The Amazing Race is one of the many reality shows that has become very popular over the years. In this show, teams race all over the world, trying to win the $1 million prize at the end of the road. Every episode, the last team to make it to the designated location is eliminated until there is only one team left standing. The show is an Emmy award-winning phenomenon hosted by Phil Keoghan. It’s been on for years and has challenged teams of many different kinds. The original series started in 2001 and has since branched out to a number of international versions.
As is usual for reality shows, what you see on the small screen is not everything that is going on. In fact, there’s quite a bit that fans and viewers don’t get to see and don’t know just by watching the shows. Yes, contestants use trucks, trains, buses, cars, planes and other modes of transportation. But are those things always ready to go when they arrive? What do they eat between their “pit stops?” Where do they stay or do they really ever get to sleep at all? These burning questions and more are finally answered.
15 The food they eat while racing is not good
Contestants on the show go all over the world, seeing different cultures—albeit quickly—and enjoying their travels. They should get to eat all of the delicacies of the local cuisines, right? Not so! According to an interview on She Just Glows, former contestant Hayley Keel admits that the food was actually pretty horrible. She said contestants ate random junk most of the time. They sometimes ate airplane meals and other times grabbed whatever they could whenever they could.
The show gives each group a stipend for each leg of the race, but groups often don’t want to run out of cash for the competition so they would chew on junk food to save money and use their funds elsewhere. With a lot of flights involved, it makes sense that much of the food they take in is on the plane. That might mean peanuts at times or pre-packaged sandwiches and snacks. Either way, they don’t sit down and have elaborate meals in every country. Actually, most of their sitting is probably done on the planes as they wait to arrive at their next location and race to the pit stop ahead of them, attempting to beat the other teams.
14 Phil Keoghan is a hair and makeup master
Phil Keoghan is a man of many talents and always seems to arrive at the pit stop before all of the contestants. OK, so that’s his job at the host, but it still doesn’t seem easy. Not only that, but he has to travel all around the world with the contestants, dealing with airplanes, long waits and other travel hassles.
Does he get jet lag or is he immune to it after this many years of the race? Either way, he should get awards for things other than best host because, according to The Wrap, he does his own hair and makeup when he’s on the road. He used to only mess with his hair, but now, because of HD-TV, he has to do makeup too. He also carries his own wardrobe and can’t afford to pack duplicates since he has to be on TV in a different outfit for every episode. And here we thought being the host of the show would be glamorous and all about the pampering. He probably gets decent hotel rooms, but he doesn’t have an entourage to make him look good. What you see is what you get and it’s all him behind-the-scenes.
13 Contestants book and buy their own tickets
If you were to sit down and think about the show, you’d guess that production teams probably purchase tickets in advance to make sure contestants and crew members could get last minutes spots on planes. But that’s not the case at all! Even though this is reality TV and much of that isn’t always reality, this part is. Producers reserve tickets for the first episode, but from there on out, it’s all up to the contestants to get tickets for themselves and the crew members that are to travel with them.
The show monitors different flights to see which ones contestants are likely to take, but sometimes they are just downright wrong.
Sometimes people will find deals that surprise them, like those that get them on site 20 minutes earlier if they hop from flight to flight. Producers can’t catch everything and they can’t always predict what contestants will do. The next time you try to fly somewhere last minute, think about all of those on the show that have been able to do it to these exotic locations. It really is possible! As long as you aren’t in a hurry in real life.
12 The audition process is grueling
Anyone who wants to be on a reality show just sends in an audition tape, right? Then, they get a magic call one day from a producer and—voilà!—they’re in! That’s only how those who watch the show think it works. It’s certainly not reality. Former contestant Hayley Keel revealed in an interview with She Just Glows that the audition process was actually quite grueling. She auditioned at a community college in Mississippi first and then got a call four months later from a producer asking her to continue the casting process.
She had to send in several rounds of audition videos at their request. Once she found out she was on the show, she had a month to get ready, which included quite a few vaccinations, getting a passport and plenty of other tasks. This isn’t something most people think about as they watch the show. Traveling is fun, even if it is done at a fast pace. But there are a lot of preparations that go into those travels and the contestants have to be a large part of the preparations in order to get on the show in the first place. Once they’re on, things don’t get easier.
11 Camera operators have running crews
As you kick back and watch Amazing Race from the comforts of your couch with a bowl of popcorn in your lap, you might not really think about how things have to work behind-the-scenes for you to get what you are getting on the small screen. When you stop to think about it, you have to understand that anywhere the contestants go and anything they do, they have to have a camera operator with them. The Wrap indicates that contestants travel with a four-pod team. There are two contestants and two camera operators together at all times.
But the camera operators that follow the contestants are called the “running-crew” as they often have hand-held cameras and have to dash after the contestants, attempting to get good shots at the same time.
They take on this three-week long adventure with a camera on their shoulders, pointing the lens in the right direction wherever they go. The two-person crew team has an adventure of their own—along with a challenge. Whatever they miss doesn’t make the show. The pressure is on and the running is plentiful. They have to be in shape to make it work and to keep up.
10 The crews can't always keep up
While contestants and crew members are supposed to be with one another at all times, sometimes that doesn’t work out as it should. The executive producer revealed to Huffington Post that the crew has missed flights, putting them behind contestants they were supposed to be filming. One season, about 10 seasons back, contestants were on their way to Italy when the production crew’s flight was canceled. They had just hours to get across Europe to begin filming again. Luckily, they were able to catch a bus and ride 11 hours across the countries to make it just in time.
There have been other times where the contestants themselves have fallen so far behind, they are eliminated. One couple took 9 hours to complete a challenge in Switzerland and the production schedule couldn’t allow them to continue so they were eliminated in a field in the middle of a dark night. There’s no such thing as waiting around when it comes to TV, though the contestants have to do plenty of it in airports during the duration of the shooting schedule. But when it comes to messing with the actual schedule, very little is tolerated since the show must go on, no matter what.
9 Contestants can't talk to other groups unless cameras are present
Amazing Race is a reality show and it centers around things that the camera crews are able to capture. No contestants can talk to other teams unless there are cameras present and rolling. That’s a rule that makes sense, but it would probably be hard to remember at times. After teams get to a pit stop, they will load up into vans in order to travel to the location where they would stay for the night.
Sometimes they would get in trouble for talking to one another if there were no cameras present.
But it would be hard to avoid the discussion, as was evidenced in an interview with a former contestant on She Just Glows. The groups were going through an experience with one another and it was hard not to talk about it. Instead of talking about the race itself and getting into trouble, they talked about their most recent location—if they could remember where they were around the jet lag and bad food, that is. And contestants couldn’t talk to anyone outside the show during the entire month of the filming, even if they had children. There was no technology or phones allowed in any way.
8 This look has a name
Any time you see Amazing Race, you might expect to see the host looking something like this. He raises his eyebrow and his hand and gives this iconic stare and prepares the contestants for the starting point of the race. This pose is called—are you ready for this—The Claw. We’re not sure why or how that came about, but that’s the official term. As the contestants are getting ready for the start, the crew will also shoot “clean singles” of the host spouting a variety of different lines that he has to say in front of the contestants. That way, if he messes anything up in front of them or they shout or make noise while he speaks, everything can be edited to suit the TV needs.
We have to wonder how many shots they have of “The Claw” for every show they film. If he’s not careful how many times he does this, he might freeze his face in this manner. At least everyone would be sure to recognize him. But everyone around him would always be rushing around, feeling like they were in a race of their own as well. It’s best not to do this move too often.
7 Keeping the show under wraps is hard work
There are a lot of different things that have to come together to pull off a show like this. But what good would it be if everyone already knew what was going to happen? There would be no element of surprise. Who would watch if they already knew who won? Who was eliminated and when? What were all of the challenges? And so on and so forth. One of the big parts of the show is that the filming isn’t done on a private set so it’s hard for producers to keep things quiet. There are strict rules for the production team and those running in the race, like no phones, no press and no outside contact.
Phone calls are limited to the host and the producers. But even that doesn’t completely keep a cap on things.
Sometimes tourists will run into someone they know and they will ask if it’s the show taping. They will often tell them it’s a documentary to keep spoilers from leaking out, but nothing is foolproof. They’re in the public and the show is popular enough that the right people can easily figure out what’s going on.
6 Jet-lag is constant and demanding
Whenever you travel somewhere in another time zone, it makes sense if it takes you a day or two to adjust. Amazing Race takes contestants all over the world into a variety of different time zones. It’s not astonishing that contestants would be jet-lagged—for like, the entire show. There’s no getting used to a different time zone when contestants have to pick up and move to another time zone the next day. The constant jet lag has to be wearing on contestants, though for some it was easier than others.
In an interview on She Just Glows, a former contestant admitted that jet-lag felt a whole lot like working a night shift. As an overnight nurse, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been for someone who was used to getting sleep and not so used to waking up in the middle of the night or staying up all night. With any luck, the contestants got to catch up on their sleep here and there during their long airport waits or perhaps in the back of a cab when the camera wasn’t rolling. Though when jet-lag settles in, there’s no such thing as really catching up—just getting by.
5 The map on the wall designates the direction of the race
How do the creators decide where the contestants will go every time they have a race? Well, the plan starts with a massive map on the wall and goes from there. The show’s executive producer, Elise Doganieri, told Huffington Post that they take a giant map of the world into what they call “The War Room.” The map is as big as the wall and very few areas of the world are completely off limits. Then, they talk about what might be exciting or where they haven’t been. They also visit everywhere before they send the show to that location. They have multiple old shoeboxes filled with old passports because of their extensive travel.
Once they scout locations themselves, they send local producers back to figure out Roadblock challenges and other courses.
The season gets mapped out a bit at a time, like a giant puzzle that has to come together in a cohesive manner before things get started for contestants. There’s a lot of planning behind-the-scenes that many viewers probably don’t think about as they consider what goes on during the episodes they watch. Everything has to be mapped out in detail before anything can take off for viewers.
4 There's a ton of waiting involved
When was the last time you pulled up to the airport and jumped on a plane right after getting out of the car? Um, never! There’s a ton of waiting in the airport involved with any type of travel. Imagine trying to get somewhere new every day or so. You’d spend a lot of time in the airport, wouldn’t you! And that’s exactly what the contestants on the Amazing Race experience, according to the insider tips shared on She Just Glows in an interview with a former contestant. There would be times when contestants hadn’t showered or even slept in well over 24 hours, but at least they had the waits at the airport to enjoy while they were trying to get to their next destination.
There might be times when they arrived straight from a competition, wet and uncomfortable. That makes the waiting all that much more exciting. Of course, they cut the boring airport hours out of the show and the contestant’s attempts to get clean in the airport sinks as well. No one really wants to see that. It takes some of the glamour out of the show. But now we know what they’re really doing during commercial breaks.
3 Last-minute location changes do occur
As much as the behind-the-scenes people plan, they just can’t plan for everything. What seems to be the perfect location can crumble in no time flat. In fact, Huffington Post reports that during the very first season of the show, they had a beautiful Pit Stop set up for everyone to gather around a campfire, but there was an alert for a sandstorm that hit in Tunisia so the contestants and crew had to pack up in the middle of the night and move an hour away to a tiny hotel. That hotel became the impromptu Pit Stop instead and they had to stay there until morning.
There’s no amount of planning that can take charge when the weather changes or something else comes up, no matter how meticulous those people behind-the-scenes might be.
When nature takes over, things have to adjust around it—or else. That might drive the producers crazy and they may not get the shows they want, but that’s just the way life works out sometimes. No show is without outtakes and perhaps the first season is proof of how things would go in the future so they could plan ahead for such events when landing in certain countries.
2 The backpacks are heavy
Anyone traveling around the world has to take something with them. Backpacking across Europe is a rite of passage, though many only dream about the task. When making it onto the show Amazing Race, it’s hard to imagine how to pack for the adventure. And, in reality, the backpacks the contestant wear really are a nightmare. First, they’re heavy—as a former contestant admitted in an interview on She Just Glows. Apparently, contestants have to pack everything they need for a whole month in one backpack, including different climate possibilities. Then, they have to wear those clothes on their back for the duration of the trip.
There are other needs as well, such as toiletry items, medications and whatever else contestants think they might need to get by. Stuff all that in one backpack and see how heavy it is! Not only are the backpacks likely rather heavy and cumbersome but they are constantly being unpacked and repacked throughout the taping as contestants arrive in a location, change and hit the road once again. No backpack can ever be packed the same way twice and it probably only gets worse as the trip continues in the later days of the race.
1 Roadblocks aren't always planned
It’s fun for fans and contestants when there are Roadblocks on the show. They get to do something unique and special in an exotic location. However, whenever anyone travels, there are sometimes roadblocks that you just can’t plan for. Host Keoghan talked about one season where a portion of the race was going to take place in Argentina, but the banking system in the country collapsed right before the show started taping. They had to change course and reroute the race.
There’s a ton of planning that goes on leading up to the taping, but there’s no way to plan for travel warnings, harsh weather and other things that can pop up.
Flights get delayed on a regular basis. Mechanical issues happen on planes. And then there are things like banking collapses. You just never know what’s going to happen out there on the road and while that can be part of the fun, the show plans plenty of roadblocks and doesn’t really need more to pop up along the way to complicate their already complicated schedule for the contestants and crew. With any luck, that’s all part of the fun for everyone involved.