Interviewed by Leslie Criss | Photographed by Joe Worthem
Rhonda Tidwell Rhodes is a wife, mother, grandmother, accountant, teacher, a retail entrepreneur and now a personal travel planner and the owner of Rhodes Travel Company. A native of Corinth, Rhodes has long enjoyed planning trips for herself and others. After planning a honeymoon for a friend and receiving much encouragement, she opened her own travel planning company, and it has turned out to be “one of the best decisions I have ever made.” She plans on retiring from teaching soon to expand her travel business.
Q: What drew you to the business of travel?
A: My husband and I discovered that there were more beautiful places than the Gulf Coast after taking our family on a senior trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands (in 2009). I wanted people to see there was a whole other world out there. And, I love to plan all the little details of a trip. I am actually one of those people who loves to look at other people’s vacation pictures and hear their stories.
Q: How did the pandemic affect the travel business from your personal perspective?
A: Ironically, I started my travel business the month before the whole world went crazy! I wondered if God was playing some sort of trick on me after I had finally gotten the courage to try this new venture. But, actually, I had trips booked every month. I just had to be creative in finding destinations that were actually open to visitors.
Q: What benefit does a travel agent offer?
A: Using a travel agent is like having your own personal assistant who takes care of all of the details of the trip while the client actually gets to do the dreaming. When you use a local travel agent, you are really “shopping with a small business” that will give you personal attention instead of a big company that might keep you on hold for hours. Commissions are paid to travel agents by the resorts and vendors we book through, so, most of the time all of my services come at no cost to my clients.
Q: What’s the most interesting trip you’ve planned for a client?
A: I prefer planning “tropical” vacations for empty nesters and honeymooners. But, during the pandemic, I had a client ask me to help plan a trip to Breckenridge, Colorado, not to ski, but specifically to go ice fishing.
Q: What is your favorite place to travel?
A: Anywhere where it is warm and there is pretty water, so mainly the Caribbean and Hawaii. But, if I had to choose one place, it would be Bonaire, a small island close to Aruba and just off the coast of Venezuela. My husband and I prefer low-key places and we love to snorkel, so this is our go-to when we want to escape reality for a while.