Do’s and Don’t of Moving as a Travel Nurse

“If you were meant to stay in one place, you’d have roots instead of feet” – Rachel Wolchin


Traveling for work brings excitement and personal growth through variety. When you chose travel nursing as a career path, this fact was probably a major draw.  What was probably not on the pro side of your pros and cons list is the ordeal of packing and moving. Here’s the ugly truth: moving is hard. However, there do exist strategies to minimize stress and maximize enjoyment during moving. Picking the right place, prioritizing your packing, and personalizing your new home will allow you to focus your energy on exploring your new city and work placement.   

Assuming most of your assignments are in the standard three-month range, you want your place to feel homier than a hotel room, and yet not lived-in enough where it would take multiple U-Hauls and semi-willing friends to pack and move all of the bits and bobs. Striking this balance is key. Here are some easy Do’s and Don’ts of making your move easier and your new home cozier:

3 Do’s (remember: prioritize and personalize!) 

1. Do research the places and spaces around you

Before or after picking your next home, think about the places you want access to in your neighborhood, or within an easy commute. Think about what routines you have and the ways you generally like to explore a new place. If you like to work out, is there a gym nearby? Is a nearby café with a decent dark roast a priority? Look at local parks if you like spending time outside. You can make it a goal to check out a new sight or hangout spot in your city every week. 


2. Do pack like a hardcore minimalist


In preparation for your move to your next temporary home, choose some sturdy, sensible luggage for your belongings. Find a system that makes your life easier to unpack than throwing everything in a duffel bag (though this remains a respectable last-minute strategy). If you’re a person who is prone to losing things during the packing or unpacking process, a quick Google of travel organizers will do the trick. If you have lots of fluffy clothes or pillows, compression bags are a great way to shrink your items. Consider whether you will generally be flying or driving and plan accordingly!  

Everyday items

Unfortunately, not all of us can follow Marie Kondo’s criterion of “Does this spark joy?” to clear out our lives of inessentials. There are many things that might make you feel nostalgic, from your fifteen semi-identical t-shirts to those two (or ten) fancy outfits you have been waiting to debut at some wild (post-Omicron) event. Tip: start your packing process like you are a broke college student backpacking across Europe, and then add from there. If you have a car, you may be able to stretch beyond several suitcases, but the costs of moving vans add up when your career is travel-based. In addition, there are many thrift stores that carry essentials you might want to bring, such as tableware and kitchen appliances. Ask yourself:

  • What do I use every day?
  • What items can I buy or rent locally?
  • What can I leave in storage, or with family and friends?


3. Do “nest” by displaying personal items from home

Cozy items

Your favorite throw blankets or pillows can help you feel comfortable and cuddly in a new space. If you are a person who enjoys familiar scents, an essential oil diffuser or soy, coconut, or beeswax candle can also create a similar atmosphere in different living arrangements. These touches can help establish a sense of continuity in decoration, seeing (and smelling!) pieces of “home” as they travel with you to new places. 


Pictures, pictures, pictures! Having pictures of family, friends, and significant others around to display is a great way to make your sublet feel like home. Polaroids or printed digital photos are long-lasting memories of the people and places you love. Consider a photo display/organizer so that you can easily move this touch of home from city to city. 


Bring some of your favorite art prints, posters, or wall hangings with you. These will make your space feel more personalized and like “you.” Just because your stay may be temporary, you should still not feel like a wayward guest with no place to call home! (Note: for short-term leases, opt for wall tack to avoid damaging the walls).


3 Don’ts (or you may regret it later!)

1. Don’t invest in bulky furniture

It will make your life so much easier to only stay or sublet in furnished locations, and avoid bringing “extras” with you that are not travel-sized, or something you use every day. Now is not the time to buy a Papasan or beanbag chair. Instead, opt for investing in smaller, usable items to take with you depending on your daily routine: a good set of knives if you cook a lot, an e-reader if you are a bookworm who can’t cart multiple boxes of books across state lines every three months, etc. Speaking from personal experience, if you love binging TV or playing video games, a mini projector is a great alternative to investing in a huge, bulky entertainment system.


2. Don’t bring a whole garden

No matter how much of a green thumb you have, there is a limit to how mobile a greenhouses’ worth of plants can be if you are unsure how long you will be in a place. If your primary mode of transportation from placement to placement is driving a personal car, one or two cherished plants can absolutely be a lovely addition to your temporary home. However, be cautious about the number of succulents and spider plants you can realistically commit to keeping alive.


3. Don’t wait until the last minute to choose your next place!

Moving is already stressful enough without adding time pressure and a frantic scramble to find your next place. Once you know your next assignment, look at potential options early: you can set an alert on several websites to let you know when good options pop up. Here at Lead we have a partnership with, Landing! Landing was created to for workers with a traveling lifestyle who want to live in fully-equiped and amenity stocked locations. Email us back or ask your recruiter about discount codes off your first months rent OR a code to waive your membership fee! Another good option is Furnished Finder, which was also specifically designed for travel nurses. It has month-to-month leases, requires background checks, and even has a travel nurse stipend calculator for you to plan your budget. AirBnB, which now offers monthly rentals, and VRBO are also great websites to look for sublets. And finally, remember to pad your moving schedule with enough overlap time to avoid the mad rush and to accommodate for any emergencies! The more planning you do, the more time you’ll have to get comfortable and prepare for your first day of the new assignment. 


Happy traveling!

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