Helicopter tourism is on the rise. In fact, the helicopter tourism market is a $500 million industry, according to Reuters, and helicopters are destined to be a popular mode for travel in the future. So is a helicopter tour on your next trip worth the money?
One thing we know: helicopter tours are not cheap. For a quick, 15- to 30-minute flight above soaring skylines (New York City), vast landscapes (Grand Canyon) and iconic destinations (Las Vegas), travelers can spend anywhere from $100 to $1000.
Is a helicopter tour worth the splurge?
(*All images: my helicopter tour above Chicago)
Why helicopter tours cost so much
In Chicago, I spent $139 for a tour with Chicago Helicopter Experience, which lasted about 20 minutes. That’s about $7 a minute! In NYC, a 15-minute helicopter tour is $175, it averages $135 in Miami and an island tour with popular Blue Helicopter in Hawaii can cost up to $619.
Helicopter tours have never been cheap. One of the reasons why these flights are expensive is due to fuel. Helicopters expend a high amount of energy spinning the rotor blade, which weighs about 250 pounds. This burns a lot of fuel, the main cost component for a flight.
Also, the pilot needs to get paid. According to Upper Limit Aviation, a new commercial helicopter pilot may start off as a flight instructor flying helicopter tours. New pilots might earn as little as $25,000 a year, and they generally get paid by the hour.
Ultimately, some of the cost of your ticket goes toward the pilot’s income.
Why helicopter tours are so short
As stated, it takes a lot of fuel to burn for a helicopter ride. The longer the ride, the more fuel it has to burn. If it costs $140 for a 20-minute tour, adding another 10 minutes would bring the cost to $210. That’s a lot of money. Helicopter tour companies already know flights are expensive, so they price the tour based on marketing an affordable rate that many tourists would find reasonable, not by length of the tour.
Another reason helicopter tours are short is because companies don’t want to take up all of your time on your vacation. They ask you to arrive at least 30 minutes before your tour. From there, you’ll check in, put most of your belongings in a locker or storage, take a brief safety class then wait and board the helicopter. The entire experience could take up to 2 hours, which is already a lot of time when you’re on a vacation and want to explore other attractions.
Should you book a helicopter tour?
While helicopter tours are expensive, they are absolutely worth the money. If you love aerial views, then yes, we recommend booking a tour.
As an aerial-view enthusiast, I’ve taken dozens of helicopter tours all over the world, and it’s one of my favorite activities. Not only do I find aerial views a unique way to view the topography of a destination, the pilot generally narrates the destination’s highlights. It’s like having a private tour guide in the most unique way.
I also love how a helicopter tour gives you the lay of the land. It’s one thing arriving to a destination and figuring out the map of the city with Google Maps, but seeing it from above gives me a better understanding of how things are laid out.
A helicopter tour is also something you never regret doing. Getting a birds-eye view of the landscape is enthralling, the same way people love looking out the plane’s window as you descend close to land. It’s a view we don’t see every day, and it’s always one thing that stands out from a vacation. Your photos will be stunning and guaranteed to be a hit on social media!
Reasons to not take a helicopter tour
I recommend reading all the fine print for a helicopter tour and don’t take one if you have a fear of heights, or if you want to spend money on something more important to your trip (like an expensive restaurant or splurging on a nice hotel).
Do you think helicopter tours are worth the money? Let me know if you’ve taken any great helicopter tours that you’d recommend below!
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