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How to Find the Perfect Helicopter Tour

Forget walking tours or sightseeing from the top of a double-decker bus. The best way to see the world's most breathtaking sights is from up in the air.

"Seeing a sight like the Grand Canyon from the air gives you a completely different perspective," says Robert Graff, vice president of marketing for Papillon Group, a helicopter tour company in Las Vegas that performs more than 450 flights daily. "When you see the gorge from above, stretching 300 miles long, you recognize how insanely small you are compared to the world's seventh wonder."

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Helicopters range from basic two-seaters with no doors and a lot of noise, to the EC130, which is whisper-quiet and offers theater seating for up to seven people.

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Unforgettable sightseeing options are becoming more common in popular international travel destinations. Here are two to consider:

·      Zambia/Zimbabwe - A mere $250 U.S. dollars (USD) will buy travelers a window seat on a 25-minute helicopter ride over Victoria Falls with the Zambezi Safari and Travel Company. This "flightseeing" tour also takes visitors over neighboring rainforests and down to the Batoka Gorge, which is home to 23 whitewater rapids.                       

·      Switzerland - Travelers who prefer soaring mountains covered in sparkling snow should consider a tour with HB-Adventure Switzerland, which offers a four-hour VIP tour for two over the Swiss Alps. Besides the ride, adventure seekers can enjoy a glacier landing and champagne cocktails for about $2,200 USD.

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With so many great helicopter tours and destinations in luxury travel here are some tips and questions to ask travel guides for finding the right one.

1. Choose a company that's been around for a while. Before getting onboard, check out the company online. Ideally they've been in business for a while, have good reviews and specialize in sightseeing tours. Tourists don't want to sign up for a $100 tour, only to find out it's just the opening fee for a 10-minute take off and landing, Graff says.

2. Look for all-inclusive prices. There is nothing wrong with enhancement options -like paying extra to land on a mountain peak for a picnic lunch - but travelers shouldn't have to pay extra for taxes, airport fees or fuel surcharges.

3. Ask about the vehicle. Helicopters range from basic two-seaters with no doors and a lot of noise, to the EC130, which is whisper-quiet and offers theater seating for up to seven people.

4. Look for clean untinted windows. Most tourists want to take photographs from the helicopter to capture the beauty of the trip. If the windows are tinted or covered with grime and dead bugs, those photos won't turn out.

5. Think about when you want to take your tour.  Sunrise and sunset offer the best tour experiences, both for the dramatic lighting and for the relative quiet of the scene below, Graff says. "I'd rather not see one [of] nature's wonders with 10,000 tourists milling around."



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