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Taking Time To Invest in YOURSELF


So, we all know that going on a vacation is a “benefit.”  Not everyone has the time, money, or even the desire to go on a trip!  Growing up, the furthest my family ever went was about 30 miles from home to visit my grandparents. We NEVER EVER went on a family vacation. I think that may be part of the reason why I am so “hooked” on travel today.  I can remember the very first time I traveled past that 30 mile mark…I went with my church youth group to Six Flags in St. Louis.  I was so overcome with emotion when we crossed from Illinois into Missouri that I cried…and I was only 12 years old at the time!  This adventure turned into MANY adventures.  I went on every youth group or church trip I could. And every. single. trip. was equally as exciting as I crossed over each new state border and experienced the different landscapes, cultures, sites, and sounds.

As a travel agent, my #1 goal is to help my clients have those same feelings while they are on their trip.  For some, going on vacation is driving an hour away to a local water park…and this may be the ONLY trip they take in a year.  To others, it’s a flight across country to visit family, or maybe it’s *gasp* the trip to a Disney Theme Park or a Disney Cruise.  No matter how much the cost of the trip or the length of the trip, each getaway should be treated the same – it should be well planned out, researched, and executed.  When you invest money into a trip, you are investing that money into YOU.  You will make memories for yourself and/or your family that will, undoubtedly, last a lifetime.

I remember almost every single trip I have ever taken.  I can remember what people said on the trip, what sites I saw, which rides or slides I did…and remembering these things absolutely puts my mind in that “happy place.”  Part of the reason for this is because “most” trips went flawlessly.  I researched the hotels to make sure they had good reviews. I price-shopped to make sure I was getting the best prices for my/our needs. I spent many hours (sometimes DAYS) researching rides and slides, height requirements, crowd levels, maps, and more to make sure I was armed with as much information as possible to make my/our trips perfect.

Yes, there were times when bad things happened. Some things CAN’T be perfect.  Weather is definitely a factor.  I learned to “go with the flow” and figure out something else to do when weather ruined plans.  Sometimes a ride I really wanted to ride was shut down.  Yes, this is absolutely disappointing!  Other times, there was so much road construction, we arrived very late and had to miss some plans.  Or we get to a hotel that is rated great only to be disappointed in the rooms or service.

However…I have learned to look at life optimistically!  Yes, bad things happen. We have to counteract those bad things by thinking of what we can do to change that! And other times, we just have to realize it was a bad deal and move on.

Funny story…my husband and I were supposed to leave on our honeymoon flight to Florida around 10:00 am. We were on our way to the airport and realized that we were very much out of gas.  I actually forgot, at the age of 22, to fill the car with gas amidst all the wedding festivities in the days prior.  It happens.  We arrived at the airport about 30 minutes early only to discover that they had sold our seats on the plane, and that the next flight wouldn’t leave until about 4 pm that afternoon.  Yes, we were disappointed…but we decided to go shopping!  We opened all of our cards from the wedding and just enjoyed being a married couple walking around the mall.  We boarded our flight that afternoon and arrived at the next airport where our “short” layover turned into a very very LONG layover.  We didn’t arrive in Orlando until around midnight.  Oddly enough, we were still pretty happy…until we got through the rental car process.  We were given a car that, upon driving it off the lot, was squealing and sounded like it was going to fall apart.  I snapped. I drove right back to the check out counter and, in all my exhaustion, demanded a different car.  I think I must have scared the poor check out clerk…which is hard to believe because I am a very calm and even keeled person…because he promptly gave me the keys to a BRAND NEW Buick Park Avenue with only 2 miles on it.  I LOVED the car, and we drove the 20 miles from the airport to the vacation home we had reserved.  Our first full day of our honeymoon was not at all what we had planned. We spent much of the day in airports and rental car places, and didn’t get to the house until 2:00 a.m.  And you know what?  I REMEMBER that.

Memories can be good and bad. I prefer to have more good than bad.  🙂

Make good memories for yourself.  You only live once…enjoy all that God has to offer us…the sights, the sounds, the beauty!  Take time to invest money into YOU…not your house, not your car, not your hobbies…put some money and time aside to make memories on a trip!  You’ll thank me for it. 🙂

Submitted By:

Sheila Nowell, Travel Consultant
(309) 261-0494

Disney Dining Plan!

I’ve been to Disney 6 times in 12 years. The first 3 times, we stayed in a rented vacation home. This was GREAT because we had a private pool and ate breakfast at the house.  However, we rarely ate lunch or dinner there because we are the type of people that want to get our money’s worth at the theme parks by staying until close.

We heard about the Disney Dining Plan about 8 years ago, and decided to give it a try.  However, in order to take advantage of it, we had to stay at the resort.  When the FREE DINING promotion was announced for November 2008, we jumped on it!

And now we have stayed at the Disney resorts and participated in the dining plan ever since.

On our last trip in May, we had some AWESOME meals lined up.  (I tend to stalk the DIS boards for reviews fairly often, so I was confident we would!) We finally got to try the popular steakhouse in the Canada Pavilion at EPCOT’s World Showcase – Le Cellier Steakhouse. We had the famous pretzel bread, Cheese soup, Glow-tini, and Filet Mignon. Every last one of them lived up to their reputation!


Most definitely the BEST steaks any of us have ever had, hands down.

We had breakfast with Mickey, Donald, and Goofy at the Tusker House in Animal Kingdom. Great buffet!


We enjoyed Flame Tree BBQ, a quick service restaurant at Animal Kingdom with a KILLER view of Expedition Everest.


We at at BOMA – Flavors of Africa at the Animal Kingdom Lodge for dinner. It’s a neat buffet with lots of African food mixed in with some American cuisine, too.  They are famous for “Jungle Juice.” You have to try it!


On my daughter’s birthday, we had breakfast at the Crystal Palace at Magic Kingdom. The waiter was a “singing” waiter and got down on his knees and sang an old 70s love song to her. She was REALLY embarrassed, but it was awesome! (and check out that plate of food on the guy behind her head!)


There were alot of other places we tried, but the best dinner, hands down, was Liberty Tree Tavern in the Liberty Square area of Magic Kingdom. It was absolutely DELICIOUS. We WILL be back…oh yes, we will!


The Disney Dining Plan is SO worth it.  For our family of 5, we prefer to order freely off the menu’s and not worry about price. And it’s a good thing, too. That meal at Le Cellier was almost $300.  I am NOT kidding.

There are a few options for the dining plan.

If you are the theme park enthusiast who doesn’t care about dining and just wants the food to refuel and then run again, you’ll want the Quick Service dining plan. No fancy restaurants, just “fast” food (Disney-style).  I’d love to tell you where the best ones are in each park!

If you like to enjoy as much as the theme parks as you can, but want to enjoy your vacation, too, with some great cuisine and a welcomed 1.5-2 hour break, go with the regular dining plan…you get one counter service meal and one table service meal per night of stay.

If you really like to eat, and you really like your breaks, go with the Deluxe dining plan. You get 3 meals of any type you would like per day, plus 2 snacks. I recommend this for people who don’t care to race for the fast passes and hit every show and ride. You’ll be doing ALOT of eating on this plan…but hey, you are on vacation, right?

There are a few other plans, as well, with all you can “drink” (adult beverages), and more.  I’d love to tell you about them.

What’s been your favorite Disney restaurant?  Are there any you have been wanting to try that I could tell you about?  We have a “bucket list” for our next trip, and can’t wait to try more new things!