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I was recently approached by Competitours to be featured on the site. I get a fair share of these requests and often ignore them, but paused this time to ask, what’s so special about Competitours? The simple answer: The Amazing Race. You all know of my past disdain for reality shows, until I ended up on one quite by accident (one of my nightmares is after I’m dead, that I’m not remembered because of my talent for prose but for House Hunters International, etched on my tombstone: SHE WAS ON HHI. AND THAT WAS IT. Arghhhh! As I scratch my face). But I admit to having watched bits of The Amazing Race and feeling that anticipation of a new locale; a new challenge. The Amazing Race is that secret jar of candy that you hide behind the couch and bring out once in a while to indulge. Competitours centres on a holiday that involves team competition. Even though this post came to me by a sponsor, the concept of a real Amazing Race struck an adventurous chord with me. To do it in real life? Yeah, I might ‘audition’ for my next reality ‘show’ experience.

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How Does Competitours Work?

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Competitours is a team travel competition that features 12 pairs of teams competing to accomplish daily surprise challenges while on a 10 day mystery itinerary of Western Europe, with up to a $7200 cash prize to be divvied up by the top 3 teams. Think ‘The Amazing’ Race‘, but for regular people- no weird food, bug-eating, exhausting tasks or drama queens. The destinations are unknown, but feature a mix of big cities, walkable villages, coastal hamlets and a jaunt through the mountains. Each destination is revealed with just a scant 24-36 hours notice each day.

The challenges are unknown and they are structured to nudge you (gently, of course) out of your comfort zone. The challenges will bring out skill sets that until now, may have been unknown to you. But rest assured, Competitours challenges are about being creative, resourceful and impromptu, NOT about speed or fitness, so expect a level playing field with all ages well represented. More than 15% of teams are repeat customers, usually a good portent.

Teams will participate in a mix of head to head challenges at the same venue, but not necessarily at the same time; and a menu of challenges can be selected by each team to best reflect their personal interests and preferences. But all challenges have three common themes: to generate some personal growth; to provide you a fun, quirky and most importantly hands-on perspective on local history, culture, food and handicrafts.

The trip dynamic is quite unique, as teams enjoy rivalry during the day, but revelry at night as many teams bond over swapping war stories of that day. While winning is a goal, team bonding is inevitable as teams realize that they are traveling with kindred spirits who enjoy the thrill of the unknown.

The scoring is typically based on a mix of objective and subjective criteria. In most instances, more than 90% of the teams are in the running for the top 3 spots until the last day, for maximum suspense….yup, another unknown- no obvious frontrunners can be assured victory!

Each day is scheduled to ensure teams have enough downtime to explore sights and shopping on their own, choose their dining preference. Further, most days are structured so that the teams are responsible for their own local transport which ensures teams rub shoulders with local folks.  No tour buses, no waiting for stragglers, no rigid schedules that force you to stay longer or leave earlier than you want.

Company Background

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Company owner Steve Belkin travels to Europe yearly to negotiate the special arrangements or exclusive access or to find the remote location to ensure that no other company can replicate a Competitours experience. Steve invests his customers’ trip fee carefully- emphasizing  memorable and compelling activities that are done while awake. While the hotels aren’t Five Star (damn) the whole point of the experience is adventure I’m pretty good at sucking up and I’d ‘rough it’ for the experience alone. Though participants should expect solid 3-Star hotels that are handpicked by the tour. Plus, don’t expect to spend much time in the room, as the only time you will be there is to sleep and shower.

As an added bonus, Steve is an expert at playing the airline mileage game, so he offers his skills to help teams redeem miles for free tickets and to help generate miles for teams that need them, to mitigate airfare costs. That’s a nice touch, not typically offered by a tour company.

If you’re a fan of scavenger hunt competitions or games that require strategy, I think Competitours would be great fun, with spates of adrenaline fuelled moments. Those questions that plague all travelers, Where will I go?’, ‘What will I do?’ become edgy and interesting when turned into an exciting team travel competition.

 Competitours might just be worth considering for summer 2014!

Check out sample challenges to get a flavor of the original activities that might be part of your trip.

Visit www.competitours.com for full details, team reviews and media coverage.

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The photos and majority of the text was provided by Competitours.