By Alex McCoy, Contributing Writer, Owner of Fit Travel Life
Working as a travel nurse is like the best of both worlds–you get to experience new cities and get paid to work in different and exciting areas of the country.
As I worked my way around the country as a travel nurse I definitely had a list of “dream” assignment cities. I hit the road mainly for financial reasons, but I also knew that I had to have fun along the way or it simply wouldn’t be worth it.
One of the easiest ways to make more money as a traveler is to have an idea of where the most popular places to travel are. Unfortunately, due to supply and demand these “fun” areas or “unicorn” assignments as some will call them often come with lower weekly take-home pay. However, if you know this ahead of time you can plan accordingly and perhaps alternate between fun and lucrative assignments. These areas of the country are top picks for a lot of travelers for a reason and maybe worth taking a little less money in exchange for a great experience.
As the busiest city in the Pacific Northwest, Seattle has a lot to offer for many different types of people. If you love getting outdoors there are tons of mountains, hiking, and backpacking trails surrounding the city. On the other hand, if you prefer the urban jungle feel, Seattle is the quintessential city. From great public transit options to a booming downtown scene, you will definitely get your fill of city life here as well.
In addition, Seattle is a great jumping-off point for a lot of weekend trips. Bainbridge Island and the Olympic Peninsula area quick ferry ride away, or you can take a longer ride over to Victoria or Vancouver if you want a little trip out of the country. Woodinville, Leavenworth, and Walla Walla are also some great towns in the state of Washington you might not get a chance to visit if you weren’t living somewhere nearby
Hawaii was the number one destination I got asked about when I told my friends and family how travel nursing worked. They were all thrilled at the idea that I could go live in a tropical paradise and get paid money to do so.
While I haven’t personally made it to Hawaii for an assignment, I have heard great things. Island hopping is easy, and there is no shortage of beautiful outdoor scenery to explore and enjoy. Hawaii has a lot to offer depending on what you like–there are bigger cities like Maui or more laid back areas like the Big Island. The one downside is a high cost of living matched with lower pay packages–so be sure to have some money saved up because most consider a Hawaii assignment a “working vacation”.
Bonus: Hawaii is a “walk through” state for nursing licenses, which means you can simply fly in a few days early and apply for your license in person rather than playing the waiting game ahead of time.
3. San Diego
When I ask where I should visit in California, San Diego is hands down the most popular answer. This southern city has great weather year-round, beaches to enjoy and a trendy food scene as well.
Similar to Seattle, San Diego is also a great starting point for road trips on days off. You can take a trip down to Tijuana, or head east and experience some great National Parks. In addition, San Diego has a great laid back vibe and welcoming people so it is a great place to make friends when you are traveling solo.
Gaining in popularity over the last few years, travel nurses have begun to realize that Phoenix is not just a city in the middle of a dried-up desert. Locals refer to the city as “the valley” due to it being surrounded by mountain ranges on all sides. You can visit the tourist town of Tortilla Flat, go boating in one of the several lakes around the city, or experience phenomenal hiking in the Superstition Wilderness.
Phoenix also has a great up and coming food scene. Old Town Scottsdale is full of both trendy and upscale restaurants, or head to Central Phoenix for a ton of local joints with creative flair. And obviously don’t forget to find some street tacos and margaritas while you are there.
Similar to Hawaii, Alaska is one of those places that most people who live in the continental United States may not ever get a chance to visit. Most travelers I know who have worked in Alaska highly recommend experiencing the drive there rather than opting for a flight and rental car.
Once again, Alaska can offer a lot to travelers whether you prefer a rural or city experience. And unlike Hawaii, pay packages are generally more lucrative, especially if you are willing to commit to one of the more remote towns. I hear the chance to live in Alaska is once in a lifetime, and this is definitely on my list of must-do assignments.
With the exception of perhaps rural Alaska, most of these cities are going to net you a little less cash than some of the less popular destinations. However, these places are popular for a reason, and keep their hospitals staffed despite lower pay packages. If you get the chance to mix in a fun assignment or two, I highly recommend checking out one of these popular travel nurse destinations.
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