Professional stuntperson on fire.

© iStockphoto.com/Tranger

How Stunt Vacations Work

Ever wondered how it feels to race along a dangerous road at high speeds in a hot pursuit? Or engage in an all-out, armed duel against your fiercest adversary and live to tell about it? Well, you can. And you will -- if you're adventurous enough.

Stunt vacations, despite being around since 1992, aren't a well-known vacation option to many people. Many of us think of vacation as going to the beach and sipping on a fruity cocktail. Yet stunt vacations are growing in popularity with people looking for something a little more thrilling and memorable to do on their next trip.

Leave your flip-flops and bathing suit at home. These trips aim to give you the adrenaline rush you won't get from lying on some beach listening to seagulls squawking. You can enjoy adrenaline-pumping activities on your stunt vacation, like wire flying, high falls, stunt driving and being set on fire.

Adrenaline junkies aren't the only ones lining up for stunt vacations. They appeal to a large cross-section of groups and are popular for corporate team building, celebrity events and bachelorette parties.

You may feel like a professional stuntperson after a five-day stunt vacation, but you'll have to remind yourself that, in reality, you're not yet qualified to fill in as Tom Cruise's official stunt double. Even so, the bragging rights and YouTube footage alone will be plenty to make you feel like your experience was worth it. In this article, we'll dig into the world of stunt vacations. How do they work? What kind of stunts can you do? Are they safe, and, of course, how much money are we talking here?

Drive or ride along in a stunt car.

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High-Speed Car Chases and Other Cinematic Stunt Activities

Depending on your comfort and desired adrenaline levels, you'll find various combinations of stunts and extreme, stunt-like activities offered on these trips. Some stunts are taken straight out of movie production, while others are slightly more commonplace, like skydiving and bungee jumping. So before we get into the specifics of signing up for one of these packages, we'll talk about some of the activities you might encounter, assuming you're still feeling brave enough.

What are action movies renowned for? Car chases and fights. It should be no surprise, then, that stunt driving and stunt fighting reign as the two most popular movie-related activities available for stunt vacations. Stunt-driving programs strive to give you "The Fast and The Furious" experience as you navigate the road course firsthand or ride shotgun with a professional stunt driver. Slap on your fireproof suit, hop into the cockpit of your "Days of Thunder" race car and speed around hairpin turns as you navigate the special stunt driving racetrack.

Stunt fighting adventures range from hand-to-hand combat to the use of swords or lightsabers. Both stunt instructors and other vacationers will spar with you in a professionally choreographed fighting scene. You can even mimic the fighting style of Neo in "The Matrix" -- a stunt for which you'll be strapped into a harness and suspended in the air with pulley-supported wires. This is known as wire flying.

In the cinema, high-speed car chases and fighting scenes often lead to people being set on fire and falling off of buildings. Don't worry -- your stunt vacation doesn't need to be any different. You can actually be set on fire in a stunt affectionately named the "Human Torch." Not many stunt companies offer the unique experience of being set on fire, but if you decide to try it, you may want to check your company's survival rate first.

Bungee jumping lets you experience pure free fall.

© iStockphoto.com/Sander Van de Wijngaert

Additional Stunt Activities for the Discerning Adventurer

Stunt vacation companies certainly aren't the only adventure outfits to offer bungee jumping, zip-lining and tandem skydiving to the fearless. But these high-flying activities constitute just one crazy genre of stunt vacation options.

In case you need a reminder, bungee jumping can be a blood-pumping, 60-mile-per-hour (97-kilometer- per-hour) plummet from 150-plus feet (46-plus meters) to within just a few feet of the ground[source: Thigpen & Blackman]. The only thing keeping you from crashing into the earth below is a big, long rubber band, either attached to your body harness or strapped to your ankles. You can either experience this free-fall stunt sensation by yourself or with another person in a tandem jump. As a solo jumper, two take-off options are available to you. You can either take the plunge with a swallow dive, jumping face first with your arms outstretched, or a back dive, in which you dive in reverse, with the back of your head leading the plunge.

Although it won't allow you to experience the free-fall sensation synonymous with bungee jumping, zip-lining is another exhilarating stunt vacation activity. Once you're strapped into your harness, you'll hook onto a line suspended high above the ground and start your descent. At times, you can reach speeds of up to 100 miles per hour (161 kilometers per hour) [source: Ziplinerider.com]. Soaring over treetops or gorges, you will get a very unique, bird's-eye view of some great natural landscape.

Another offering for those of you unfazed by heights (or, alternately, another nightmare for any acrophobe) is a stunt called tandem skydiving. Tandem skydiving allows you to skip the training necessary to pull off a solo skydive. But don't worry -- you still get plenty of training to ensure a safe and successful jump. You'll experience a free-fall sensation that only skydiving can provide as you drop from between 2.2 and 5.6 miles (3.5 and 9 kilometers) in the air. Your instructor, who is strapped to your rear, decides when to pull your parachute cord and coordinates a safe landing.

Any potential stunt vacationer should have his or her blood pressure checked before embarking.

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What You Need to Know Before Going on a Stunt Vacation

Before you start planning your stunt vacation, you're going to want to know a few details about what you're getting yourself into. To begin with, you must be 18 years of age and be in reasonably good health, as determined by each individual stunt vacation provider. Your health can dictate your participation, depending on the physical demands of the stunt. No one who suffers from heart attacks or high blood pressure will be jumping out of airplanes.

In addition to filling out a participant packet outlining your medical conditions and concerns, you'll be required to sign a waiver. Stunt vacation providers assume no liability for injuries that may result from any of the stunts. But just because they don't want to be sued doesn't mean you're not safe or protected. In fact, as of this writing, Las Vegas-based Thrillseekers Unlimited has a perfect safety record since 1992 and provides $5 million worth of insurance coverage. However, you'll want to verify the safety record and insurance coverage with each individual stunt company before booking your vacation.

Last but not least, you should research the credentials of your potential stunt instructor(s). Depending on the degree of difficulty and risk involved, you will want to have a certain level of security. If vacationing in the United Kingdom, for example, you can reference your instructor in the JISC Stunt Register, where a full member has seven years of work experience in stunt productions. As with most professions, the more experience, the better.

Dubious Distinction?

Rich Hopkins, founder of Thrillseekers Unlimited, was first man to successfully bungee jump while on fire.

Stunt Vacation Destinations

Finding a stunt vacation destination isn't as easy as locating the nearest stretch of beach. To help you out, we've assembled a short list of stunt-related holiday destinations across the world.

  • Las Vegas, Nev. -- Thrillseekers Unlimited -- Founded in 1992, Thrillseekers offers the widest range of stunt activities, with up to five-day extreme getaways and corporate team building events. Some of their stunt activities include stunt fighting with heavy weapons, high-fall training and bungee jumping. Five-day packages run about $2,600 per person, which includes resort hotel accommodations, all equipment, instruction, ground transportation to and from events, and insurance.
  • Tucson, Ariz. -- Covert Ops Fantasy Camp (book through Incredible Adventures) -- Stunt activities for this three-day package range from intense, high-speed evasive driving to armed combat and explosive work. This vacation is priced at about $4,000.
  • Somerville, Tenn. -- Tandem Halo Jumping (book through Incredible Adventures) -- This facility offers a High Altitude, Low Open (HALO) parachute jump from 30,000 feet from a DHC-3 "Super Otter" plane. Two- to three-day packages are $3,500 and include jump training, HALO tandem jump, use of flight suit, video of adventure, digital photos and certificate of completion.
  • Nerang, Australia -- On the Gold Coast of Australia, Movie Stunt Experience offers full-on Star Wars and Gladiator experiences. Take home memories of your own fully costumed, professionally choreographed fight scene, captured on video. Half-day packages start at $149, and a full day runs $299 with upgrades available.
  • The United Kingdom (various locations) -- Adventure Sports Holiday -- Here, you can participate in stunt driving (though you must have a valid U.K. driver's license) and stunt driving ride-along packages, ranging from $80 to $475.

Lots More Information

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