Scott Hughes and his wife, Lynn Gurnee, have hauled their Keystone Springdale travel trailer from Wyoming to Albuquerque for Balloon Fiesta every year since 2017. “It’s a way for us to see the country,” says Hughes. They would have attended the year before too, but didn’t start planning in time. “It was August,” he says. “Everything was full.”

Now, they look forward to the annual excursion to the President’s Compound, southeast of the launch field. “It’s like a family reunion in many ways for us,” says Hughes.

An official Balloon Fiesta photographer, Hughes says it’s hard to accurately convey the experience of witnessing a Mass Ascension in person for the first time. “It’s like a kid at Disneyland seeing the castle.” Here are their tips for camping out at the festival.

➤ Book now. Hughes recommends booking a spot for next year right after the fiesta ends. Amenities at the five campsites at Balloon Fiesta Park differ, with some spots restricted to dry camping and others offering water and electricity. “Find out what might suit your camping style,” Hughes says.

➤ Arrive early. “Get your site set up,” he says. “Walk down Main Street and see what vendors are going to be there.”

➤ Stock up. Because getting in and out can be tricky, Gurnee and Hughes camp in Bernalillo before the event to stock up on supplies. “Make sure you have everything you need pulling in,” he says.

➤ Stick around. Stay several days (a three-night minimum is required) to take in all the events and in case the balloons can’t launch one day.

Read more: Balloons don’t have to fly to be beautiful. During glow events, the colorful envelopes of tethered balloons are lit by their burners.