Barkley Travel Service in New Albany is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.
The coronavirus pandemic impacted the business greatly with fewer people traveling, said Camille Barkley, manager of the family-run business.
“The pandemic has really put a damper on us,” Barkley said.
Fortunately, things are starting to get back to normal again.
“We’re seeing an upswing in people ready to go,” Barkley said, adding that people are ready to travel again. “I’m seeing that.”
Barkley Travel Service was started by Camille’s parents, Julia and Jimmy Barkley, in 1981. It started out of their home with one bus. Now the company has seven buses and travel around the country, even to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.
Her father was in the trucking industry, and her mom was the choir director and organist for their church. The senior adults in the church wanted to take a trip, and Camille’s mom planned it for them. When so many people signed up for the trip, Camille’s parents realized there was a need for a travel service in the area.
Barkley Travel Service has been in its current location at 141 W. Bankhead St. since 1984, which is when Camille started working for the company.
The company provides retail tours as well as charter buses. Retail tours involve individuals signing up to take a prepackaged trip whereas charters are for groups such as churches, schools or businesses.
When people take retail tours their needs, including hotels, tickets to attractions, tours and restaurants, are booked in advance.
“You just get on the bus and have a good time,” Barkley said.
People who travel together on the bus may not know one another at the start of the trip and then end up becoming friends.
Each year, Barkley Travel Service comes up with a new slate of trips, said Barkley, adding, “They’re not the same trips every year.”
This year, there have already been trips to Key West as well as a Gulf Coast Getaway. This month there will be a trip to Savannah and Tybee Island, Ga. Other trips this year include the Kentucky Derby, the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum, Pikes Peak, national parks in Utah and Arizona, the Grand Ole Opry, Niagara Falls, Branson, Mo., the Smoky Mountains, New Orleans and many other destinations.
The trips are mainly geared toward senior adults, but some people take their grandchildren with them, especially to places such as Washington, D.C.
“We go all over the United States,” Barkley said.
Those interested in taking a trip can call Barkley Travel Service and get a brochure that details all the places that will be visited this year. The trips range in time from a few days to around two weeks.
“We offer different length tours to fit the people’s needs,” Barkley said.
Each bus sits 56 people, and there are about 12 to 15 trips taken each year. Sometimes multiple buses travel together on the same trip and caravan.
Charter buses may also travel to places such as Disney World, Washington, D.C., baseball games, the Memphis Zoo and Six Flags. Charter buses work well for weddings as well.
The buses are a comfortable way to travel with reclining seats, restrooms, TVs, DVD players and Wi-Fi, and the drivers are from the local area. Going on the trips is a pleasant experience, said Barkley, adding, “I think people enjoy them.”
It is a nice, convenient way to travel because people do not have to bother with making all the reservations, finding places to park or driving in a new place.
“You’ve got someone taking you right to the front door, and you don’t have to worry about it,” Barkley said.
Taking the trips is a good way to meet other people, and it is also a safe way to travel, she noted.
“We do have a lot of repeat customers,” she said.
Barkley Travel Service comes up with trip ideas by going to travel conventions and by listening to what the customers want. There is a lot of variety in terms of the trip packages that are available.
Barkley herself goes on many of the trips and makes sure everyone is where they’re supposed to be.
“I’ve been traveling a lot this past year. I really do enjoy that. I enjoy getting to know the people. It is a lot of fun.”
She also said it is an affordable way to travel.
“You could not drive that in your car by yourself for the price that we do it,” Barkley said.
While the trips are structured, people on the tours are also given some free time to spend how they wish. Everyone just has to meet back at the bus at a certain time.
“Most people would have a great time on the trips,” she said.
For more information visit www.barkleytravel.com.