Recent Primrose Excursion trip took the group Los Olivos for a wine tour and painting.
by Rebecca Wicks
Bonnie Wiley has worn many hats throughout her years, but all have had one focus – to help people find happiness in their current life. Today she helps people find happiness through travel with her company, Primrose Excursions, which designs and sells trips ranging from day excursions to longer and even international destination tours. Wiley who is a recreation therapist by degree and has served in the field of behavioral therapy at rehabilitation clinics and state hospitals alike has always believed what you do in your free time is pinnacle to your overall health and happiness.
“I found when working with patients in recovery, what a person does in their leisure time often gives them overall value.” said Wiley. “Those who occupied their free time with something fulfilling seemed to always do better.”
Today, Wiley doesn’t use charts or treatment plans, but the goal is the same, to get people out of the house.
Before starting Primrose Excursions, Wiley supervised the City of Ventura’s two senior centers including its nutrition and travel programs. In her 12 years working for the City she grew the travel program from a very small program to a very successful and almost autonomous program.
“When we started it was a ‘hey, let’s go to Santa Barbara for lunch’ kind of venture,” said Wiley. “From there it grew and grew into a robust program with extended tours.”
In the end, the City terminated the extended tour part of the travel program, citing they were not in the business of travel. Wiley decided there was still a need and place for this type of programming in Ventura and started her company almost four years ago this month. She now organizes and sells 35-40 trips a year. She also acts as the tour director on all of these trips. In addition to these, she partners with three other companies that offer longer trips.
Wiley’s travelers are generally over 40, with most in their 60s. She stresses people come from all different kinds of backgrounds but have a similar interest in having their travel taken care of for them.
“There is value in group travel,” said Wiley. “You’re not alone. You may not know where to eat, I take care of that. You don’t have to depend on online reviews, I’ve already been there, I’ve already evaluated on your behalf.”
Wiley’s excursions regularly range from 30 to 56 people in size. Trips often have themes. For example, on a recent day trip the group visited a Japanese garden that was part of a water treatment plant in the San Fernando Valley, followed by lunch at a Japanese restaurant. The adventure ended with a tour of the Pacific Asian Museum in Pasadena. A Ben Franklin themed excursion took the group to Forest Lawn where they toured Revolutionary War era chapels, to a restaurant that was formerly a fire house – Franklin helped start the firehouse in Philadelphia – and later to the public library in downtown Los Angeles, because Franklin founded the first lending library in the United States.
Wiley even offers “surprise tours,” where travelers don’t know where they are heading to and are asked to pack in layers and bring comfortable walking shoes. A recent surprise trip took a group to Lake Arrowhead Resort. Upcoming excursions include a Dodgers baseball game, a night out to see the musical Singing in the Rain, and a trip to Hoover Dam and Las Vegas with extended tours through her partners going to Alaska, Washington D.C. and Thailand.
“People appreciate that I’m detail oriented and they know what they are getting,” said Wiley. “One of the main draws is they don’t have to drive, deal with traffic or parking – they can sleep, relax and know once they’ve arrived, they are taken care of.”