You did it! You landed the perfect allied health travel gig. For 13 weeks you get to live and work in an exciting new place you’ve never been before. You’ll be helping people, having adventures, and living your best life. But before you hit the road, board your plane, or hop on a bus – do you have everything you need? 

Packing for a nursing gig can prove to be a little bit challenging. The trick is finding the right balance of casual clothes, work wear, documentation, and creature comforts you’ll need. But you’ve gotten this far and there’s no doubt you can get to your next destination. 

Medely works to get nurses and allied pros into their ideal job, wherever that may be. From the snowy peaks of Alaska, to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood – you could find yourself literally anywhere! Read on to find everything you need to know about packing for your next travel nursing assignment. 

Planning and Preparation

Your pack needs will be different depending on where you’re off to. The contents of your suitcase headed to New York City will look nothing like when en route to rural Louisiana. And it will include more or fewer items from home depending on the amenities provided by your housing. 

Here are some key questions to ask before you pack:

  1. What’s it like where I’m going? This includes things like climate, urban vs. rural, public transportation availability, etc. Some key things to look at are:
    • What is the weather like? Are you going to need snow gear or breezy summer fare?
    • How are you getting to work? Your daily commute might involve a subway or a walk down a dirt road. The wrong footwear will ruin your day!
    • What activities are available during your time off? Swimming, salsa dancing, horseback riding, and ice skating will all have different needs.
  2. How equipped is my housing? Is it a step above a hotel room or does it already have all the comforts of home? Your housing connection should tell you:
    • What amenities your housing offers. A full kitchen? Linens? Towels? On-site laundry?.
    • What’s missing from home.. If you can’t live without a morning cup of joe from your most beloved French Press, it’s better to know before you get there.
  3. What do I really need? Experts agree, the best way to travel is light. It can be tempting, especially on longer assignments, to pack your entire life into your travel bags. But hauling a wagon-load of belongings only makes moving from one place to another more tedious. Some things to think about:
    • How often do you cook?. If you’re a gourmet foodie who spends their time outside of the hospital making elaborate meals, packing your kitchen essentials makes sense. But if you normally live off take-out, kitchenware might not make your pack list.
    • What can you find in your new location? We get it. You love having a floor-length mirror. But maybe you can find one local and donate it or sell it off when you leave?

Once you have these questions answered, you can start packing in earnest. 

The Essential Pack List for Nomad Nurses

Here’s everything you need to take with you on your next adventure. 

  1. Documents. All your paperwork must be in order, especially if you’ll be working in a new state. Be sure to pack your:
    • Driver’s license
    • Social security card
    • Insurance paperwork
    • Passport
    • Proof of Car insurance
    • Roadside assistance agreement
    • Nursing license and professional documents. (If you’re working through Medely, you already have an advantage. A pro’s Medely profile includes all your credentials just a click away!)
  2. Household items. Depending on your living arrangements you may need:
    • Cooking utensils
    • Dishes
    • Silverware
    • Dish and bath towels
    • Bedding: including sheets, blankets, and pillows
  3. Clothing. Use your assignment location to determine what of the following you’ll need:
    • Multiple pairs of scrubs (obviously)
    • Socks and underwear (of course)
    • Location and seasonally appropriate clothes
    • Seasonally appropriate outerwear
    • Shoes, for work and for leisure
    • Formal or “dress up” clothes, (just in case)
    • Swimwear
  4. Electronics. Whether for work or just staying connected, consider bringing:
    • Your phone
    • A tablet
    • Smart watch, fitness tracker, or other mobile devices
    • A streaming stick or device with remote
    • A laptop
    • Chargers and cables for everything.
  5. Toiletries. Thirteen weeks with someone else’s soap and shampoo? No thank you. Remember if flying you’ll need to pack larger bottles in a checked bag. Alternatively, consider buying some or all of these when you arrive:
    • Shampoo and conditioner
    • Deodorant
    • A toothbrush and toothpaste
    • Your favorite skincare product
    • Makeup, if you use it
    • Medications and vitamins
  6. Personal items. The longer the assignment, the more you’ll want your space to feel like home. Any of the following can help with that:
    • Altar items, if you keep one
    • Family photos
    • Small pieces of art
    • Sentimental items
    • Favorite books or music albums

Last Thoughts: Packing Guide for Travel Nurses

Packing for your next nursing assignment can be an adventure in and of itself, but you’ll get the hang of it. Just make sure to research and plan accordingly so your new digs don’t catch you unaware. Or, for the true adventurers among us, stay flexible and see where the new city takes you! Not sure where to go next? Medely can help you decide. Check in with our on-staff career advisors for help. Or, get started on your own by reading our post Best Places to Work as a Travel Nurse.