Inside The Travel Nurse Lifestyle

Since travel nursing differs significantly from working as a full-time employee, it’s important to get a full picture ahead of time. Allow us to paint that for you as we get into the nitty-gritty of the travel nurse lifestyle.  

Why Travel Nursing?

The life of a traveling nurse comes with some pretty cool benefits that you wouldn’t get in a more traditional job. Some of the biggest advantages are: getting to explore new cities and choose where you work. Since travel nurses are usually in high demand, you’ll often have several contract options to pick from in different locations. 

Another perk is that travel nurses have the choice to take breaks between contracts, so you can enjoy plenty of time off each year. You can even time your breaks to align with winter holidays or summer vacations for a solid work-life balance. So, book that tropical getaway, hike a really tall mountain, or do whatever you like to do in your time off.

Another big upside of working as a travel nurse is that it can give your career a huge boost. You’ll have the opportunity to work in many different medical settings, where you’re likely to learn new skills and methods. You’ll also get to network and connect with other nurses and medical professionals across the country. Not only can these relationships be rewarding in the present moment, but growing your professional network will only benefit you later in your career, for the ultimate work-win-win.

Where Do You Work?

Travel nurses typically work in hospitals or health care clinics as these facilities tend to struggle with staff shortages and need the most nurses. 

Being the hotshots they are, travel nurses usually have the pick of the litter and can choose their destination when selecting contracts. Staffing agencies will provide nurses with a list of options that match their qualifications and preferences. 

Contracts are available in big cities, suburbs, and rural areas, so you can choose the setting that most appeals to you. Many end up choosing states known for their natural beauty, such as Alaska, Colorado, or Maine, or states with consistently warm weather, like Arizona, California, or Hawaii. Nurses have plenty of flexibility when choosing a location that works well for them—it’s like relocation roulette but with the odds in your favor.  

Where Do You Live?

Since temporary home hunting can be stressful (especially when you don’t live in the area yet!), there are a variety of travel nurse housing options available to help streamline the process and make the move easier for ya. Nurses are given a housing stipend as part of each contract to help on the financial front.

Most travel nurses opt for short-term furnished rentals for convenience, as you won’t have to worry about transporting your own furniture from place to place. Many nurses live together as roommates to save money, but you can also live on your own—we say go for whatever makes you sleep at night. 

Short-term sublets or Airbnb rentals can be good options. Some nurses even use extended-stay hotels for particularly short contracts. The world is your oyster and you can’t go wrong if you do what’s most comfortable for you. 

What are the Benefits and Pay?

A travel nurse’s salary is considered a standout benefit of the job, as it’s usually higher than that of a staff nurse. Hospitals and healthcare facilities leverage high pay to attract travel nurses to facilities struggling with staffing shortages. Your exact compensation will vary from contract to contract, but we’re all about you earning the big bucks and are here to assist in making that happen. As your healthcare staffing agency, we’ll help take care of all the HR-related functions for you.

As a travel nurse, you’ll receive your hourly wage as well as any applicable overtime pay. You’ll also receive a travel nurse benefits package that includes, a housing stipend, and a per diem to cover some meals and necessities while working. Benefits should also include health, dental, and vision insurance that start on day one of your contract, as well as a 401(k) plan for retirement savings. The exact details of your compensation package will be clearly specified in your contract ahead of time so there shouldn’t be any surprises there. 

A Day in the Life of a Travel Nurse

While travel nurse experiences can vary from contract to contract, most schedules have a similar structure. Let’s explore an average day on the job so you know what the life of a travel nurse looks like before experiencing it in real time.  


Before starting a new assignment in general, there are a few details to note. Most travel nurses have some flexibility when it comes to scheduling. However, you should know that shifts can sometimes start in the morning, afternoon, or night and you may still be assigned shifts outside of your preferred time slot when the need arises. In terms of attire, you may need to buy your own scrubs or bring your own stethoscope, but the hospital will typically reimburse most other equipment. This should all be discussed in your contract before you start so you can prepare appropriately. 

Prior to each shift, travel nurses will benefit from preparing for the day ahead. Shifts are usually 8, 10, or 12 hours long, so it’s important to be mentally and physically ready for a long day. We recommend getting enough sleep the night before, drinking enough water, eating a substantial meal, and preparing any snacks that you’d like to take to the hospital with you. 

You will need to commute to the hospital or healthcare facility on your own and arrive at your designated shift time. Whether you walk, drive, bike, scooter, or take public transportation, you will be responsible for finding parking, looking up train times, and doing anything necessary to get to work on time. Pro tip: many nurses find that it’s helpful to arrive a few minutes early to get settled before starting their shift. 

During the Workday

Most travel nurses begin their shifts by checking in with the nurse who worked the previous one. They can provide important information about how patients are doing and what their needs are for the day. You’ll also need to take time to review each patient’s record to determine what type of care they need. 

While on shift, nurses work closely with patients to assess their condition, provide care and medication, and change dressings. They also help answer their questions and educate them as needed. Nurses are responsible for communicating with doctors and meticulously documenting what happens during each shift. 

Travel nurses will work closely with full-time nurses and other staff members to provide high-quality care for patients. When problems arise, you’ll need to work with other staff members to find solutions—you really do become part of the team for the time that you’re there (hopefully you’ll like them!). 

At the end of your shift things will come full circle and you’ll need to check in with the next nurse on duty. You’ll provide a detailed report about your patients and facilitate a smooth transition between shifts. In some rare cases, you may be asked to work overtime, but this will always come with extra compensation. Travel nurses usually have the option to decline overtime or extra shifts if they don’t feel up to working, so you do you! 

After the Shift

Once you’re off the clock, it’s time to enjoy your much-deserved free time. Go out on the town, explore your surroundings, or hang out at home and catch up on TV (we’re not judging, you get that R&R!). If you’re in a city, you’ll have the freedom to try new restaurants and visit museums or other attractions. In a more rural area, you can go for a hike, visit the local watering hole, or explore the nature around you.

You can also work that social butterfly bone and make new friends with your colleagues. Travel nursing is a great opportunity to meet other nurses from different backgrounds and make invaluable connections wherever you are. 

We also recommend using some of your free time to rest and recharge. Make sure to get enough sleep, catch up with friends and family from home, and enjoy some of your favorite hobbies. The goal is to do whatever makes you feel refreshed and ready to go when your next shift rolls around. 

Find Your First Assignment with Triage Staffing

Travel nursing creates unparalleled opportunities for experienced nurses to explore new places and enjoy more flexible schedules. But as you can see, it’s a unique lifestyle and may not be for everyone. So, it’s important to learn what to expect beforehand by reading travel nurse articles like this and talking with others who have real-world experience working as a travel nurse. It’s all about assessing the pros and cons and determining if it’s the right option for you. If it is, we’re here for ya!

Working with a travel nurse agency is the easiest way to find contract assignments and at Triage Staffing, we are dedicated to finding travel nurse jobs that fit your lifestyle. We’ll help you find assignments that match your experience level and travel preferences. We handle compensation negotiations and can even assist in your search for housing, making the transition to travel nursing as smooth as possible. Contact us today to get started on your travel nursing journey—we look forward to it!