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Guide to Travel Nurse Housing

Oct 22, 2019
The Trusted Team

So, you're on the market for travel nursing jobs. You've successfully found a travel nursing agency, got your dream assignment, and finished compiling all of your nurse credentials and documentation. Now all you've got to figure out is housing. Easy, right? ... Not quite.

Packing up your life and moving to another city comes with plenty of logistical challenges, let alone starting a brand new job in a city far from home. There’s a list of travel nurse housing tips that will come in handy as you prepare to embark on your next travel adventure―some trivial and boring, some daunting and time-consuming, but all super important for peace of mind. 

Temporary Housing for Travel Nurses, Figuring out What You Want

Every individual’s travel nurse housing preferences are different and should depend on what’s best for themselves, their lifestyles, their personal/professional goals, and any loved ones joining them on their adventure.

That means that before you start looking at apartments and weekend itineraries at your new destination, you should sit down and take note of the things that are most important to you as well as the activities and experiences that allow you and anyone coming with you to thrive on the daily.

jogging travel nurse daily routine
Before finding your dream apartment, consider your daily routine. What do you need to start every day (or week) off right? 


The Travel Nurse Lifestyle: Personal Preferences

What makes up your “daily routine?” As an experienced travel nurse or recent nursing new grad, you may not think about the activities you do and the experiences you have on a daily basis. To shape a travel nurse lifestyle around the factors that help you thrive, you need to first understand what those factors are

Once you understand the factors that go into maintaining your lifestyle as a travel nurse, build on this by figuring out what your nice-to-haves are. People prioritize convenience, new experiences, social opportunities, and a host of factors in-between. 

Knowing what’s most important in your travel nurse housing arrangement from both a big-picture and little-picture perspective is important: it allows you to plan ahead to ensure that you’ll have those factors (or reasonable substitutes) at your new location. And this is an important step in reducing the amount of adjustment you’ll need to deal with as well as getting you closer to a true “home away from home.”

Here are questions to keep in mind when figuring out the preferences that define your lifestyle and housing arrangements as a travel nurse: 

  • Where do you see yourself? Small town, big city, urban, rural? (some travel nurses seek higher pay and use compensation to make a decision)
  • Do you want to be near family, friends, travel destinations?
  • Are you an early riser or prone to sleeping in? 
  • Do you need external factors (i.e. sunlight, an alarm) to wake up?
  • Are you a light or heavy sleeper? 
  • Do you need background noise, absolute silence, or something in-between when you’re falling asleep?
  • What’s your eating schedule like? 
  • How often do you do groceries? Do you go to a supermarket or have most supplies delivered to your door?
  • Do you food prep any meals? If so, what devices (i.e. blender, crockpot) do you need for your food prep?
  • How often do you exercise? 
  • What type of exercise do you do? Do you need specific equipment or spaces for this type of exercise?
  • Are there certain things that must be walking distance for you (i.e. groceries, laundry, work)?
  • Do you have any regular hobbies? Interests? Are you planning on picking up any in the near future?
  • How do you tend to spend your days off? Do you prefer to go with the flow or do you crave structured activities?
  • Are you more introverted or extroverted?
  • What “luxuries” are you willing to stretch your budget for?
  • What in your personal life are you hoping to gain from this experience (i.e. travel, increased social circle, trying new foods, etc)?

When Traveling, You Must Know Your Dealbreakers

Knowing what you don’t want (and won’t tolerate) on a travel nursing assignment is just as important as having a list of what you’re hoping for. 

This is the first step in creating boundaries, which is a healthy way for you to maintain control of both your personal and professional life to ensure you’re getting the most you can out of each new assignment. 

Creating boundaries not only helps you on a personal level, but by having these boundaries clearly set and defined ahead of time, you can explain them to the other parties involved in your travel nurse experience, such as your recruiter. Having this information upfront improves their ability to represent and respect your best interests.

When thinking about dealbreakers, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What factors or measurements do you use to determine a location’s safety? Based on these factors and/or measurements, what counts as too unsafe?
  • Are you tolerant of noise from your neighbors or the general area? Up to what point?
  • What is your budget for large expenses like lodging and daily transportation? 
  • Is the local cost-of-living within your daily budget?
  • When it comes to housing, how far is “too far” from your place of work? A grocery store? A laundromat? A gym? A place of worship?
  • Do you require access to specific facilities or professionals (i.e. specialists) for your health or wellness? Within what radius of your home or place of work?
  • What amenities can you not live without? 

Know Your Travel Companion(s)

For many travel nurses, the adventure isn’t simply for themselves. Travel nursing with spouses, families, and even friends is becoming more common. As such, it’s important to take everyone’s needs into consideration when arranging travel nurse housing and planning your next steps in a new location.

Think about these questions when considering the needs of your travel companion:

  • How much space will you and your travel companions need?
  • Do any of the people you’re traveling with have employment or schooling obligations? How will those needs be fulfilled at your new location?

In addition to these questions above, you should ensure that you know the personal preferences and dealbreakers of any other companions on your adventure! Be prepared to tweak your travel nurse lifestyle so that everyone has the factors they need.

Using the Information Above & Other Travel Nurse Housing Resources

Take the time to honestly answer these questions, and don’t be afraid to add and answer more. If you’re unsure―or even just looking for a second opinion―ask those around you as well! 

Once you have a clear understanding of what conditions help you thrive, you can make arrangements accordingly. So keep your preferences in mind as you make your way through the steps outlined in the rest of this guide: your ultimate goal is to tailor your travel nursing experience to encourage the best personal and professional YOU possible!  

Over time, these steps (and your understanding of the ways in which your preferences shape them) will come much easier, but until then, be sure to read through all of our tips to help you hit the ground running in logistics for your new location!

Finding Travel Nurse Housing

Your first step when it comes to securing housing as a travel nurse should always be to check out what options (if any) are offered by your travel nurse agency. 

Some nurse staffing agencies will rent out rooms at motels or have dorms specifically maintained to house travel nurses on assignment like yourself. These may already come furnished with all or most of the amenities you need, and because they’re owned by the company, you’ll be able to get more information ahead of time and set up your stay there directly through your recruiter.

Don’t simply settle for a company’s travel nurse housing option though. Large agencies will offer either lodging or a housing reimbursement. Smaller agencies may only offer the reimbursement and forego company-sponsored housing options altogether. 

Before making a decision, you should always ask what the average housing stipend for travel nurses is at your agency. Stipends currently run from $100-$300/day (depending on the city and time of year) between travel nursing companies. And there’s a good reason why: housing is never a one-size-fits-all deal. While many nurses travel alone, some decide to try travel nursing while married, and others may even give traveling with kids a shot! 

What you may lose in convenience by choosing to find your own place, you gain in control over ensuring that you’re able to meet the daily needs (or as many of them as possible) created by your travel nurse lifestyle. More often than not, you'll have more flexibility using your stipend to find your own place on the many travel nurse housing sites out there (or even Airbnb!).

You may even save yourself some money by scoring a great place to live on a smaller budget (not to mention that stipends are tax free!).

The Most Important Factors When Searching for Travel Nurse Housing

When figuring out where you’ll be living, you’ll want to keep four things in mind: quality, amenities, location, and flexibility. 

Quality

When it comes to quality, there’s no better barometer than peer reviews! Most options provide the opportunity to read through reviews, whether it’s directly associated with the accommodation or through a third party. We can’t stress enough how important it is to rent from someone with a track record of being dependable and reliable (maybe even other registered nurses in the area!).

In a brand new place, the last thing you need is your travel nurse housing arrangement falling through. Reviews can also be helpful for gleaning details about what others liked or disliked (because sometimes what they didn’t like truly wouldn’t be relevant to you!) the area, the living conditions, and what you can’t determine from pictures.

Amenities

If you’re traveling light, you’ll need a spot that’s furnished and stocked with linens, kitchenware, and any additional necessities. Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions about what is included. And don’t simply take labels like “furnished” at face value, as “furnished” means different things to different people. Consider amenities nearby: if your place doesn’t have a washing and drying machine in the building, is there a laundromat nearby, or will you need to get creative with washing your scrubs?

More importantly, make sure those amenities actually work.

furnished travel nurse lodging
We know this is probably what you have in mind when you think “furnished”, but that isn’t the case for everybody. 


Location

When it comes to travel nurse housing, we can’t talk about things to consider without talking location. 

Do you mind dealing with a lengthy commute to work for more affordable or well-situated options? Or would you rather spend as little time as possible commuting? Do you want to live in the middle of the action or away from the noise? 

Google Maps and Yelp are your best friends to get a sense of the neighborhoods you’d want to live in and what makes them unique. And don’t forget to check out neighborhood safety through reviews online or websites like AreaVibes

Flexibility

Finally, you may have needs or preferences outside of what’s typically found on the market. 

Maybe you have a pet that you’re taking with you. Maybe you’d like the option to extend your lease just in case you’d like to extend your contract at your facility. Maybe you want a place amenable to ending your lease early in case... err, the opposite happens. Are you a social butterfly who frequently entertains house guests? 

All of these are things to consider up front. Ask the property manager or landlord about these points―everyone will be much happier if they’re on the same page as you before you sign. 

Travel Nurse Housing Options

The ideal travel nurse housing option for you will depend on the specifics of your location, your living preferences, and the amount of travel nursing you do. However, over the years, a few options have become fairly established and relatively easy to set up. While we don't have a go-to travel nurse housing website yet, the below are some great places to start!

Housesharing (i.e. AirBnB & VRBO) 

Housesharing has been growing the fastest in popularity, and not just for travel nurses. On average, over 2 million people stay in an AirBnB reservation each night! And that statistic doesn’t even take into account reservations from all the other housesharing rental sites! 

But before we go any further, what’s housesharing? Essentially, you can reserve homes―whether they be rooms, apartments, condos, or entire houses―on a short-term basis, similar to booking a hotel. This offers a lot of variety in your location options and comes with more homey amenities: while ovens aren’t a thing in hotels, you’ll have no problem finding a house or apartment with one!

You’ll also get more of a local’s view of the city. 

If you choose to try housesharing, be sure to check reviews of both the host (to make sure that they’re helpful and responsive) and the home (to make sure that it’s clean and suits your needs). If everything checks out and you’re excited about the place, reach out to the host beforehand to negotiate a cheaper rate (ideally, you can get the cost below your travel nurse housing stipend).

Moreover, having the place consistently booked for months at a time is actually a huge relief for the host. And saving the host from the headache of turning over a place more frequently deserves a discount, which they’re often happy to give (don't forget to remind them of this!).

Hotels, Motels, and Extended Stays 

These are the more traditional housing options for travel nurses, especially since large recruiting agencies will either partner with one in the area or directly manage a housing complex themselves. As we mentioned earlier, if these are arranged through your nurse staffing agency, it’s less effort on your part to secure housing. Just remember that these options may not be the best deals you can find.

Regardless of whether you arrange a stay through a travel nurse agency or on your own, you should expect more of a dorm-like situation. You’ll have some necessities (especially if you’re staying in a hotel or motel), but definitely be prepared to purchase additional items to complete your new home. (Thanks goodness for a travel nursing salary!)

A huge bonus to these travel nurse housing options is that they often come with cleaning services, either as a separate package (more commonly in the case of an company-owned extended stay) or as a feature of staying in the room itself (in the case of hotels and motels). 

We've teamed up with Hotel Engine and Travelers Haven to offer discounts on hotels and furnished housing options! We also have a special partnership with Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, globally. You can use this discount link, specific to Trusted Nurses, to save 15-22% off price points that already work well with stipend budgets.

Recreational Vehicles (RVs) 

If you know you’ll be travel nursing for a while and want to travel the country while you do so, RVs may be your best bet. That said, it’s important to appreciate that the RV life carries both pros and cons. 

On the pro side, you have a ton of flexibility and freedom in choosing where you live. Having an RV may allow you to save a ton of money (can you say “no rent or mortgage?!”), although you’ll have new expenses related to your RV (watch out for that gas mileage).

Depending on your market, it’s also a lot easier to go from owning an RV to moving into a permanent home than the other way around. That is, selling or changing your RV goes a lot faster than doing the same for your house or apartment.

On the con side, there are a lot of comforts of home that we may not realize is in part a consequence of having a rooted place to crash. You may settle in areas away from family or friends, and the new “neighborhood” is more likely to be a camping site (and sometimes, even a WalMart parking lot).

Depending on where you settle down for the time being, privacy and noise-control often aren’t guaranteed. 

Beyond pros and cons, you’ll have a lot to consider as an RV owner. Be sure to look into aspects such as securing gas/water/electricity, completing insurance and registration procedures (and costs!), setting up cable and the internet, determining where you’ll park during trips, and establishing a regular cadence for maintenance and repair.  

If you're interested in this option, you can follow one of our Trusted Nurses who is doing exactly this!

Packing Your Things and Moving as a Travel Nurse 

Once you’ve confirmed where exactly you’ll be living, the natural next step is figuring out how you (and all your stuff) will get there. 

The more travel nursing you do, the better you’ll be at evaluating what packing and moving methods work best for you. But for starters, aim for an arrangement that strikes a balance between the comforts of home and the demands of frequent moving. 

The Importance of Traveling Light

Frequent travelers quickly realize that less is more

Less stuff to lug around means less arranging for stuff to be sent in between locations, less money spent on stuff like storage facilities, less stress when things don't get where they should be on time... you get the point. And it also leads to more time for the important stuff: settling in, resting up, and exploring your surroundings before your orientation and start date. 

You may be wondering how you can travel light and have all the amenities you need. Fair question! Rather than packing up everything at once, divvy up your packing into three stages:

  1. Get a fully furnished pad (or a pad that’s as furnished as possible)
  2. Determine the must-have items that aren’t available at your new location and only pack those
  3. Purchase any remaining must-have items once you arrive in the area

Focusing on the tasks in this order is important. If you’ve followed the tips from the sections above, you’ll pick a furnished home on the basis of maximizing your living preferences, including the amenities you need to be comfortable in your new spot.

This means that there should only be a few necessary amenities and items (if any at all) that don’t already come with the spot. And once you’ve found the place you’ll commit to, you’ll know exactly which amenities and items those are

From there, you can do your research to check whether those missing pieces can be found in the area for a reasonable price. If they can, you can wait until your arrival to purchase them. Try to do so at nearby thrift stores or consignment shops if appropriate, since you can get a bigger bang for your buck.

However, if they aren’t available in the area for a price that won’t break the bank, then you can consider taking them with you. 

This method isn’t foolproof―you may get to your new place and realize that you really underestimated your need for a rice-cooker, or maybe the lightbulb in your bathroom goes out and the building manager (or host) isn’t readily available. Packing in the early stages―especially when you’re not used to traveling―is a trial-and-error process. But after a couple assignments, you’ll have a good idea of what you can and can’t do without.

too many suitcases for travel nurse
Hopefully, you’re packing lighter than this. 


And If You Can’t Pack Light...

While we strongly recommend traveling as light as possible, the most important thing is doing what makes you feel comfortable. And there can be various reasons why you need to travel with larger, bulkier, or additional pieces, from nurturing important hobbies to catering to special needs. Travel nursing with family also increases the chance that you’ll need more than you can comfortably carry. 

Here are some options to consider: 

  1. Shipping. You can ship larger items to your location ahead of time or arrange with a family member or friend who currently lives near you to have the item shipped once you arrive. Check out this page for a list of moving and storage options, or feel free to do your own research!  
  2. Cargo Trailers. If you’re driving between destinations, you can connect a cargo trailer to your car with a tow hitch. You can head over to your closest UHaul for more info.  
  3. Owning an RV. This option is far more involved than the first two but may come in handy for seasoned travelers, or those who plan on taking travel nurse positions for the foreseeable future. An RV is basically your house on wheels. This not only ensures that you can take along all the luxuries of home, but also eliminates the need to house search at each new location. 

Transportation to and from Your Assignment City

Your travel nurse agency will sometimes arrange these parts of your travel, or at least reimburse you for the costs. If you’re responsible for arranging your transportation and will receive a set reimbursement amount for the trip, then plan (and book) ahead! If you choose to travel by plane, bus, or train, tickets can get expensive if you wait too long.

If you’re traveling by RV, be sure to plan out your route and get to your location ahead of orientation to ensure you have time to settle in before your assignment starts in full!   Regardless of how you get there, don’t forget to invest in travel insurance if you're worried about your housing or means of transportation.

TL;DR

How to find travel nurse housing:

  • Know your lifestyle preferences, travel dealbreakers, and companions
  • Keep in mind: housing quality, amenities, location, flexibility
  • Finding housing: housesharing, hotels/extended stays, RVs
  • Travel light!