So you’ve accepted your travel nurse assignment, and now you have to pack. There are your needs and your wants, and things that you think that you need.
Determining what you really need can be more difficult than you ever thought, but as you get more and more assignments under your belt, you will be better able to know what to bring – you can hope anyway. But before you reach that point, some advice can be a real space saver.
Find out what you have.
First find out what will be in your housing and ask for other things if you can. Items such as cleaning supplies and housewares are sometimes provided or can be provided at an additional cost. Most areas also have an option to rent supplies, but that is not always available. There are other times where you have no other choice than to bring them with you. The key is to bring the absolute minimum that you will need. If you are traveling alone, two plates, bowls, silver wear, etc. will be sufficient, and if you find yourself wanting or needing more, paper and plastic will work just fine. If pots and pans are not included, typically two different sized pots and a pan will take care of all your needs. Towels are something that take up a lot of space, but if you prefer those large, plush towels, then you can find a way to make it work. They also make microfiber towels that take up fractions of the space that traditional towels do, but it all depends on your preferences.
Shop for things like toiletries and detergents once you get there. Bring enough so you can get by for a few days, but purchasing them after you have arrived will save space and a potential mess. Nothing’s worse than getting to your destination, opening your suitcase, and finding lotion all over everything or realizing that your bars of soap have melted. If you do this, schedule your time so you have a few hours at the local Wal-Mart or Target to purchase everything that you need. It will probably be a shopping trip with a relatively high bill because you will be purchasing everything from paper towels, toilet paper and tissues, to shampoo, laundry detergent, and dish soap – those household essentials. These are items that you typically need to live, but they are available everywhere, so why would you try to squeeze them in if you don’t have to?
Some things just can’t be forgotten.
One thing to remember is to bring all of your important information and documents. All of your nurse certification documents and cards, at least two forms of identification, records, proof of your education, and documents about immunization, background checks, and health restrictions. As a travel nurse, these are all essential and forgetting them can be an inconvenience at best. A credit card is also critical because it is a lifesaver for travel arrangements, rentals, and most anything that doesn’t go 100% to plan. To help make sure that you don’t forget…
Be organized! It will make the packing and unpacking process so much easier. With the typical travel nurse assignment lasting 13 weeks, you don’t want to spend two of those either packing or unpacking! When you stay organized, you will know where everything is. Keeping a list is also super helpful because, not only does it keep you organized, but it also allows you to keep track of what has and has not been packed and maybe even where it is. It will hopefully help eliminate the chance of forgetting anything important as well.
Comfort is key.
Aside from all the necessities like clothing, your scrubs, and your workbag, bring a few “comfortable” items. They can be anything from pictures to your coziest blanket. Even though your assignment is temporary, you still want your place to feel like home. There is nothing worse than returning from a double to a place with bare walls and a stranger’s furniture. A few simple and compact items, which you associate with home, can make anywhere feel homey.
Any equipment or supplies necessary for a hobby or activity that you enjoy can also be part of this category. Whatever you enjoy, maybe it is photography or camping, bring your supplies with you, but in a paired down version. You may not need all eight of your lenses or all three sizes of tent, just bring what you will be able to use and that will allow you to enjoy your time off.
Now for those other necessities.
While they will be different for every person, clothing, a cell phone, and a laptop are usually considered to be necessities for travel nurses. First of all, determine what the weather will be like while you are there and try to pack accordingly. If you will be there across seasons, layers are the best option. It is a good idea to bring clothing that can be mixed and matched. Try to avoid clothes that have only one purpose, or only match one other item of clothing. Basics are key. You can wear a good pair of jeans with almost anything: you can dress them up or dress them down, and they are acceptable during every season of the year. It is really important not to over pack. You will only be there for approximately 13 weeks and clothes are easy to wash. A few pairs of pants or shorts, a few shirts, and a sweater will probably get you by.
Then there are shoes. Shoes are typically pretty heavy and take up a lot of space, so only plan to pack a few. The rule of thumb is your work shoes, a pair of sneakers, a casual pair, and a more fancy pair. That is only four pairs of shoes! (I know, I know, but I promise it will be okay.)
As for socks and underwear, you may think that you should bring a lot of these, but that probably isn’t the case. Just like toilet paper and soap, underwear and socks can be purchased almost anywhere. It is a good idea to bring maybe three pairs of each, and then purchase new when your get to your destination. They have relatively short lifespans anyway.
Being a travel nurse, electronics are important because they not only keep you entertained, but they are also a method to keep in contact with friends and family. A phone and a laptop are the best things. If you currently have a desktop computer, a laptop may not be a bad investment because they are much smaller and more portable. Also, if you enjoy reading, a Kindle or other reading tablet is much easier, and lighter, to travel around with than books.
Learn to pack like a pro!
So after you have figured out everything that you need to bring with you, it is time to actually pack. One word of advice is, just because you have the room, doesn’t mean that you need to fill it. Only bring what you need. Keep in mind that you will need to pack differently if you will be driving to your assignment or flying. There are usually weight limits and baggage limits when you fly, while when you drive, you have the space available in your vehicle. There are a few packing tricks that can make packing a breeze.
- Tightly roll your clothing. It takes up less space that way.
- Place any heavy or misshapen items, such as shoes, on the bottom of your suitcase. That way, everything else can fill in the cracks.
- Put your socks inside your shoes. The inside of your shoe is an empty space, so why not fill it?
- Protect any fragile items by wrapping them in socks or heavy clothing and placing them in the center of your suitcase.
- Place anything that might spill inside a plastic bag. If you don’t want a mess, take preventative measures so the mess doesn’t happen.
- Pack tightly. When your things are packed tightly, it saves space, helps prevent wrinkling of clothes, and protects your fragile items.
- Consider clear storage containers. If you will be traveling by car, clear storage containers are a great option because you can see what is inside.
With all this knowledge that you have gained, you now have some of the tools to be able to pack like a pro for your next travel nursing assignment! Good luck, and happy packing!