Summer camp: not just for kids anymore

Happy Solstice! Summer is finally here and for a lot of kids that means summer camp is just around the corner.

But why should kids have all the s’mores and all fun?

Here’s a round-up of some of the adult camps I found for a feature on CNBC Road Warrior.


From fantasy sports camps with major league players to boot camps for aspiring astronauts, rockers, clowns, zombie slayers and world poker players, there are plenty of summertime options for adults seeking to cross big-ticket items off their bucket list or or just try something new.

Music fans can take lessons from rock stars who serve as counselors at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy Camp held in Las Vegas and, starting in October, at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut. Four-day packages begin at about $5,000 and include loaner instruments and lunches, but not lodging.

The hefty fee didn’t deter 51-year-old Ron Cianciaruso, a musician and a senior vice president at a major bank in Jacksonville, Florida, from signing up for what will be his second session at Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy Camp: the upcoming four-day camp that will feature The Who’s Roger Daltrey as one of the counselors.

Rock camper Ron Cianciaruso with Billy Hinshe and rock camp band members

Ron Cianciaruso (in red T-shirt on the left;) along with rock counselor Billy Hinsche (in the hat), a former member of Dino, Desi & Billy who also played with the Beach Boys; and co-campers Nick, Ted, John, Bill and Pat, who joined Ron in the camp band, Outside the Box.

Yes, it’s a lot of money,” Cianciaruso told CNBC. “But it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And when you do anything like this as an adult you can appreciate the value in doing the things you love.”

Sports enthusiasts can hang out with their heroes at a wide variety of baseball and basketball fantasy camps, many with registration fees for adults hovering at around $5,000 as well.

Wish you could go into space?

The U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, offers a weekend-long Adult Space Academy for those who want to learn what it’s like to train to be an astronaut. Campers get to hang out in one of the world’s largest space aircraft collections, construct and launch rockets, and train on simulators, including the one-sixth gravity chair and Multi-Axis Trainer.

The three-day camp costs $549 per person while the four-day program runs $649. Meals and lodging are included.

For those worried about a zombie attack, weekend-long sessions at the Zombie Survival Course, held near Whiting, New Jersey, teach campers age 21 and older skills that might come in handy should there be a zombie apocalypse or some other disaster.

“It’s very much a camp-like experience, but with crossbows, pistols and training in advanced first-aid techniques and hand-to-hand combat,” said Zombie Survival Course founder Mark Scelza.

The $450 price includes lodging and meals.

“We’re ready for zombies, hurricanes, earthquakes, even martial law now,” said 34-year-old Ivory Mejia, an ultrasound technologist from Hull, Georgia, who took the course recently with her husband.

“Adult camps often take place in traditional camp settings and can be the adult version of a kid’s camp,” said Peg Smith, CEO of the American Camp Association. And adult campers are likely to be baby boomers interested in “taking their vacations while supporting their vocations,” she said.

According to the ACA, the 12,000 organized camps in the United States are part of a $15 billion industry, with 11 million children and youth and more than 1 million adults attending camp each year. The ACA’s Find a Camp tool lists 200 adult camps, while its business affiliate GrownUpCamps.com has more than 800 paid listings for camps, courses and experiences.

Here are a few more options:

In Ely, Nevada, two of the three Railroad Reality Week summer sessions offered by the Nevada Northern Railway Museum are for adults only. The hands-on experience promises time spent maintaining 19th century locomotives and rail cars “with all the dirt and grime, you’d expect” and working as part of a railroad crew out on the track.

(Next session: August; price: $995; extra fees for bunkhouse lodging and “Be the Engineer” experiences.)

World Poker Tournament Boot Camps in Las Vegas (of course) cover everything from basic poker instruction to tournaments and tells (betting patterns and physical behaviors). And the Culinary Institute of America offers two- to five-day-long boot camps ($895 to $2,195) on such topics as wine, pastry, grilling and barbecue at its three campuses in New York, California and Texas.

Many CIA campers are food and wine enthusiasts who want to learn in a professional kitchen with professional chefs, but the short sessions sometimes serve as gateways to something more serious. “We have had people attend Boot Camp, decide it was a life-changing event and then enter into the degree program,” said Amy Townsend, CIA senior project manager for consumer marketing.

Zombies happen. Pack a travel emergency ‘go kit.’

Tsunami Museum

From the Pacific Tsunami Museum in Hilo, Hawaii

If you happened to be on the road – in a hotel, a convention center or, of course, in an airport – when some sort of disaster strikes, would you know what to do? And would you have the right tools and supplies with you so that you could do what you needed to do?

I wasn’t confident I would.

But after talking with experts and savvy travelers about the ideal contents of an emergency ‘go kit’ for this story on msnbc.com – Disasters prompt world travelers to be prepared – I’m feeling more confident about dealing with everything from tsunamis to zombies when I’m on the road.

Here’s the story:

When an 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck Chile at around 3:30 a.m. in February 2010, Seattle-based wine importer Ryan Sytsma was asleep in a Sheraton hotel somewhere between the airport and downtown Santiago.

Once he realized it wasn’t a train shaking the room, Sytsma jumped out of bed and stood in the bathroom doorway.

“It kept getting worse,” he said. “Soon the electrical outlets started throwing sparks, anything unsecured was falling over and smoke filled the room. I could only see flashes of light, hear explosions like bombs and smell smoke that was a mix of drywall dust, burning plastic and melting rubber.”

Sytsma survived the three-minute temblor unscathed and raced out of his hotel room with his passport, cash, shoes and his small suitcase, which was already packed and near the door.

Those items, and the extra shirts and dozen Power Bars packed in the suitcase, helped ease the post-earthquake experience a bit for Sytsma and the people he ended up with. And now Sytsma makes sure to pack for every trip with disaster preparedness in mind.

Good idea, say the experts. A well-stocked emergency “go kit” can arm a traveler with tools that may help keep a bad travel situation from turning into a full-blown disaster.

“Given the recent events in Japan, Egypt and other places that appeared as low to insignificant on the risk map last year, a lot of people are rethinking their preparedness,” said Alex Puig, regional security director for International SOS, a global medical and security assistance company. “We’re not asking people to go above and beyond what common sense dictates. But anything can happen, and preparation is the most important thing you can do.”

Be prepared
Snow, rain or even a computer glitch, as Alaska/Horizon passengers learned this past weekend, may delay your plane for hours or days. You may get stung by a jellyfish, mugged by thug or knocked unconscious by a falling coconut. Then there are earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, pandemics or political upheaval to deal with.

Of course, many travelers will never experience an emergency while on the road. And danger can also find you close to home.

But for those who want to be prepared, what should go in an emergency kit?

“A good police whistle, two glow sticks, a small roll of wide adhesive tape to prevent hotel doors from closing, and $100 in local currency in small denominations,” said Noel Koch, senior director of travel intelligence for the travel risk management company NC4.

Koch considers a smartphone, with a reliable service provider, essential as well. “In the case of Japan, a smartphone would have given the traveler the ability to get information on how to book a flight out of Tokyo,” he said. “In the case of Egypt, travelers could have gotten information via Twitter to find out what was happening with the protests.”

Medications, both prescribed and over-the-counter, belong in your kit as well. “Take enough for your trip and an extra supply in case you get delayed or stuck someplace for a certain length of time,” said Myles Druckman, vice-president of medical services for International SOS. “You can’t assume you’ll be able to find the same medications you have at home. And some over-the-counter medicines may be prepared or branded differently than you’re used to at home.”

Puig adds that you go should always have items that allow you to travel and communicate. That includes a copy of your passport (with another copy saved in e-mail or another electronically accessible way), a cell phone you know will work in any country you’re visiting and a calling card to use if your cell phone dies or is stolen. “None of that really requires a lot of extra effort,” he said.

Make room for these items
Beyond the basics, you may want to add some of these items to your “go kit.”

Beth Whitman, founder of Wanderlust and Lipstick, used to carry a water purifier only on her international trips. “Now I won’t leave home without it even to a destination with drinkable tap water because I realize it would be perfect if water supplies were compromised,” said Whitman.

When she travels to West Africa, nature writer Susan McGrath takes a folding mosquito tent and beeswax earplugs in case she finds herself in a village with a community loudspeaker that plays bad pop music 24/7. She also always takes along a headlamp. “I did get stranded in Nigeria during a countrywide shut down and lived briefly in the Lagos Hilton on my emergency kit,” said McGrath. “And when the power went off in the very crowded airport at 11 p.m., I was pretty well equipped not to panic.”

When WanderingEducators.com publisher Jessica Voights travels with her wheelchair, her “go kit” includes the phone number and address of a mobility organization or store that can help in case of an emergency and/or equipment failure, extra batteries, adapters and converters for medical devices, extra copies of prescriptions “and letters from doctors explaining my medical conditions and equipment needs.”

And Suzanne Rowan Kelleher, editor of WeJustGotBack.com, keeps a few quart- and gallon-size Ziploc bags in her “go kit” as well as “phone numbers and policy numbers for my car and health insurance, customer service numbers for credit cards and contact numbers for my family’s doctors and pediatrician.”

Pre-packed kits and emergency quarters
At minimus.biz, which sells a wide variety of travel and trial-size items, miniature rolls of duct tape, individual packets of water purifier and glow sticks are listed under the “Survival” tab. Pre-packaged “personal care” kits filled with three days’ worth of water, food and other basics supplies are there, too. Company co-founder Paul Shrater said that since the Japanese disaster, he’s gotten a lot of inquiries from companies and agencies seeking to stock up on those emergency kits but few calls from vacationers seeking to create their own travel-versions of the kits.

“If you really stock it correctly and think of all the things you really need, you start getting up there in terms of weight and size,” said Shrater.

That’s why Puig of International SOS urges worried travelers to sit down and make a plan. “Do an analysis of who you are, how you travel and what the risks are in the country you’ll be traveling to,” Puig said. “Ask yourself how well prepared you’d be if you were in Cairo when the demonstrations broke out or in Japan after the earthquake. What are the things you’d need to have to be prepared?”

Mitch Ahern of technology consulting firm Cantina is prepared. He carries a roll of quarters in his travel emergency kit for late nights at airports or trade show set-ups when dinner may come from a vending machine. Ahern said the quarters have a dual purpose. “I have it on excellent authority that a roll of quarters in a sock makes an excellent zombie-stopper when applied with force to the head!”