If my family didn’t have plans to spend a chunk of time in Europe next summer I would seriously consider signing us up for one of Competitours‘ 10-day trips in Europe. Or I’d book one of the adventures with my husband or get a bunch of friends to sign on. That’s how much I love the idea behind this Amazing Race-like mystery trip — and if you’re a longtime reader of The Vacation Gals, you might remember the crazy Midwest mystery trip my family and I did several years ago. I like surprises and I like friendly competition! Competitours’ 10-day European adventures work like this:
- Twelve teams of two arrive at a pre-planned destination somewhere in Central or Western Europe. This summer, start dates are June 15 and July 20. The start locale will revealed in or around April, but it’s typically a popular international gateway, such as Paris, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Brussels, Madrid, Munich or Rome.
- Each team competes in quirky, hands-on “challenges,” which might be culinary competitions, mountain adventures, brain-teasing mazes and cryptic scavenger hunts. Creativity and resourcefulness are the competitors’ keys to victory, not physical fitness. These aren’t timed races of “whoever gets there first wins” like the Amazing Race.
- Daily challenges are a surprise, and the next destination remain a mystery with only 24 to 36 hours’ prior notice.
- Teams are competing for up to $7200 prize money ($300 from each participant’s fee goes into the prize pool); the top three finishing teams share the pot.
- The Competitours itineraries take teams to big cities, walkable villages, mountain towns and coastal hamlets. At least four countries are covered in 10 days, and those might include Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland or Austria.
Competitours has been running these trips for six years, and founder Steve Belkin says thoughtful challenges are structured to nudge you (gently, of course) out of your comfort zone. “Teams will participate in a mix of group challenges and a menu of individual challenges that each team selects to best reflect their personal interests and preferences,” says Belkin. ” Think sight-doing, not sightseeing.”
Belkin also notes, “There is rivalry during the day, but revelry at night, as many teams enjoy bonding over swapping war stories of that day. So, expect long-term friendships to prevail over the short-term pursuit of the cash prize.” I wondered about the structure of the 10-day itinerary — and whether teams had any free time to explore each “mystery destination.” Belkin says, “The challenges are designed to complement, not overwhelm the teams’ time in Europe. Each day has built-in downtime for teams to ensure they can savor their own flavor of each destination’s dining, shopping and cultural options.
I like that this is definitely not your grandmother’s tour. There’s no big ol’ tour bus, no waiting for stragglers, no rigid schedule to force you to stay longer or leave earlier than you want, say, from an outdoor market or museum. It sounds like teams get to be immersed in the local culture, using public transport to get from place to place and successfully finish their challenges.
Every Competiours trip is unique. Company owner Steve negotiates the special arrangements (like transforming a simple cooking class into an Iron-Chef like competition) or exclusive access (like blowing glass instead of just watching a demonstration) to ensure that no other company can truly replicate a Competitours experience.
Belkin invests his customers’ trip fee carefully, with an emphasis memorable and compelling activities. Lodging is at are solid three-star accommodations — time spent at the “upscale utilitarian” rooms are typically limited to sleeping and showering, says Belkin.
The two summer Competitours dates are June 15 to June 26, 2014, and July 20 to July 31, 2014. The fee is $3375 per person, double occupancy. The trip is open to residents of any country with the necessary documents to travel in Western Europe (passport or visas). Anyone under 18 must be accompanied by an adult; Belkin says there is no age minimum, per se, but he believes 13+ would be ideal for the group.
Sounds like a super-fun European adventure to me!
This post is sponsored by Competitours.