Travel Nursing: Travel Nurse Packing Tips and Tricks


By Lisa A. Koosis, contributor

Travel nursing jobs give adventurous healthcare professionals the freedom to explore the world while earning a living, but embarking on each assignment comes with the challenge of packing. It can be difficult to know what to bring and what to leave behind when you're planning for an extended trip to an unfamiliar place. 

Adopt the Following Travel Nurse Packing Tips 

1. Consider destination and assignment specifics when planning

Duration is one of the most important aspects to consider. While most travel nursing assignments last 13 weeks or longer, the length of your stay is determined by your contract and can range from as few as four weeks to upward of six months. Your needs for a short, four-week job will be considerably different than those for an assignment lasting half a year and spanning several seasons. You'll want to pack accordingly.

How you plan on getting to your next assignment can also impact how you pack. If you're driving to your destination, you have the luxury of space that won't be afforded when traveling by plane, train or bus. Air travel, in particular, often comes with baggage fees and weight limitations, which can be a major cost consideration. If you must travel by mass transit for an extended travel job, consider shipping items rather than packing.

Of course, you'll also pack differently for an assignment in Hawaii than one in Colorado, or if you're jetting to New York City as opposed to rural Arkansas. If you haven't been to your destination before, research the weather patterns to help you decide on your wardrobe selection.

2. Do your research

Talk to your recruiter or future employer to find out what your living accommodations include. Company-provided housing will most likely include basic furnishings as well as kitchen essentials, such as cookware, plates and silverware, and small appliances, such as coffee pots. Be sure to find out if you'll need to bring other necessities, including sheets, blankets and towels.

If you're traveling to an unfamiliar place, gather as much information as you can. Your employer may be able to offer some info, but you can also visit tourism websites, which generally include details on weather, local transportation, shopping, dining and points of interest. Sperling's Best Places is a fantastic resource when it comes to overviews of specific cities.

3. Make a list

Once you have a good idea of what you'll need, make a packing list. Take your time to make sure you've thought of everything. Then, set it aside for a day or two before coming back to it. You'll probably remember something you missed the first time.

When constructing your list, make sure to include:

  • Clothing and outerwear
  • Personal care items such as toothbrushes, hairbrushes and hair dryers
  • Devices, including laptops, tablets and phones — and don't forget your accessories, especially power cords and charger
  • Prescription medications and any prescriptions for glasses or contacts
  • Copies of important documents, including your driver's license, car registration, nursing license and credentials, birth certificate and your travel nursing contract
  • Photographs and mementos, such as framed photos of family, friends and pets, a favorite blanket or a cherished knickknack, to personalize your surroundings

4. Be space efficient

Don't waste space on items you can easily buy once you've reached your destination, such as toothpaste, shampoo and paper products. Forbes suggests using space-saving air-compression bags that let you squeeze the air out, condensing your clothing to save room in your suitcase.

Going for a capsule-style wardrobe can also help. CNN's travel tips suggest basics in neutral colors, which maximize your wardrobe options by promoting mixing and matching while saving space in your luggage.

5. Include contact information

One unfortunate byproduct of travel is lost luggage, but missing bags don't have to mean permanent separation. If you're traveling by plane, train or bus, attach your name and contact information — including an email address — to each bag to ensure its prompt return in case of a separation. For added security, tuck a sheet of paper with the same contact information inside of each bag.

For more packing hacks, check out our essential packing guide for travel nurses. To see the exciting destinations you can visit as a travel nurse, explore current job listings at



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