By Alex McCoy, Contributing Writer, Owner of Fit Travel Life
When I first became a travel nurse I spent hours searching for lists or ideas of what to pack for each assignment. Paring down a whole apartment or house worth of belongings can be very intimidating especially when you aren’t quite sure what to expect.
After living on the road for three years I will say that learning how to pack for a travel nurse assignment takes a little bit of trial and error (and possibly a few boxes shipped home). What most of the internet packing lists don’t account for is other habits or routines that will help you make each new transition a little easier. I have found that having the perfect combination of creature comforts and good habits make moving across the country and settling into a new job every thirteen weeks much more seamless. Here is a list of my must-haves before starting each new assignment.
1. The right mindset
This sounds a little cheesy but hear me out. Walking into each assignment brings a lot of unknowns, so I tend to take some time before my first day and think about what my goals are for that assignment. I list particular places I want to visit, financial goals, and any personal goals I want to focus on as well.
2. My favorite pillows
I was one of those people who thought I could sleep anywhere…until I started switching beds every three months. While we simply do not have space to pack a mattress topper, I have found having a good quality pillow goes a long way. Not only that, but it makes our new place feel a little more like home.
3. Professional paperwork
Most of my paperwork is stored on my phone via CamScanner, but I do keep a few hard copies of certain items on hand. I keep my nursing license copies, certifications, social security card, and a few extra vaccination records in a leather folder to stay organized. Every so often an assignment will ask for copies of licenses and certifications so it is nice to have these ready if needed.
My husband and I downsized to one car on our Seattle assignment and were forced to scale way back on the items we brought along. My crockpot did not make the list which resulted in me purchasing a new one on Amazon a week after arriving. Since then I make packing my crockpot a priority because when I want to spend more time adventuring and less time cooking this kitchen tool is a must-have.
5. A list of local gyms
Staying healthy on assignment is a huge priority for me. I have found that if I wait until I arrive at a new location to find a gym it takes much longer for me to get started at the said gym. Now I sit down as soon as I find an apartment and look for two to three gyms close by to check out as soon as I arrive. That way I have zero excuses to get my sweat on once I get there.
6. One nice outfit
When I packed for my very first assignment I brought way too many clothes. I quickly learned that occasions to dress up are few and far between on the road, so it was unnecessary to bring much more than casual clothing. Now I keep my wardrobe very simple and have a staple black dress that can be dressed up or down if needed.
7. A quick overview of my first day
A lot of the time first-day information is not provided until the very last minute. Because of this, it can be easy to feel a little flustered trying to get ready for your first day while also settling into a new apartment and city. Before heading to your new job, sit down and write or print out your first-day instructions so you can feel confident going into the first day.
As a very avid reader, I had some adjustments to make once I started traveling. While I much prefer physical copies of books I decided to switch to ebooks was much more practical for the sake of space. Before hitting the road I always make sure I have my tablet charged and a new book downloaded. After long days on the road winding down with a book before bed is a must.
Travel nursing comes with the unexpected blessings of making you realize just how few physical belongings you need. As you go along you will find your own rhythm for cutting down your packing list and fitting your entire life into one car. Similarly, you will find certain habits and routines that make each transition a little bit easier. I truly believe having some constants in your life helps make life on the road easier amid the chaos.
Alex McCoy currently works as a pediatric travel nurse. She has a passion for health and fitness, which led her to start Fit Travel Life in 2016. She travels with her husband, their cat, Autumn and their dog, Summer. She enjoys hiking, lifting weights, and trying the best local coffee and wine.
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