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5 Tips for Finding Housing on a Travel Assignment

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Are you struggling with finding housing on assignment?  Perhaps you don’t know which neighborhood to live in or where to find a rental. Finding your own housing can be a bit overwhelming!  Special thanks to travel nurse Colleen, who blogs at www.JoyintheJourney.life for sharing some of her best tips to find housing while on assignment! 

First things first. It is important to note that these 3 month contracts can seem like a large chunk of time – which will inevitably get you thinking about getting a place with all the luxuries and amenities of home. While that is nice, when available, but I suggest you have a list of your bare essential requirements (queen bed, stove/oven, parking space etc.). This way you can jump on a place quickly when it becomes available, you can make do with your essentials for 3 months to live in a cool new city.


1. Short-term Leases

This option can get pricey, so you have to be smart about choosing these options and doing the math with your housing stipend. They typically jack up the rates for shorter leases because, let’s be honest, they can and we pay it because it’s the only option. You usually still have to set up and pay additional for  internet, electric/utilities, and most of the time, an unfurnished place where you’ll need to rent furniture on top of it all! Not the most convenient option for us travelers who have plenty of other expenses and tasks to accomplish before the start of our contract.

However, it is definitely an option and I can personally say that I utilized this option on an assignment in Massachusetts and I have very fond memories from those living arrangements. It was nice and a secure feeling knowing we had a professionally managed place waiting for us on arrival and a property manager to ask questions.


2. Vacation Rentals

This has by far been the most successful method for me personally for finding housing. With vacation rentals on VRBO, Airbnb, and HomeAway you can find a place that is fully furnished and move in ready for a decent price. Airbnb being our “go to” lately.

Just type in your dates for the contract and you’ll be able to see what’s available through these sites. Super easy and convenient. You can even filter what is important to you whether it be private room, entire place, pets or no pets, etc. Typically when you enter in a few months for length of stay they’ll automatically calculate a monthly discount which helps out a ton!

I highly suggest to message the host prior to booking even if the dates are available. This always gives me a feel for the host and I try to think of any general questions just to get a feel for the scenario I’m getting myself into. I’ve been in some quite tricky situations that could have been avoided if I just had listened to my gut when I felt something wasn’t right over our conversation via Airbnb.

Also, check out reviews before booking! That’s one of the benefits to having this technology so use it! People typically have valid reason to leave a good or bad review and you’ll want to hear about it from someone else before you have to and/or so you can avoid it!

Hint: don’t take the Airbnb pricing at face value. Where there are many properties there is much competition. I have a set budget and usually message higher priced properties asking for a reduction in price as we are taking 3 months all at once. Hosts are always willing to negotiate to get you to book their place over their neighbors.

3. Crime layers

I always check Trulia for crime rate zones to avoid while in the search for housing. Safety is extremely important while traveling. The knowledge of where the safe areas are versus the unsafe can be crucial while on assignment.

My boyfriend, Kollin, recently found culture maps of major cities which are great for getting a feel for each neighborhood and what they’re known for (i.e. BBQ haven, hipster hallow, family zone etc.).

The fact that we usually have a car full of belongings and a different state license plate makes us stick out like a sore thumb. This is not what you need to be doing while in a sketchy area because it can easily make you a target. I wish I could say that everyone in the world is an angel but that just isn’t the case and there are bad people in this world that will take advantage if they see someone who appears to be vulnerable. Just make sure you’re smart about where you’re looking before you even arrive to the area.

Keep in mind that those Trulia crime statistics are drawn off of arrests and charges and tend to appear in heavily trafficked areas like streets with lots of bars and tourist zones.

4. Distance from Hospital and Maps

This is always something that is important to consider when choosing where to live while on assignment. For me, depending on the contract I may or may not have to take call. And with being on call I typically have to report to the hospital once called within 30 minutes so it’s important to be within that range to the hospital when searching for that place to live.

I use google maps a ton when looking at new cities. I test the commute with traffic during rush hours by using traffic layers. Also, I utilize street view to virtually see our street and neighborhood. Not to mention sites we want to visit while there on assignment.


5. Location

As far as where and what type of lifestyle you have this one can be fun to determine. I always go on Thrillist to find out the fun spots, bars, or restaurants that I want to be near. They always seem to have the best recommendations/local spots in comparison to the generic “what to do” google search that I am guilty of doing.

However, doing a google maps view of the place and neighborhood you are looking in is extremely helpful as you can really get a feel for what the neighborhood is. One helpful tip I learned from my step dad before I started traveling was a super easy way to determine the type of area or socio economic level. He mentioned to check the type of cars parked out front of homes. This will help you greatly in getting a feel for the neighborhood you choose to reside in.

Now, I’m not saying the type of car will determine a person, I just find this is a good indicator of property quality and overall feeling of safety.


I truly hope these tips offer you ideas and assistance in finding that perfect place to rest your head on your next travel assignment. Our homes should inspire us to go out into the world to do great things and then welcome us back for refreshment.

About the Author:

Colleen Carney, RN, BSN, CNOR is a graduate of Florida Gulf Coast University. She specializes in the cardiovascular operating room as a Registered Nurse. Colleen is pursuing her dream exploring the country as a travel nurse. Read more about her travels and check out her tips for aspiring travel nurses on her website www.JoyintheJourney.life 

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