Note: Guest contributor Krissy Bowman wrote this post. Learn more about Krissy at the bottom of this article.
Some of you may be wondering if taking an assignment at a destination location is right for you. I have a unique perspective because I have taken assignments in two of the top travel nursing destinations, Alaska & Hawaii! I can tell you from experience that taking an assignment here is well worth it, and with a little preparation, you’ll be set up for success and have a better experience!
Scope out housing before you start submitting your profile to travel jobs in a destination area. Housing can be exceptionally tricky, especially during the busy seasons. Here are some tips for finding housing in a destination area.
- Browse Airbnb and try to negotiate a lower rate since you’ll be staying for an extended period of time.
- Get on Facebook travel nurse housing groups and ask for references from other travelers who have taken an assignment in that area.
- During your interview, ask the hiring manager if they have any housing recommendations or know of any staff who rents to travelers and has had great success with it.
Rental cars can be a hassle. I’ve tried everything from renting an island beater to renting from a local company.
The time of year you are traveling is the key to locking in better rates for transportation. For example, when I went to Alaska in February during the off-season, I was able to lock in a reasonable rate through the summer. If I would have started my assignment in the summer, I would have had to pay thousands – yes, THOUSANDS – more per month. Another option that worked out great for me was finding a discounted rate for transportation through my Costco membership.
I’ve only had success once with a travel nurse company agreeing to pay rental car fees, and they used a locally owned company. I feel like this protected me from extra fees and getting the runaround on prices. Again, this only happened once, and I’ve done one contract in Hawaii and three in Alaska.
What to Pack
Before taking my Alaska assignment, I was able to talk to a guy who lives in the northernmost part of Alaska about the challenges of living in a remote area. His words of wisdom were: “Amazon prime has changed my life.” This is a great phrase to keep in mind! Remember, you can buy anything that you forgot to take with you!
Personally, my travel must-haves are a fan to use when I sleep during the day (I definitely made room for my “fancy” fan when traveling to Hawaii), great work shoes that are already broken in, and a few sentimental items. And, if I’m being completely honest, Scandinavian Swimmers and dark chocolate peanut butter cups from Trader Joe’s always seem to find some room in the luggage as well.
But there are a few things that I’ve found are a waste of time to pack: books, multiple pairs of shoes, clothing that goes beyond two weeks of changing outfits, a bunch of scrubs, and a lot of toiletries (shampoo, razors, etc.). Again, Amazon Prime changes lives!
Ways to Stay Involved
Travel nursing can get lonely at times, so I always try to get involved with local events. I’ve done everything from Bible study and craft club to yoga studio classes.
It’s important to get to know locals and develop relationships in the area. Remember, if you want to go back to a location, it won’t be your fellow travelers who remain there. It’s going to be the locals, so take some time to get to know them! Plan events with them and help them become a tourist in their own city. It will make your experience richer and fuller! I still have good friends in most of the places where I’ve traveled.
All in all, remember why you are going to a destination location. It’s not all about making the most money – it’s all about having the best experiences! So create a budget that works for you, and get out and enjoy your life! Don’t sweat the small stuff. You’ll quickly forget about the ten shades of red lipstick that you left behind.
My nurse name is Krissy Bowman, RNC-NIC, IBCLC. I’ve been a nurse for 16 years. I’ve worked most of my time in the NICU but have dabbled in PICU, Mother Baby, and Labor and Delivery. I’ve traveled for 6 years and never intended to do it this long. But when the travel bug gets you, it’s hard to stop.
When I’m not working, I’m usually planning a trip, reading, hiking, or hanging out with my old lady Labrador retriever, Sundance.