So you’ve accepted your travel nursing contract, and now you have to pack. There are your needs and your wants, and things that you think you need.
Determining what you really need can be difficult, but as you get more and more assignments under your belt, you will be better able to know what to bring. But before you reach that point, some advice can be a real space saver. In this article, we’ll provide a comprehensive travel nurse packing guide to help you get ready for travel nursing jobs in the future!
Make a Travel Checklist
You’re way less likely to forget something if you write it down and physically cross it off. Also, you’ll be able to figure out how many pairs of scrubs, shoes, etc., you’ll need for your trip. Writing a list will make it easier to avoid putting unnecessary stuff in your suitcase, too. A handy checklist will ensure you don’t forget any must-have items while you get ready to take off for your next travel nurse assignment.
Find Out What You Have
First, find out what will be in your company-provided housing and ask for other things if you can. Items such as cleaning supplies, basic furniture, and housewares are sometimes provided or can be provided at an additional cost. Most areas also have the option to rent supplies, but that is not always available.
There are other times when 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 in the housing package, typically, two different-sized pots and a pan will take care of all your needs.
Towels are something that takes up a lot of space, but if you prefer those large, plush towels, then you can find a way to make them work. If saving space is important to you, then you should give the light microfiber versions a try – they come in a range of sizes and styles to suit your preferences!
Items You Can Purchase Later
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. We can all agree that 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 decide to purchase the basics after you arrive, schedule some time so you have a few hours at the local store 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 – the household items and 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?
Avoid the “What-If” Items
Sometimes our fears of leaving certain items behind will make us want to overpack. While all of those knickknacks may have sentimental value, in all honesty, you’ll probably never end up needing them on your trip. Instead, take a risk by traveling without unnecessary items.
You don’t need to bring along that winter parka when it’s summertime, for example. At the end of the day, you can always purchase things at your new location. If you’re worried about price, you can always look at consignment shops or online marketplaces.
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 nursing license, 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 almost anything else. Not everything goes 100% to plan!
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.
A packing list is your ally – it ensures you don’t forget anything important while keeping you organized! Not only will it help you keep track of what’s been packed, but also where to find it when you’re in a hurry. This can all but eliminate the chance of leaving something crucial behind.
Comfort and Personal Items
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. Do you need all eight of your lenses or all three sizes of a tent? Just bring what you will be able to use, and that will allow you to enjoy your time off!
Other Items in Your Packing List
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.
Avoid Taking Up Too Much Space
It is really important not to overpack. 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 ones when you get to your destination. They have relatively short lifespans, anyway.
Staying connected with your loved ones while on the move is essential for every travel nurse. Both a phone and laptop are great tools to help you keep in touch – and if you’re used to a desktop, investing in a laptop might be worth it to make everything just a little bit easier. Reading materials can take up plenty of space too, so if you enjoy getting lost in a good book, consider purchasing an e-reader like Kindle; these digital devices won’t require much room in your suitcase, yet still provide the same joy of a great story.
Preparing for Your Next Travel Nursing Assignment
So after you have figured out everything that you need to bring with you for travel assignments, 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 luggage is packed tightly, it saves space, helps prevent the 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 assignments. If you’re looking for your next travel nurse assignment, feel free to check our available jobs! If you have any other travel nurse packing tips, share them with us in the comments below!