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Essential Packing Tips for Travel Nurses

Updated July 18, 2023
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As a travel nurse, you’ll need to be ready to pack up and move from one location to the next on a regular basis. Travel nursing assignments can vary from eight to twenty-six weeks (and sometimes longer), but the average is thirteen weeks. When you’re moving so frequently, having a list and some handy tips and tricks ready can save you time, headaches, and frustration. Here are some quick tips, lists, and resources to get you started.

Before you leave

Every assignment is different, so researching the area you’ll be traveling to next is key. Here are some important things to consider:

  • The region’s climate – from sunny and warm to cold and snowy, the climate you’re headed to has a big impact on what you’ll pack. For more detailed information, including seasonal temperature averages and rainfall amounts, head to sites like The Weather Channel or AccuWeather.
  • The region’s activities and culture – Planning to camp a lot? You’ll need to pack your gear. Heading to museums or other cultural events? Plan accordingly. Also, consider any work events that will require a dress code different from your usual comfy scrubs.
  • What the travel nursing agency provides – Most agencies will either provide housing or provide a stipend in order for you to make your own arrangements. When securing housing, it’s also a good idea to check on whether furniture and appliances are included. If not, you’ll need to make alternative arrangements.
  • Pets and family – If you’re traveling with your fur babies or family members, you’ll have even more planning to do. The good news is, there are several packing apps that can assist with your planning and packing needs.
  • What things do you do and use regularly? There’s no point in packing things you won’t use. Conversely, if you forget something you use often, you’ll either need to have someone mail it to you or pick up a replacement. It’s a good idea to keep an ongoing list with you, for example, in an app on your phone, so you can add to it as you think of items.

What to pack

While individual preferences and lifestyles vary, and your list will also be affected by your destination, there are some essential items that all travel nurses, travel LPNs, and travel CNAs shouldn’t leave home without.

  • Important paperwork, including your driver’s license, social security card, car insurance, travel documents, insurance policy, and roadside assistance agreement and paperwork.
  • Travel nursing agency information, including the contact information for your staffing company and new workplace, and details for your housing.
  • Emergency contact information, including your next of kin, your doctor, your dentist, and your insurance agent. It’s also a good idea to research and keep the contact details of a doctor, dentist, ER, and a vet at your destination in case you need help right away when you reach your destination.
  • Prescription medications – Refill medications and consider getting prescriptions pre-ordered with your new pharmacy before you leave.
  • Toiletries – a comprehensive list to jog your memory can be found here.
  • Clothes – Remember to keep climate and activities in mind as you pack!
  • Household items, including a stick vacuum, space-saver bags, extension cords, power strips, a faucet water filter, and cleaning supplies
  • Electronics, including your smartphone, tablet, Firestick, and earbuds
  • Personal items such as books and pictures of family and friends

Find a handy and thorough packing list for travel nurses here.

Additional tips

There’s no shortage of travel blogs to help you familiarize yourself with the area you’ll be heading to next. A quick Google search can help you find first-hand accounts of life in the region, fun things to do, and other information that will be useful to you as you pack.

It can be tempting to overpack, but remember that the more you have, the more time-consuming and stressful it will be when you move to your next travel nursing assignment. The general consensus is that it’s best to travel light, so really think about what you need and leave the rest behind.

Another way to lighten your load is by renting bigger, bulkier items such as TVs, exercise equipment, or other appliances that aren’t provided with your temporary housing. Many travel nurses purchase these items from pawn or resale shops and then sell them back when they finish their assignment.

And finally, stay organized. This makes it much simpler to pack and unpack. Here are some additional tips for organized, less stressful moves:

  • Use plastic totes for packing and storage. This can help keep you from adding too many things, make it easier to see what you have, and donate or toss things you don’t need at the end of your assignment.
  • Pack one tote with your moving essentials. Things like clean bedding and pillows, cleaning supplies, a toolkit, first aid kit, writing utensils, and scissors can go in this tote.
  • Give each room its own totes or boxes and clearly label everything. This way, your things will be where you can more easily find them.

With a little forethought and planning, packing up and moving doesn’t need to be difficult or frustrating. Keep these tips in mind and you can focus on what’s really important – your travel nursing career and love of travel!