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5 ways to fly on your vacation5 ways to fly on your vacation

If you’re like most pilots, you are always looking for an excuse to go flying—even on vacation when you didn’t bring the airplane along. These five tips will help you scratch the itch to get in the air and let you see your destination from a different perspective.

A helicopter and river boat tour is a great way to explore the Grand Canyon. Photo by David Tulis.

Air tour companies—This gives you a chance to take what is usually a 30-minute or 1-hour sightseeing flight. An air tour is a great way to see your vacation area from above and to possibly experience flight in a new-to-you aircraft. Some of my fondest memories of vacations have been flights that I took—flying over Maine in a seaplane (first time on floats), a helicopter over the beach, a Cessna 206 over the Grand Canyon. The views are as exciting as the new experience and leave a lasting impression for you and your friends or family who are along for the ride. (Admit it, you owe your family a fun sightseeing flight because if you drove to your vacation destination, you probably stopped at a couple of airports along the way just to see what was going on.)

Rent an airplane—If you have cooperative weather and some time to spare on vacation, take a day to get checked out in an aircraft in the area by a flight school so that you can rent an aircraft and fly to nearby attractions yourself. Call flight schools in the area in advance to learn about instructor and aircraft availability, checkout and rental policies, prices, and any discounts you might be able to get.

Fly with a friend—If you are visiting a friend who is a pilot, why not go flying? In addition to strengthening your aviation friendship, you’ll get fun insights into an area you may not have flown before. I flew with a friend through Los Angeles airspace to Catalina Island, a great adventure with new experiences such as navigating a major metropolitan area’s VFR corridor, overwater flying, and landing on an island a mile above the water.

Get some dual with a CFI—Flying with a CFI can have several advantages. I’m not talking about going out to do stalls and steep turns. Use the CFI to explore destinations you wouldn’t on your own: Perhaps it’s a tricky mountain strip or a flight along the busy coast or through a scenic corridor. The CFI will be familiar with the area, and you won’t have to go through an extra checkout just to fly. And you can book the lesson to fit your schedule.

Enjoy rare aircraft, flight experiences—On the other hand, the destination might not be what is attracting you to the air. Maybe it’s the aircraft itself. From aerobatic flights in an Extra or Pitts biplane and serene hot air balloon rides or glider flights to once-in-a-lifetime rides in warbirds, you will probably be more willing to drop the dough for a fun vacation activity in an aircraft than you would at your home base. After all, vacations are about making memories.

Alyssa J. Miller

Alyssa J. Cobb

AOPA Director of eMedia and Online Managing Editor
AOPA Director of eMedia and Online Managing Editor Alyssa J. Cobb has worked at AOPA since 2004 and is an active flight instructor.
Topics: US Travel

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