over the Grand Canyon
1. Prevent Motion Sickness
If a member of your family is prone to motion sickness, help them enjoy the trip more by taking precautions in advance. Some people take Dramamine or another over-the-counter medication for motion sickness, while others prefer a patch behind the ear (such as Scopolamine) or the bracelets that work on your body’s pulse points without drugs. Better safe than sorry.
The motion can feel unusual at take-off because the helicopter hovers over the tarmac as it turns to position for acceleration. The feeling is a bit like a motion simulator ride like Star Tours at Disneyland, where your vision, perspective and body are at odds. The vast majority of people (like me) find this feeling very exhilarating!
2. Weigh In
Get over yourself right now; you will be weighed. In order to balance the aircraft, they need to know how much each passenger weighs to position people appropriately inside the cabin. Don’t worry; they don’t ask you to stand on a scale in front of everyone while they yell out your weight for all to hear. In our experiences, there has been a scale plate in the floor that you stand on. Only the person behind the counter can see the number, and they record that in private. You don’t even know what weight they are writing down for you. Take a deep breath, it’s all good.
3. No Bags or Sunglasses
Because weight distribution on board the aircraft is very important to a smooth flight, personal belongings are restricted to only your camera. No backpacks, camera bags, purses, bottles of water or other items are allowed. Once on board you will understand this better, as you fit snugly into the passenger cabin and buckle in.
The seatbelts come up and over your shoulders like a harness, buckling together tightly with your lapbelt at the usual location. Your movement is somewhat restricted, so get your cameras, phones and sunglasses situated before take-off for easy access. I tried to fumble in my pocket for my iPhone to take a quick video and had to work pretty hard to get it into my hands.
In addition, you will be wearing some pretty heavy duty headphones outfitted with a microphone so you can communicate with the pilot and other passengers. These headphones are necessary, because the sound of the rotors and engine on a helicopter is very loud. The headphones dampen that noise and make the ride peacefully comfortable so you can hear the narration and make remarks to each other about the incredible beauty of the tour.
4. Camera Angles
Make sure your camera is ready to take great shots because you will have plenty of material to choose from! Remove the lens cap and put it safely away before you board. (See item above about restricted movement.)
Also, don’t think you will be able to get shots of your whole family inside the helicopter while in the air. It’s really tight in there with no way to get everyone in the picture. Take those great family photos outside after landing safely back at the heliport. Everyone will be smiling and happy in the photos after such an amazing experience.
5. Don’t Chat Up the Pilot
Dude’s got a job to do, and he or she is very busy keeping you safe. If you are fortunate enough to be assigned the front passenger seat, you will have a firsthand view of the cockpit controls. There are a LOT of bells and whistles for the pilot to monitor, in addition to actually flying the aircraft. During the Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopter Tour, as well as the experiences in Hawaii, there was a recorded tour that plays over your headphone stereo system. We found this narration interesting and entertaining, and it saved the pilot from having to point out all the highlights. I’d rather he keep his eyes on the sky.
6. Hit the Restroom Beforehand
This probably seems obvious, and yet there’s always that one kid. We do remind our kids to hit the restroom while waiting for our boarding time, but inevitably someone has to go to the bathroom at the most inopportune moments. It’s Murphy’s Law. Clearly, there is nowhere to go this during the tour. It’s not like a commercial airplane outfitted with lavatories at the front and rear.
Even if you don’t need to, go ahead and visit the restroom beforehand. The excitement of the ride and the adrenaline pumping through your system will get things moving.
7. Have Fun!
Most of all, relax and enjoy this incredible experience. You will have memories to share for a lifetime and the badge of courage to show your family and friends you did this amazing thing!
You may also enjoy:
- Tips for Visiting the Grand Canyon
- Hiking the South Rim of the Grand Canyon with Kids
- 4 Fun Places on the Drive from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon
- Consider staying at Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock or Hilton Lake Las Vegas Resort for wonderful accomodations within a few hours of the Grand Canyon.
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