Are you a travel therapist or travel nurse about to embark on travel assignment and don’t know what to pack? I admit that I am not the lightest packer; especially when I go on a travel therapy assignment. When I am someplace for 3-6 months I like it to feel like home. Albeit, through years of travel I have learned that it takes a lot less to make a place feel like home. I have been able to thin down what I bring on assignment with me to my travel assignments.
Determine What Your Housing Provides
Before I pack I try to determine what is going to be included in my housing and what is not. If the kitchen is fully stocked then I can leave most home goods at home. If it is not, then I bring or plan to buy my kitchen basics. Such as, a coffee pot, tea pot, frying pan, Tupperwear, silver wear , bowls, mugs, glasses, and spatula.
Regardless if a place is fully stocked with home goods or not, I anticipate that I may spent up to $200 at target to purchase random items week 1. When I get to my new place I take inventory of what is there and what I need. Usually laundry detergent, cleaning supplies and fresh coffee are among the first things that I buy at a new place.
How Are You Getting There
The other main thing that I need to consider if how am I getting to the assignment. When flying to Hawaii, I will be taking a lot less and more considerate of every item that I am packing. Sometimes when I drive I pack a “kitchen” box and if I use it I use it, if not I just leave it unopened. If I am flying then I have to be completely aware of what is going to be in my new place and plan to purchase what I need.
No matter where you go you can always purchase things there. Costco, Target, and Walmart are nationwide; including Hawaii.
The essentials for home:
These items include my clothes, underwear, scrubs, shoes, toiletries, first aide,contacts, make up, hats, scarfs, swim suits, rain gear, medications, etc. This is definitely the easiest area to overpack and the one that I struggle with the most. I have learned that if I am working 5 shifts per week that I ONLY need to bring 5 sets of uniforms. I choose to wear black pants (scrubs and/or business casual depending on assignment) because they are more durable and less likely to be ruined by a stain. For clothes outside of work I live in yoga pants and tanks so that is a basic part of my wardrobe as well as 2-3 pairs of jeans and casual skirts/dresses. I also bring 1 or 2 semi formal dresses and a nice pair of heels with me incase I have a nice event or wedding come up during an assignment.
I try my hardest to pack only for the season that I am going to but I also like to be prepared, so if I am going to Cali during change of season in the spring I may bring mostly summer gear, but also some sweater, layers and boots incase it gets more chilly.
I always pack rain gear! It rains even in the desert and a small rain shell and umbrella do not take up a lot of room in a suitcase and can save you from a lot of discomfort.
After your first assignment really take stock of what you wear and what you do not. I heard somewhere years ago that every spring you should hang your hangers backwards in your closet and only turn them around if you actually wear an item. At the end of the season you should donate all of the clothes that you did not wear/turn over the hanger. I think this translates well for travelers. If you go through an entire assignment and do not wear or use something then do not bring it with you to the next assignment. You do not have to donate it, but you could send it home or leave it at home.
The basics for work:
In the romanticism of travel it can be easy to forget that we are actually going to these new locations to work, so yes do not forget to bring your work stuff. I always travel with a clip board, pens/sharpie/dry erase/highlighter and a note pad that I can take notes on during orientation. I also bring my own lunch box filled with Tupperware, a water bottle and to go coffee mug.
I also travel with a small amount of SLP materials. When I initially started traveling I was working in the SNFs and would come into buildings with literally NO materials. I mean NOTHING, maybe some puzzles that I could bum off of OT. During those years I would travel with a large Tupperware box of therapy materials including print outs of the WALCs, games, cards, etc. Now, I primarily work in inpatient rehabs and acute care facilities, which I have found to be very well stocked with materials. So in the last couple of years I have reduced my therapy materials from a box to a large file of hand outs and evaluations that I like.
Documents and Legal:
I have learned to travel with copies of all of the my important documents. I travel with a file full of hard copies, as well as back up PDFs. I scan all of my important documents into electronic storage via a phone app called “Scanner Pro”. There are many similar apps available online that do the same thing; scan documents/pictures and convert into PDF files that you can save and email. These are the documents that I make sure to have with me either electronically, hard copy or both.
- Drivers License/ID/Passport
- Credit/Debit cards and check book
- Auto insurance policy
- Car registration
- AAA card
- Copy of most recent physical and vaccine/titer history
As I type from my Macbook with my iPhone next to me it is obvious that I do not skimp on bringing technology with me. Of course I bring my laptop, phone, iPad, camera and all of the cords and chargers associated with them. I also bring a USB charger, which is handy if you have to travel for a long period of time and lose cell phone charge. On top of those basics I also bring an external hard drive to back up my computer.
For hobbies I try to bring what I need for my days off and free time. For me I like to do yoga and hike. If I am traveling in my Jeep I always throw a yoga mat in my car, although if I have to fly that is something that I can easily buy for $16 at my new location (remember, there are Targets everywhere). While I have bought a lot of new yoga mats, I always bring my more expensive gear, like the hiking and climbing gear, which would be more costly to duplicate.
If something is costly enough that I spent time waiting for an REI sale and used my dividends to purchase it it then I am bringing it with me to go and explore.
I think it is important that you bring a couple of items with you that make you feel comfortable and at home. For me that is my pillows and fleece throw. I also found that my ceramic teapot makes me feel at home too. I did not realize this until I spent two months with out it and could not wait for the shipment to arrive to my door that contained it. You might not realize what your comfort items are on your first assignment and that is okay, you will learn. I know a lot of people who really like to cook and like to travel with all of their own spices; seeing as a spice is at least $5, I can see why that would be important to carry with you and make you feel comfortable in your new space.
In closing I think it is important for each individual to determine what it is that is important for you and what you need for your work and life balance. Being a traveler has taught me to live like a minimalist and I now thoroughly enjoy that lifestyle. It feels very freeing to be carrying minimal amounts of stuff from assignment to assignment and only brining what I know I will need and use.