Our son had a tandem skydive as his sixteenth birthday present from us and this is my experience of it all. Our children are hugely privileged and have already had some amazing opportunities through their lives. When it came to turning sixteen we wanted something that was special. That is when we discovered that a tandem skydive was one of the things that you could do on turning sixteen.
Buying a Tandem Skydive Expereince
We opted for buying a Tandem Jump through Virgin Experience Days. We opted for the ultimate skydiving experience – which is from 15,000ft with a minute of freefall. It also made sense to have the package which included photographs.
Deciding on Whether to have the Video Option during the Tandem Skydive
Different options were considered by looking at what discounts were available. The best one was by using my McDonalds employee discount. This meant that if we wanted him to have a video it would have cost an extra £140. This was quite a substantial amount on top of what we had paid.
Naively we thought that he could just take my GoPro with him and film it himself. However, you cannot take any film/photographs on a skydive unless you meet certain criteria. Google told me it was 200 jumps but at the event we were told it was 500! That is a year and you have to also pass assessments! Needless to say no video was taken!
Preparing Before the Tandem Skydive
All the details and planning I left up to my husband. We checked the availability before we bought the voucher. We also decided that it wasn’t the kind of gift that should just be a surprise – so asked our son if he would like it was a sixteenth birthday present.
Before you can participate in a tandem skydive you have to have a certain level of fitness to partake in the experience. Certain conditions require a doctor to sign a form first. Otherwise there are forms for the participant to self-declare.
It also told us that we had to pay for the insurance before we went but there was a problem with this. However, on arrival it was absolutely fine and we paid there.
Tandem Skydive Experience Parent Perspective
The tandem skydiving experiences are different prices depending on when you go. As I did not organise any of this I am unsure if this makes any difference due to the voucher. We paid the extra for a flexi-ticket in case there was any reason we needed to change the date.
When to Jump
However, we had already decided to go on a Friday. My husband works compressed hours, which means he gets every other Friday off. It also coincided with both boys having an inset day. Therefore, I thought it wouldn’t be school holidays but different counties were off at different times!
Other than that we opted for the 10am time slot so that we could travel to Devon and back on the day. Another family had already travelled from Croydon previously and had their jump cancelled after arrival due to weather conditions. This time they had decided to just travel on the day in case that happened again.
On arrival there’s signs saying to go to the first building but actually you need to just go further up a bit. There was plenty of parking and toilets.
The website advises allowing 3 hours. Luckily we were there for only 2 ½ hours as there were no problems with weather and our son was in the first lot of jumpers in his group.
The briefing was around 40 minutes and literally he went straight from it to the jump. It was so quick in fact that they had called his name and was still trying to get forms signed (I am assuming because he was under 18 – again his dad did this).
The briefing was literally in a room off an indoor waiting area and café. The door was left open and you could hear what was being said. That said it depended on the noise levels in the room. It was quite reassuring for a parent.
One of the things was that he would give us a piece of paper with his parachute colour on – so we could easily spot him. The other was that we could pay an extra £5 each (to cover insurance) to get closer to where he would land. This was actually on the piece of paper that he gave us too. The only other additional costs were for those who hadn’t booked the highest drop could change their minds.
Turns out that the extra for spectating was well worth it – as the person driving also gave us lots of information – including how to spot him and pointing out where he would land.
Note that most of it was on path so normal everyday footwear is fine. However, if you are going to pay the extra to see better then do take footwear that you do not mind getting muddy if it rains.
As a mother I was really reassured by the staff, the being able to hear the briefing, and most importantly being able to see (hug) our son before he went up! Paying the extra meant we could go straight up to him as soon as he landed too (he was the last one out of his plane).
Feed Back from Our Sixteen Year Old
He thought it was cool. Not at all scared. Said that the freefall was in the clouds and after that it was just an amazing view!
We had previously tried iFly (indoor sky diving) but our son said that it was nothing at all like his indoor skydiving experience. For start off he didn’t have to wear all the kit that made it an unpleasant sensory experience for me.
At the end we quickly and easily got his photos on a drive. Thank you to all the staff it was great – and am pleased that he had such a positive experience. It would definitely recommend a tandem skydive as a sixteenth birthday present for any adventurous young people.