Luxury travel is in danger of falling into the rut of the predictable- penthouse suite, been there; First Class mileage award, done that; private tour guide, check off the bucket list. Don’t get me wrong of course, these are some of my favorite things in the world. However, sometimes I like to change things up a bit and really have an adventure. I’m so intrigued by a new company that is seeking to redefine luxury travel by de-emphasizing the well-known creature comforts and instead focus on the intriguing idea of the luxury of the unknown. If you’re a fan of ‘The Amazing Race’ then hold onto your seats–this just might be the opportunity you’ve been waiting for. While it’s true that this post came to me as a sponsor, I have never come across something so intriguing. If you know me, you know I’m obsessed with the Amazing Race, I may have even auditioned (shh) so believe me when I say that my enthusiasm over this tour company is for realz.
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 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. Belkin invests his customers’ trip fee carefully- emphasizing memorable and compelling activities that are done while awake. While the hotels aren’t Five Star (sigh) the whole point of the experience is adventure so I think even I would suck it up and ‘rough it.’ 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, Belkin 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. Quite the one-stop shop right?
If you’re a Type-A traveler and already are freaking out wondering ’Where will I go?’, ‘What will I do?’, ‘How will I perform?’ then this team travel competition may not be for you. But if these questions cause you shivers of delight, then Competitours might just be worth penciling in 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.
*While this post was brought to you by Competitours, all opinions herein are my own. While I have not yet experienced this for myself I wouldn’t say it would be a stretch for me to pay for this down the road–and that’s the truth!*