Packing List & Tips For Your Travel Nursing Assignment

Any job involving travel requires you to figure out how to pack both the essentials and the things that make you comfortable. As a travel nurse, learning to pack as a minimalist is easier than you think. Follow these guidelines to pare down your packing list and still leave room for fun.

Make packing lists. Whether you enjoy making lists or not, having one for what to bring on your travel will help you not overpack. Tailoring your lists to match the weather, perhaps one for each season of the year, will help you not forget essentials, such as gloves during the winter. Plus, having a list will make packing for the next assignment easier.

Think about needs versus wants. Your needs are what you, well, need to do your job. Your wants are the extras that are nice to have. If you create your packing list to match your needs, followed by your wants, you can easily prioritize the essentials while still leaving room for the things that make you happy. A short list of needs includes clothing, toiletries, documents, electronic devices, and medications.

Get a clear picture of where you will be living. Will you need dishes, utensils, and cooking items? If you do, keep your packing down to bare essentials. One skillet and saucepan will usually suffice unless you're into gourmet cooking, and you only need enough place settings for yourself and anyone traveling with you. Are linens provided? Even if they are, taking your pillow can be necessary for getting good sleep. Consider each item and remember, there is always Target, Walmart, and thrift stores.

Consider your travel method. How you get to your destination impacts what you bring. If you're flying, you'll need to pack lighter, but if you're driving, you can probably bring more. And if you’re flying, you may have to pay baggage fees, which can depend on the overall weight of your items. (Bonus points if you work for a travel nursing agency who reimburses you for baggage fees!)

Think about your contract length. How long will you be at this assignment? If it's only a 4-week or 6-week assignment, you may decide you can get along without some of the must-have fun stuff you pack for the typical 13-week position.

Pare down your wardrobe. The simplest way to pack less is to evaluate each item of clothing. Depending on your access to laundry facilities, you can probably simplify your travel wardrobe significantly. Once you have your scrubs and compression socks sorted out for work, think about bringing pieces that will work for more than one occasion. For example, perhaps your workout clothes could double as casual wear. Clothing you can layer is also a good bet, such as a tank top that you can wear for yoga and underneath a sweater. Items you can mix and match will also help you not overpack.

Ensure you take care of yourself. Being a travel nurse means constantly leaving the familiar and heading into the unknown. So make sure your packing list includes what you need to rejuvenate wherever you are, such as sleep masks or sound machines to get a good night's rest, or essential oils to provide a calming space for unwinding after work.

Becoming a minimalist packer doesn't mean you can't bring 'fun' with you on travel assignments, but it does take careful planning. Use checklists, and before you know it, you'll be a pro at packing light.

Want to learn from the pros? Check out what experienced travel nurse and founder of Vintage Travel Nurse, Mynoucka, tells fellow travelers what she packed for her first nursing assignment in New Mexico. She writes, “You will be surprised by how little you need to make it through your 13-week contract,” and follows that up with her lists for clothing, shoes, kitchenware, and travel-size toiletries.

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