The Packing Guide for Travel Nurses

Shot of an adorable little dog wearing sunglasses, sitting in the full car trunk.

You’ve landed your dream travel nurse assignment and found housing. Before hitting the road comes the big decision on what essentials to take with you. 

Packing for your travel nurse assignment is different because you aren’t packing for a vacation or moving permanently but still want to make sure you are comfortable and have the necessities handy. You have to prioritize what you can and can’t live without for 13 weeks. Deciding what to pack before heading to your new assignment can cause unneeded stress, but I have tips to help you find that middle ground and make this process easier.

Research Before You Go

Find out what is included in your housing before you start to make your list of must-haves. Reach out to your housing coordinator at your company or the property landlord if you secured your own accommodations and ask what amenities are included. They will be your best resource. Knowing what you already have at the property can ensure you pack the rest of what is needed and still travel as light as possible. You can also decide to purchase some items once you arrive. 

Another key rule with packing is to know what kind of weather to expect at your destination. If you’re traveling through two or more seasons, the rule of thumb is to bring layers of clothes like T-shirts, sweaters, and jackets that can be added or taken off as the weather changes.

Packing List for Travel Nurses

Personal Care Items:

  • Scrubs, stethoscope, work bag, badge reel
  • Clothing (casual, dressy, sleepwear, and workout clothes), undergarments, socks, and shoes. Try to pick clothing items and shoes that work with several outfits.
  • Hats, jewelry, other accessories
  • Toiletry kit (shampoo, conditioner, body wash, face wash, hair products, deodorant, makeup, sunscreen, lotion, toothbrush and toothpaste, razors, nail grooming supplies). You can also restock on most of these items when you get to your assignment.
  • Hairdryer and other grooming tools
  • Cooler or insulated tote for food and drinks during your road trip 
  • Prescription medications, OTC meds, and a mini first aid kit

Mentor tip: I can’t stress enough to stay organized. If you’re organized, it will be simple to pack and unpack. Utilize packing cubes and compression bags to save space. I often use totes for larger items.

Home Away From Home Items

  • Comfy bedding (comforter, sheets, pillows, extra blankets) and bath items (towels, washcloths)
  • Pictures, decor, books, candles, or other sentimental items
  • Any special kitchen devices you can’t live without, such as a coffee pot, multicooker, air fryer, lunchbox, etc.
  • Laundry basket and iron or steamer
  • Electronics, such as wireless speakers, laptop, camera, headphones
  • Phone charging cords and charging cords for all electronics you bring
  • Travel/hobby gear, like a backpack, hiking gear, hiking poles, skis, etc.

Mentor tip: If you’re traveling with a pet, remember their food and treats, food and water bowls, crate, bed, favorite toys, paperwork (for a microchip, health records, license, etc.), local vet information, clean up baggies, collar with ID/contact tags, and leash.

Paperwork and Financial

  • Social Security card, birth certificate, and passport
  • Driver’s license and auto insurance
  • Nursing license, credentials, health records, and any other documentation requested
  • Your travel nursing contract and any other paperwork required by your facility, including first-day instructions
  • Contact information for your recruiter, assignment facility, and nurse manager
  • Major credit card for emergencies 

Mentor tip: Keep an emergency kit in your vehicle while traveling. It should include the equipment you could use if you have car trouble or encounter bad weather. Always be prepared for the unexpected when traveling to new destinations. One essential item for me is a satellite phone that I can use if I don’t have cell service. Having this handy can save your life or someone else’s in an emergency event.

Ready to Hit the Road?

Packing for your travel nurse assignment doesn’t have to be daunting if you are prepared, know what to pack, and stay organized. Pack the essentials, but don’t feel like you have to pack everything in your home. It’s only 13 weeks, and you can always purchase items in your new city, too. Knowing what you need and how to pack is an art that you will learn as you go. Happy and safe travels!

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