Trip Overview

TRAVELERS NOT TOURISTS
Almost every organized tour there is a shepherd (tour leader) and a bunch of sheep (customers). As the trip progresses, the sheep become ever more passive and ever more dependent on their shepherd. While we may travel as a group between cities and check into hotels together, you will be treated like a shepherd. We will provide you all the key key info each day and you will be responsible for executing.

For example, we might meet at a challenge destination at 900a. So, you decide what time you want to get up, if/when you want to eat breakfast, how to get to the challenge site, how close to the start time do you want to cut it. This scenario avoids the dreaded ‘laggard syndrome’ where one team is perennially late, holding up and aggravating the others in the group. Rather, we empower each team to decide what style of planning they are comfortable with.

Just remember that being early or on time will ensure that you dont miss the start of a challenge which could cost you points.

Same goes for transport, we typically meet at the airport gate or train station platform, so you can decide when/how to arrive. Some teams end up making arrangements together, other teams like to wildcat. But, no one will feel like they are on a cradle to grave supervision.

In 8 years, we had one team miss a train, but it was somewhere where there was another train 1 hr later. So, its not our intent to be unconcerned, we just dont want to babysit you and hopefully you don’t want to be babysat. I’m a Mastermind/Evil Genius, not a caregiver!!

MEALS
Breakfasts are all included at each hotel. We encourage teams to eat a hearty breakfast because most days will be chock full of activity and the energy will come in handy

Most lunches will be during or between challenges, so there will be a modest time constraint so lunches tend to be short and close by affairs. Typically casual and reasonably priced meals with a few choices of where to eat. Because we dont want to minded your culinary, budget and ambience preferences, we simply punt and have you make your own informed decision where/what to eat…..you know, because you are a traveller, not a tourist.

Dinners tend to be more relaxed with far more time and restaurant options. Again, we do not arrange group meals because no one should have to compromise their preferences. That said, as the trip progresses, teams have been known to pair of with other teams and sometimes one team will throw out their dining suggestion….and all other 9 teams will organically and spontaneously showed up. So, it was a meal with the group, not a group meal!!

PACING
We want the trip to be a blast not a blur, but we also have a lot of ground to cover in relatively short period of time. So, think of our trip as like the travel version of grazing or appetizers or tapas. You’ll get a delicious taste, and if you love it, you come back on another trip for the slower, more thorough entree or buffet version!

Because free time will really be a relatively scarce commodity, we want to ensure you take best advantage. So, we will give you enough notice about our next destination so you can do some preemptive research about restaurants, shopping, activities, sightseeing, etc.

TRANSPORT
Between cities, we will typically travel by train, as the central train stations are well, central and the trains are fast. Train stations provide the local flavor and energy of a city.
Occasionally, a plane trip will be necessary to hopscotch us time efficiently to a different and unexpected region….keeps the mystery and surprise aspect intact.

Within cities, you will typically make your own transport choices to arrive a given locale by a given time. Occasionally, where time/ease of logistics factors in, we will provide a private bus for the group.

THE RIGHT ATTITUDE
Obviously, there is a cash prize up for grabs, $6000 to be split amongst top 3 teams. We have calibrated that figure to be high enough to create some friendly rivalry but low enough to discourage any win at all costs mentalities. We have a terrific track record of team bonding (not with every other team, but with enough teams) whereby the shared experiences and twists and curveballs generate friendships that trump the going for the gold focus.

SCORING/JUDGING
That said, it is a competition and there will be judging and scoring. Where appropriate, the judging will be done by the local challenge staff. And sometimes the teams might be scoring each other in a ‘peoples choice’ session. Other times, teams will upload challenge videos to be analyzed by our judges in the States, some of whom are previous team participants. Almost all of the challenge criteria are subjective, so things like speed or physical prowess will rarely be a factor.

There will always be spontaneous mini-challenges that we might (actually, we will) spring upon you when you least expect it.

In general, over 90% of all the teams will be in contention until the last day, so frontrunners cant get cocky and backbenchers always have a chance to redeem themselves.

Standings will be updated roughly daily.

CHALLENGE PARTICIPATION
This is your vacation, we want you to have fun. We also don’t want to hauled into court or have terrible reviews going viral. Our challenges are meant to push you out of your comfort zone, but we are not looking to scare you or humiliate you or put you in danger. That said, you might FEEL like those above mentioned things are happening, but we did not structure the challenges to elicit those responses. So, we won’t force anyone to do any challenge they feel uncomfortable with, and we ill have fair point pro rate scenario to account for such a situation. But, our past experience has been that any team/teammate that has opted out of a given challenge ends up with serious ‘opt-out’ remorse as sometimes its the seemingly most inaccessible challenges that bring the teams closer together. Rest assured, every challenge chosen has been rigorously vetted by my teenage daughter and her risk averse friend (and parents!). Every team will have their moments to shine and moments to crash and burn…embrace the possibilities.

OWNER/OPERATOR MISSION STATEMENT
The reality is that I would much rather be a participant than an organizer, but I haven’t found anyone to replace me yet! The most satisfying team feedback that I hear year after year is basically- you have ruined traveling for us, because we (or any other company) will never be able to replicate this trip (routing, destinations, challenges, cool fellow teams, the thrill of the unknown, etc). So, since I will be accompanying you every step of the way and cant hide from you, my accountability for your trip will be on full display. I cant blame anything on a faceless committee or a board or a partner. So, to minimize any risk of awkward moments with dissatisfied customers, I have absolutely put my bet foot forward and hoping you will concur.

Competitours, founded by University Heights’ Steve Belkin, takes travelers on their own ‘amazing race’

By Sarah Wyatt for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, January 24, 2014:

Preoccupied with the splendor of Austria’s Untersberg mountain range, my companion and I, crouched in a toboggan, hesitated atop the steep alpine slope at the Hallein resort.

Gazing to the west, I noticed the charming meadows, as my mind wandered to “The Sound of Music,” which was filmed here. “So long, farewell…

“Auf Wiedersehen,” our Austrian guide said, shocking this fraulein out of her daze. He shoved our toboggan down the slope, and off we zipped down the two-kilometer Keltenblitz run. Auf Wiedersehen, we did, laughing throughout.

After reaching bottom and comparing descent times with other duos, I realized that this was not the leisurely European guided travel experience with which I had become comfortable — and I couldn’t have been happier.

2013 Competitours Blog

By Fran Belkin at franbelkin.com:

We arrived midday in Venice, dropped our bags at the hotel and went straight to the Mask making. This company (Tragicomica) has been making masks for several hundred years, and it’s a family business. Steve arranged for each of us to pick a style of mask and paint and decorate it. Once we picked a theme and decorated it, we would be judged by the owners and three would be chosen for the most points. Jamie’s was one of the three! Judie’s was half Italian flag and half American flag,…

Competitours: Vacation a la The Amazing Race with Your Teen or Tween

By Erin Gifford for kidventurous.com:

I’ve long been a fan of The Amazing Race. The teams go to the most amazing locales and compete in so many fun challenges. If you’ve ever wanted to travel and compete in challenges in the style of The Amazing Race, and even better, do so with your kids, then look into Competitours.

I recently read about Competitours on another travel website and knew I had to get more details. Competitours has been running 13-day challenge-style vacations for the last six years. They take 12 two-person teams and send them on challenges throughout Western Europe in cities like Rome, Munich, Barcelona, even Salzburg and Cinque Terre. All cities are kept under wraps until the games begin.

Challenges range from culinary activities, like an Iron Chef-style competition in a hillside villa in Italy in which all teams compete side-by-side, to soft adventure activities, like sliding down an alpine coaster in the French Alps. Teams may also find themselves engaging in activities like mask making or glass blowing, even scavenger hunts and dance competitions.

Amazing Race rejects keep climbing

By Jenn Martin and Jennifer Foden Wilson for the Chronicle Herald:

“Make sure you’re never unclipped from the cable,” we heard someone say as we stared in silence at the rock outcrop before us. “Oh, and by the way, they call this one the devil.”

The mountain sat with accomplished silence in the middle of the Swiss Alps: an almighty, snow-sheathed beauty that we were to summit on the fourth day on our Amazing Race-style tour of Europe. Others in our group looked terrified; we were exhilarated.

Having found something so perfectly suited to our adventurous sensibilities, we looked at each other with barely contained glee, thinking exactly the same thing: this is our jam. Experiences like this were exactly why we had come here in the first place.

This fondness for adventure may have worked against us had we actually been cast on the second season of the Amazing Race Canada (put your hands up season 2 rejects!). Instead of deciding who would have to jump out of a plane on the CTV reality show’s first Road Block, we would have likely been squabbling over who got the pleasure.

10 Days in Europe; 10 New Things to Try

2014 team from Cleveland, OH and Calgary and Travel Blogger:

There’s a first time for everything. I just didn’t expect to have so many new experiences during one European vacation. Competitours intrigued me from the moment I heard about it. The tour company takes several teams of two across the pond to compete in quirky point-earning challenges over 10 days for the chance to win a cash prize. Other than the CBS series Amazing Race, I’d never heard of anything like it for regular folks who would prefer not to have their lives televised for the whole world to see. Now in its sixth year, Competitours has debuted what owner Steve Belkin calls “Version 2.0,” with new challenges and new ways to broaden your horizons. For starters, you have to completely relinquish control of the travel planning process. Each day of the trip is a complete surprise to participants, who have anywhere from 24 to 48 hours of notice to prepare for challenges. Destinations vary, but it’s not uncommon for the trip’s itinerary to include five countries. The outside-the-box adventure helped snap me — a seasoned traveler — out of a vacation rut by throwing me into certain situations I wouldn’t normally think to get myself into. Belkin’s belief “sight doing,” instead of sightseeing, turns out to be an ideal formula for gaining a better appreciation for other cultures, while learning a little about yourself, and what you are (or are not) capable of, along the way.

5 Reasons Competitours is Better Than “The Amazing Race”

2014 team from Richmond, VA and Travel Blogger

In the fall of 2010, my husband and I were fresh off our honeymoon to Mexico and then a second, even-better vacation to Alaska. We had also been on half a dozen summer camping trips, a “local” getaway to Assateague Island and Ocean City, whitewater rafting in West Virginia, and a dip down into North Carolina. In short, we had been bitten by the travel bug…or more accurately, the adventure bug. With no known antidote, we gave in to the infection and sent in a video audition for The Amazing Race. Unfortunately, we never got a call back.

For the next few years, we planned our own adventures in short spurts, enjoying travel, outdoor activities, and creating great memories. Then, this past spring, we signed up for the “next best thing” to the official Amazing Race. With nine other pairs, we met in Ghent, Belgium for the start of a travel competition known as Competitours. For ten days, we’d race around Europe — destinations unknown — and complete a series of challenges. At the time, we had no idea that the “next best thing” would be even better than the Amazing Race itself.

GOING BEYOND THE GUIDEBOOK WITH COMPETITOURS

2014 team from Richmond, VA and Travel Blogger

Think back to your first trip to Europe: where did you go? what did you do? and what do you remember most vividly? If your trip was anything like mine, the focus was on being able to say “been there, done that” instead of creating lasting memories. I simply followed the guidebook’s recommendations, enjoyed a few moments thoroughly, and came home wondering why on earth I chased down a statue of a naked boy peeing in Brussels.

Stepping out of my comfort zone with Competitours

2014 team from Richmond, VA and Travel Blogger

In the time leading up to my Competitours trip, a million people asked me what I was most excited for on the trip and I wasn’t sure how to respond. I was looking forward to my time abroad — I was going to Europe after all! — but I had no idea where I’d be going or what I’d be doing once I was there. To be honest, I was a little worried I may not actually enjoy the trip as much as I normally do. You see, I’m a compulsive travel planner, and letting someone else do the planning meant I didn’t have the same anticipation or build-up that I typically revel in.

Thoughts for future Competitouristas!

Lynda & Viet’s 2015 Competitours Journey

Wow. It’s hard to believe that we finished this! Such an amazing, amazing experience. This final post are some thoughts and tips for anyone interested in going on Steve’s madhouse of a journey:

1) Our most invaluable tool was a paper and pen. From writing down dance steps to copying maps to sketching doodles on the train, nothing beats good ol’ PnP.

1b) Our second most invaluable tool, however, was a pair of iPhone 5s devices, each equipped with T-Mobile for free international data roaming and texting. We navigated everywhere. We checked maps everywhere. We looked up buses and trains everywhere. We googled and yelped and tripadvisor-ed for food and ice cream and shops…everywhere. And it didn’t cost us a dime.

1c) Phones, however, are useless when the battery runs out. So a portable battery pack that we could charge and take with us was incredibly valuable. Even more so when we were unable to directly charge our phones in the evening, we had an important backup source of power that we could charge when we had reliable power on the train or at the airport.