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Travel Nursing Updated November 19, 2022

By Melissa Wirkus Hagstrom and Cassandra Damascus

The Definitive Packing Guide for Travel Nurses

Are you getting ready to hit the road as a travel nurse? If so, you may have already started to stress about the decisions you'll need to make regarding what to take with you and what to leave at home.

The task of packing for travel nurses is unique. Travel nurse assignments typically last 13 weeks but can range from 4-24 weeks. You're not moving for good, but you're not going on a short vacation either.

Finding that middle ground requires some pointers from the experts and those who have gone before you. And it may take some practice to get it right.

That's why American Mobile has put together this travel nurse packing guide to help you pare down to the essentials, streamline the process, and make sure you don't under-pack or overpack.

Before Your Travel Nurse Assignment

Before you dig into the details of what to pack and what to leave, you'll need to know what is provided in your travel nurse housing . American Mobile has an entire department dedicated to finding and setting up housing for travel nurses.

Connect with your recruiter or housing specialist about what is furnished in the free, company-provided lodging. If you opt for the housing stipend and plan to find your own accommodations instead, you can work directly with the property manager to verify what they do and do not furnish.

Some questions you can ask are:

  • What furniture and kitchen items are included?

Most housing includes basic furniture and appliances, but many do not include cooking utensils and pots and pans.

  • Is a microwave included?
  • Is there a TV or DVD player?
  • What size is the bed (if you are bringing your own bedding)?
  • Are there any amenities such as pools, a fitness center, or tennis courts?

Knowing the answers to these questions can ensure you have what is needed yet can travel as lightly as possible. You can also decide to purchase some items once you arrive.

1. Research Your New Area

This may seem obvious, but it's important to research the area's climate where you will be living during your assignment. A winter travel assignment in the northeast is vastly different than a winter travel assignment in Miami.

And, depending on where you're coming from, you may need to shop or borrow some new apparel, especially when it comes to cold weather clothes.

It's easy to gain insight; just check out The Weather Channel (Weather.com) or AccuWeather to find seasonal average temperatures or even snowfall predictions for your new location.

2. Bring Items that Help You Feel at Home

Bring familiarity and comfort to your next travel assignment! If you choose to have the company-arranged housing option, you'll know what kind of setup to expect; typically basic furniture and kitchen amenities. This means there's room for pieces of home.

Bring your comforter or favorite mugs, or the throw your grandmother knitted for you. And, don't forget to bring family photos!

3. Get Organized

You must start somewhere, so you may as well keep it organized to help break down the overwhelming list of items. The best way to stay organized is to prioritize your essentials.

Remember, you can pick up forgotten or low-priority items once you arrive at your location.

First, focus on your essentials, the items you can't live without. Then fill in the rest. Another option is to donate or resell items when you finish the assignment and need to move home.

4. Be Flexible and Adaptable

Remember, if you forget something or change your mind about an item, chances are you can find a replacement once you arrive at your location. In addition, you also need to adapt to the transportation you're taking to get to your new location. You'll be able to bring more items via a car load versus if you're flying.

Travel Nursing Packing List

You can never go wrong with a classic checklist. Now, there are apps to support packing (we'll get into that later). Below are items to add to your checklist or app list.

Personal Items

Your personal items are some of the most important things you'll pack as a travel nurse, especially since some special-to-you items simply can't be purchased at a store. Here are the basic categories of what you'll need:

  • Scrubs or work uniform (per facility guidelines), including personal stethoscope
  • Clothing (casual, dressy, sleepwear and workout clothes), undergarments, socks, shoes
  • Hats, visors, and other accessories
  • Favorite jewelry, and a travel jewelry box
  • Toiletry kit (shampoo, conditioner, face wash, body wash, hairspray, deodorant, makeup, nail grooming supplies, sunscreen, lotion, toothbrush and paste, razors, hairbrush)
  • Hair dryer and other grooming tools
  • Mini first aid kit, plus prescription and over-the-counter medications
  • Cooler or insulated tote for food and beverages during your road trip or flight
  • Sporting equipment and attire/shoes
  • Select books, puzzles, or other hobby items

Some quick tips to help you travel light in this department:

  • Pick clothing items and shoes that work with several other pieces
  • Roll clothes instead of folding
  • Nest smaller items inside of larger (think socks and underwear stuffed into your shoes)
  • Utilize packing cubes and compression bags
  • Consider a foldable/collapsible bag or backpack that you can fill with items and then use for other needs at your destination
  • Think outside your luggage

Many travelers swear that packing in clear storage bins can help you fit more, and some containers can do double duty (like a laundry basket). Also, you can buy refills for many toiletry items at your destination

Paperwork and Documents

  • Your travel nursing contract, traveler handbook, and any other paperwork required by your facility, including first-day instructions
  • Nursing license, credentials, and documentation requested
  • Contact information for your recruiter, assignment facility, and nurse manager
  • Driver's license, insurance, and registration
  • Social Security card and birth certificate
  • Personal photographs and mementos

Packing Apps and Expert Insights

Even armed with our travel nurse packing list, it's still helpful to get some insight from the experts. There are several packing apps worth considering, as well as master organizers with packing videos and blogs to inspire you; we're looking at you, Marie Kondo, and The Home Edit.

One tip we love from Ms. Kondo is from an interview with Travel & Leisure . When asked about packing for extended trips, she said, "If you tend to overpack things that you believe you 'might' use, try traveling once with only the most essential items. The more experience you gain traveling with fewer items, the better you'll be at identifying what you truly need, and you will no longer stuff your suitcase with things that you don't."

As far as mobile apps go, one of our favorites is PackPoint . Download it to access a free, customizable packing list that helps you organize and plan what you'll need based on the length of travel, the weather at your destination, and any activities planned during your trip.

What a boon for travel nurses who are frequently moving between assignments!

Of course, prior to packing and researching housing details, you need to book your assignment! Sign up today using our quick-start application .

Contact us! We're here to help.

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