Steve Belkin, Competitours founder and President, at the Great Wall of China.
Teams for the trips range from two to four members. Each trip has a maximum number of 20 teams that compete. Competitours takes the teams through at least five major European cities (there's a total of 18 cities for which Competitours has created challenges) and under-the-radar outskirts on off-the-beaten-path excursions. Challenges often center around niche attractions and the must-see tourist spots. But these aren't head-on activities.
"Anyone can go to the top of the Eiffel Tower," Belkin said. "But only Competitours challenges teams to recruit 15 strangers to do the can-can."
Other challenges include hitting up the indoor ski resort in Europe, finding specific objects in open-air markets, "critiquing" Berlin Wall grafitti or visiting a torture museum in Prague where you have to choose three torture tools and explain how they could be used as non-lethal household items. So as you can see some challenges are physical and others are more--let's put it this way--mental.
Competitours are judged on each challenge they complete using a "dynamic scoring system" that ensures a level playing field and keeps the competition fierce.
"On any given day, you could be trailing in last place and then after the next challenge you could be catapulted into first," Belkin said. "It's not about speed. It's more about being creative and resourceful. And there's no pressure to leave a site you are enjoying for fear of falling behind or that speed or physical prowess will create undue advantages for some teams."
And unlike Amazing Race, there are no eliminations here. Travelers even get to wake up in the morning and choose what type of challenges they want to do. Teams will average 4-5 challenges per day.
"We decide the travel buffet and you decide what to pile on your plate," Belkin said.
Also separating Competitours from the travel tours pack is its "Pay Upon Performance" policy. Competitours authorizes travelers' credit cards at booking but they do not charge them until after the trip is completed. Belkin explained the reason for doing so.
"With so little info that we can provide in order to maintain the secrecy/surprise aspect of the trip, it is difficult for people to plunk down upfront money without feeling a little queasy," he elaborated in an email. "I understand such hesitation and the pay AFTER travel policy is our way of giving travelers the trust and confidence to move forward with us...the risk is on us to deliver, not on the customer to chase us for money."
That said, a typical 9-day Competitours trip averages about $2,199 and includes airfare to Europe from a gateway U.S. city, eight nights in a hotel and a Eurail pass.
The inaugural Competitours trip launched back in March with 11 teams participating and Belkin said that four of the teams already want to do another trip. Lucky for them, Competitours is set to take off to Europe again in two weeks and there's two more trips planned in July and August.
So will you be rolling cheese down a hill in Munich? Maybe not but whatever you do, you can do it free of the network TV cameras. Still, be nice to your mother/team partner. She's just trying to help you out!
Tomorrow morning Jaunted will be kicking off a contest for readers to win a free trip to Europe from Competitours. So be sure to tune in tomorrow for more details and your chance to enter the contest!