Why in the world should you use a travel agent in this day and age?! Because why NOT? You have nothing to lose and an amazing experience and service to gain. My name is Sheila Nowell, I’m an award-winning agent, and I’ve helped hundreds of people design and execute their travels since 2013.
Why I became a Travel Agent
I’m a nerd and proud of it. I have been planning and organizing my life and the life of anyone who will let me. True story, I LIVED for the day high school schedules came out back in the day so I could map out my plan of how to navigate those 3 minute passing periods, stop at my locker, and see my friends. Ha! I’m a hotel snob. If I’m on vacation, I want a bed that is comfortable at a hotel that I feel safe at but for the best price possible. I pack for trips sometimes 2 weeks before we go, and I LIVE for checklists. Type A personality. I also love people and love helping people maximize their lives to the fullest. Add it all up with my absolute love of traveling, and BAM… travel agent material.
When my husband decided our honeymoon in 2000 would be my first trip to Walt Disney World, I had NO IDEA what I was in for. I LOVED it. So much so that we visited again 3 more times in the next 2 years before we fell into that “broke after the newlywed stage” and had to take some time off for a few years. When we decided to go back in 2008, I knew we had to maximize every minute of our vacation with what little money we had. And we DID. By then, we had 3 kids from 18 months to 6 years old. We kept going to Florida, year after year, to visit that mouse. In 2013, we returned from yet another trip from Illinois to Florida when I saw on Facebook that a friend of mine had a Disney Travel Agent who snagged her a very hard-to-get dining reservation. It was that moment that I heard angels singing… a travel agent… who specializes in Disney?! This is a THING?!
I researched it that night, applied at 2 agencies, and was hired the next morning. Talk about a whirlwind!!! I originally planned on this new adventure to be a side job to the career I already loved for 13 years at the time (real estate), but once I went live, my passion and love for travel and Disney must have spoken volumes because I had dozens of clients by the end of that first year. I had to make a decision… continue doing both jobs, or grow the one I loved the most. The answer was easy. I hung up my Realtor hat and pursued selling the best product in the world… TRAVEL! I don’t specialize in Disney as much as I once did, although I am still completely mystified by the magic of Disney 100%.
Some of My Favorite Places to Travel
I have a goal to visit all 50 states by the time I’m 50 years old (in 2028). I’m only at 25 states right now, but I have a written plan for accomplishing the rest, and when I put my mind to something, I do it! So far, my top 5 favorite USA destinations:
- Maui, HI – Oh my word. I dreamed of traveling to Hawaii all my life, but now that I have actually gone, I can’t imagine a more beautiful and culture-rich destination in the United States. Maui has a way of getting deep into your soul. If I could sell all I had to move to Maui, I would… no doubt.
- Central Coast, CA – It’s not just one city, no, but a general area. I traveled to see the breathtaking giant Sequoias near Fresno, then drove to the coast and spent two magical days exploring the cliffs, shops, and ocean of Carmel-by-the-Sea, Monterey, and Santa Cruz. I WILL be going back to spend MUCH more time in the gorgeous area of California that I had no idea existed until this year!
- Hilton Head Island, SC – what a wonderful, tight knit, beautiful island. I love how much the people who live here care about their island and everyone there. I love the ocean. And I LOVE that there is a Disney Resort here, too. I wouldn’t recommend going in August like I did, unless you enjoy taking a bath in your sweat nonstop, but regardless, Disney + ocean + a beautiful laid back island = JOY.
- Orlando, FL – of course! We traveled there so many times, how could it NOT make the list? I adore Disney World, Universal, and the fact that Port Canaveral is just 45 minutes away, too.
- Waco, TX – Never thought I’d love the prior home to the Branch Davidian news-making city, but we visited in 2000 to see Magnolia and I really fell hard for this hometown city in the heart of Texas. And Texas is such an awesome place by itself, anyways!
Outside of the US, I’ve only been to the Bahamas, Jamaica, and Mexico so far. I actually love Mexico and the people of Mexico the most! The Bahamas are ok…. the private islands of Disney (Castaway Cay) and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines (CocoCay) are the best! Jamaica is truly into their Bob Marley and ya-mon!!
I am most excited to visit (soon) some relatives in Rhode Island, seeing the inspiration for Anne of Green Gables on Prince Edward Island, Canada, heading to Alaska, and eventually touring much of western Europe and the rest of the world.
My ultimate favoritest ever vacations are, hands-down, cruises. I’ve sailed on Royal Caribbean twice and Disney Cruise Line four times on three of their five ships! I can’t wait to sail to Alaska on Norwegian Cruise Line in 2023!
My Favorite Places to Book Travel Experiences
I love booking all-inclusive resorts, especially Sandals & Beaches, Hard Rock, Live Aqua, Hotel Excellence, and more. My favorite cruise lines are Disney and Royal Caribbean, but Norwegian is quickly moving up that list, too. I’m a theme park junkie and adore Disney World, Disneyland, and Universal, too! 🙂 Is your destination not on this list? Never fear… I can’t wait to dive deep into learning more about destinations all over the world!
Knowledge & Certificates
I graduated cum laude with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Lincoln College in Illinois. I have been an active award-winning independent travel agent since May of 2013. Prior to that, I was a Realtor for RE/MAX Choice in Bloomington, IL. I have also worked in the education field as well as for the corporate offices of State Farm Insurance.
Ok, look. We all know you can research online. You can book online. You can do anything online. And while I always look for the best price for your trip, you “might” find it cheaper at a discount broker or something similar. BUT WHY?!
Here’s the deal. I have been booking travel for almost 10 years. I know the destinations, I know the areas, I know the resorts. I tailor the trip to your preferences and your budget and you can go confidently knowing that I’ve done all I can to help you plan the best trip for your preferences just as I would for my own family.
If you have something come up… a question, a problem, a special experience – guess what?! You can call ME. You don’t have to call a call center and hold… and hold… and hold… and talk to someone who has either not been there or booked that trip before.
99.9% of the time my services are complimentary to you. So why NOT use me to take the HOURS AND HOURS of research of reviews of hotels and destinations off of your plate? You can focus on coming up with the money and packing your bags and living your life!
Plus, you can rest easy knowing that you are supporting my small business. You are helping me pay for college for my THREE teenagers/young adults instead of some big corporation who doesn’t even know you by name or care why you are going on that trip in the first place.
Give me a shot. I won’t let you down!
EMAIL is the preferred way for you to get ahold of me, or better yet, fill out the Quote Request form here on my page!
Lisa Debolt, Bloomington, IL | I wanted to express my sincere appreciation for the amazing service Sheila provided in booking our magical vacation to Walt Disney World. Her professionalism, communication, patience, and diligence were remarkable. She ensured all of our large groups’ special needs and requests were met, and proactively suggested ways we could maximize our enjoyment of attractions and dining to further meet the needs/requests we presented her. Her knowledge and guidance were spot on. Her meticulous follow-through was precisely what we needed. When we encountered a resort-based issue while we were traveling, Sheila immediately began the process of calling the front desk for us and handling the situation so that we could have a safe and peaceful drive. It was an absolute pleasure working with Sheila and my family and I cannot wait to work with her again!
Gail Jordan, Normal, IL l My family and I are very thankful to Sheila for helping us with our family vacations to Disney World in 2015 and Universal Studios & SeaWorld in 2019. Sheila is absolutely the best and I recommend her to anyone needing professional assistance with their Magical vacations. She is very patient and kind and extremely knowledgeable and worked with us every step of the way to make our vacations perfect. She assists with on-the-road hotel stays and was even available for phone call assistance when I panicked when we lost the agenda she had prepared for our Disney trip. She is one of a kind! Many Thanks to Sheila!
Cindy Tampow, Bellview, IL | Simply put – Sheila is the best! I’ve used her for several trips to Disney World over the last few years and she’s just incredible. The first time I contacted her – and without having any idea if she would get my business – she went above and beyond pricing out different scenarios. She responded immediately to any and all questions/requests I had. Fast forward to now (and I believe this is the 4th trip Sheila had planned for us to Disney World in less than three years) and we just returned from another amazing trip thanks to Sheila. It’s also a comfort to know that she can be reached by email, text, or phone while on the trip just in case she’s needed. Although I’ve never been fortunate enough to meet Sheila in person, I feel like she’s a friend… who happens to be an awesome Disney Travel Agent! Please give her the opportunity to plan a great trip – full of precious, wonderful memories – for you. I promise you will be glad you did!
Krista Bethel, Bloomington, IL | Sheila did amazing at helping us plan our magical Disney vacation. She was super prompt at returning all my messages and our vacation was perfect thanks to her!! We will be using her again when we go back in a few years!
Liz Tomera, Normal, IL | Sheila was a wonderful resource for our Disney trip. She was patient and understanding as we booked a Disney World Trip with two other families. We told Sheila what our dream trip would be and what was realistic for our budget, she was able to help us plan a perfect trip. Not only did Sheila answer questions before our trip, she also did so while we were there!