Local Woman Launches Travel Business

By Tim Hodge The Daily Herald, Columbia, Tenn.

A Columbia woman is launching a travel service aimed at providing memorable girls' getaways.

Bonnie Esslinger recently started Bonnie Blue Tours after wanting to open a women-themed travel service for several years, she said.

"For probably 10 years, I have planned girl's trips for my friends," Esslinger said. "I am always the one that they put in charge, and I am always really good at details and finding the most fun things to do."

Those same friends gave her a nudge to start her own business.

Esslinger is selling her womens' retreat house, known as "Petticoat Junction," in Normandy, Tenn., to focus more on her travel business.

She moved to Columbia in 2012.

"I need a new venture, and this is the time to try this. I have made so many cool new friends here in Columbia and love that we moved here and got this circle of friends. They are all on board and cheering me on," Esslinger said.

Although the trips are geared toward women, men also are welcome to join but will be in store for craft fairs, Broadway shows and shopping, she said.

Bonnie Blue Tours will host its inaugural a trip from April 16-18 for fans of the PBS drama "Downton Abbey." The venture will include a chartered bus trip centered around the show to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C.

Esslinger, who also is fan of the show, thought other fans would enjoy the upcoming Downton Abbey exhibit, she said.

The trip includes admission to the Biltmore Estate, which will be featuring the exhibit "Dressing Downton: Changing Fashion for Changing Times" with costumes from the series, a special guided tour of the estate, high tea at the historic Albemarle Inn and a tour of Asheville.

"I knew that would be a big draw for ladies, especially -- of course a lot of men love that show, too," Esslinger said.

Even if woman are not a fan of the show, the Biltmore Estate and Asheville area have things to offer for everyone, she said.

Esslinger is considering a future fall foliage trip, possibly to the New England area, and also is eying ventures to Charleston, S.C., and Savannah, Ga.

"I am pretty good at making sure everyone has a good time, even though there is a broad range of personalities," she said.

For more information, visit the website at www.bonniebluetours.net, email Esslinger at [email protected] or call (931) 842-1280.

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