Travel Nurse Packing List: 12 Tips You Should Consider

Why choose between your love of travel and the need to make a regular paycheck? Travel nursing (and allied healthcare travel) offers the best of both worlds. Embrace the spontaneity of exploring new places while putting your medical professionalism to use and earning a steady paycheck.

To have the best travel nursing experience, you’ll need to know how to properly pack for an assignment. We’ve compiled this list of travel nurse packing hacks so you can make the most of your experience. 

Why Try Travel Nursing or Allied Travel

There are many benefits of becoming a healthcare traveler. Regarding professional development, nothing is stopping you from networking across all 50 states! Change up your assignments and have more control over your schedule. Plus, traveling allows you to scratch that travel itch. 

In your downtime, explore corners of the country you’d otherwise not have the time to see. You can learn to surf in California or tackle the Appalachian Trail. With each new assignment, you can experience small-town life, a ski resort town, or a fast-paced urban lifestyle. And there’s no better way to immerse yourself in different cultures than helping patients from various backgrounds. 

Travel Nurse Packing Hacks 

So you got one of your dream allied or travel nursing jobs—congratulations! The hard part of applying and interviewing is over. Now, all that’s left to do is figure out what to pack as a travel nurse. There’s no perfect travel nurse packing list for every travel nurse assignment because each job can take you to an entirely new city, state, or even country! However, wherever your next travel nursing assignment takes you, there are a few items you’ll always be glad to have with you. Below is a travel nurse packing guide that can help ensure you have everything you need at your new destination.

Documents and Paperwork

Having all the necessary paperwork and documents organized and accessible will make for a smooth transition in your new temporary home and at your new job. Be sure to pack the following in a secure but easy-to-access folder:

  • Nursing license 
  • Travel nursing contract 
  • Driver’s license/government ID
  • Registration
  • Social security card
  • A copy of the facility guidelines
  • Housing-related documents 
  • A printed travel nurse packing list (so you can consult it one last time before you leave)

Travel Nurse Essentials

While many items on your travel nurse packing list are necessary for every traveling professional, a few of them are more applicable to a travel nursing packing list. These items will make the exciting and rewarding — but often challenging — job of being a travel nurse more manageable:

  • A foot massager. After long shifts on your feet, this item will be a lifesaver.
  • Sleep mask and ear plugs. These are especially useful if you work night shifts and sleep during the day.
  • An insulated beverage tumbler. To keep the drinks that keep you going hot or cold.
  • Quality nurse shoes. These should be washable, slip-resistant, and offer good arch support.

Personal Care Items

If you aren’t sure what to pack for travel nursing, just think about all the items that help you feel ready to take on the day and get ready for bed, such as:

  • Toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and moisturizer)
  • Oral hygiene products (toothbrush, toothpaste, floss)
  • Prescriptions or medications
  • Contact solution
  • Makeup and makeup remover
  • Deodorant
  • Shaving supplies
  • Hairbrush and comb
  • Nail clipper and nail file
  • Sunscreen


When it comes to electronics you may want for work and recreation, there are several gadgets to consider putting on your travel nursing packing list:

  • Phone charger
  • Laptop charger
  • Portable speakers
  • Laptop/iPad
  • Smartwatch + its charger

Comfort Items 

Being a nurse is one of the most important jobs in the world! It’s also one of the most emotionally and physically exhausting. Plus, it can come with homesickness. That’s why comforting personal items should always be a part of your travel nurse packing checklist, such as:

  • Photos of loved ones
  • Family recipes
  • Small heirloom items like a handkerchief or necklace
  • A house plant
  • Letters or postcards from family and friends

Travel Nurse Packing Tips and Tricks for Your Assignment

What is the difference between a seamless and stressful move? It all comes down to preparation. Use our 12 travel nurse packing hacks to ensure a smooth transition.

Research the Climate

The climate determines so much of what you pack in your suitcase. Don’t make any assumptions about the weather. For example, desert locales are stereotypically hot and dry but get cold at night. They can also experience rainy monsoon seasons. 

Double-check the predicted climate for the duration you will be at your location. Don’t get stuck shivering without a parka or caught in a thunderstorm without proper gear! 

To stay comfortable, be prepared for a variety of temperatures. But if you know you’ll only be somewhere in warmer weather, go ahead and eliminate an unnecessary jacket or two from your packing list.

Additionally, weather-related travel nursing tips for packing extend beyond clothing. You might need a snow shovel, a de-icer for cold winter mornings, sunscreen for sunny locales, or bug spray for humid environments. 

Research Your Housing

Next on our list of tips for packing, travel nurses should ask if the assignment provides housing or a housing stipend. If accommodations are not provided, set aside time to research and secure a temporary residence. 

If your job gives you housing, you’ll still need to explore the surrounding area to get a feel for the shops and activities within walking distance. Will the residence and surrounding amenities provide everything you need? 

Let’s say you’re accustomed to a big-screen TV, but your place doesn’t have one. It’s not worth the hassle of bringing your own or buying one to use for just a few months. 

The better solution is to pack your tablet or laptop or even rent a big-screen TV from a local furniture rental place so you don’t miss your favorite show. Get a detailed list of what your residence includes. If it doesn’t come with everything you need, pack it, rent it or go without. 

Sometimes, traveling nurses can find a creative way to ensure their favorite amenities are available. For example, if you love cycling but your location isn’t bike-friendly, leave your helmet at home and use a nearby gym with a stationary bike.

Travel Light

Make the journey easier by keeping your travel nursing bag light. Not only are lightweight bags easier to maneuver in transit – but packing less means you’ll have less stuff to keep track of! 

Realistically, you can get by on less than you think. These assignments are temporary, so you don’t need to bring your entire wardrobe or jewelry box. Just pack your favorite toiletries, entertainment must-haves, and necessary electronics. 

Clothing essentials include scrubs, loungewear for downtime, and a few nice outfits for exploring the town. Simplicity is key. Any essentials you forget can easily be accessed where you are going. 

Purchase smaller items on location instead of bringing them with you. As long as a pharmacy and grocery store are nearby, you’ll have access to everything you need without interrupting your routine. 

Bring Hard Copies

While veteran travel nurses may know how to pack, tips for new travel nurses shouldn’t ignore this easy-to-overlook task—don’t leave home without hard copies of the necessary documentation. In case of emergency (like a lost or stolen credit card), scan and print copies of your passport, credit card, driver’s license, and ID cards. Do the same for others traveling with you, including pets.

Having hard copies readily available is helpful if your assignment requires quick access to that information. And just in case technology fails, bring a copy (handwritten or printed out) of other crucial information like emergency contacts and passwords.

Add in Some Personal Touches

Just because you’re traveling doesn’t mean you have to forfeit the right to a cozy nest to call home. Personal touches to your home and temporary workspace may include framed photos of loved ones, meaningful art, desk knick-knacks, scented candles, and favorite mugs. 

Sure, they’re technically “nonessential,” but these personalizations make a huge difference mentally and emotionally. Comfort items help you relax and unwind at the end of the day and feel at peace in your new environment. It helps to have connections to home.

Use Packing Cubes to Maximize Space

Now, we’ll outline some organizational packing hacks. It helps to organize clothes, technology, and accessories in packing cubes in your suitcase. Packing cubes are individual square-shaped zipped bags. They maximize space because they fit together flexibly yet snugly in your suitcase.

Get a set of different colored cubes and designate a color for each type of clothing: one for shirts, one for pants, and one for scrubs. Or you could get a set of different-sized cubes. Putting clothes in these individual bags reduces the amount of loose items in your suitcase and makes it easy to quickly grab what you need. Plus, you can toss these fabric bags in the washing machine!

Prioritize Organization

Smart packing is organized packing — don’t throw unfolded clothes in a suitcase willy-nilly! Stuff socks in shoes and suitcase corners to save space. Roll dresses instead of folding them. Not only will it save space, but it also helps to keep them from getting wrinkled. 

Keep a packing list and check it off as you go. Remember, organization is not just for packing. Keep another list of things to do before you leave, noting essential deadlines, like when to send a housing deposit.

Pack a separate travel backpack with the essentials you’ll need before you arrive at your destination. Make sure it’s within airline regulations if you are flying. And when it comes to tips for travel nursing, a backpack for travel can double as the bag you bring to work. 

Use a Cosmetics Bag

A cosmetics bag is excellent for skincare and makeup on the go and functions perfectly for everyday storage of beauty and grooming products. It’s a travel bag you never have to unpack! Get a clear one if you want to quickly access what’s inside. Some cosmetic bags feature hooks to hang on a towel rack for easy bathroom storage. 

You’ll likely need more than one. Pack a separate cosmetic bag for use in transit if you have a long flight or car ride to your destination. Fill it with some essential first aid items, hand sanitizer, and other essentials to freshen up after a long journey. 

Make a List of What You Use Regularly 

If you feel overwhelmed by all the packing ahead of you, start by listing all the items you use and wear on a typical day. Envision your day from waking up in the morning to curling up in bed at night. This mental exercise will set you up for success on day one in your new place. It will ensure no miscellaneous item, like eye drops or a phone charger, gets left behind. 

We all have unique routines, hobbies, and must-haves, and this quick mental exercise will tailor your packing list to your precise needs. But to ensure you’re not packing too much, imagine you’re going camping. If you only had the bag on your back, what would you include on your travel nurse backpacking list?

Consider Compression Bags

Again, sometimes the tricks for how to pack as a travel nurse mirror camping hacks. Some campers use compression bags. These unique bags can make an entire sleeping bag fit into a suitcase with room to spare! 

They are the ultimate space saver — fill these plastic bags with clothes, then use the included mechanism to draw out all the excess air. Compression bags are a lifesaver for bulky winter clothes, towels, and bedding. Compression bags will save you the most space in your suitcase if all other hacks fail.

Clear, Plastic Travel Containers are Your Friend

Sometimes, our toiletry must-haves are too bulky to fit in a suitcase, like that unique hair product that doesn’t come in a travel-size version. Invest in small, clear, plastic travel-size containers for situations like this. Squeeze the amount you’ll need into a mini container and leave the full-size bottle at home. 

Put liquid soap, detangling spray, shampoo, face cream, vitamins, and supplements in these mini containers. Give them temporary labels using markers and masking tape.

Consider a Packing List Idea Generator for Inspiration 

Feeling brain-dead after a long shift? Or do you just need some extra help brainstorming what to bring? Here’s an excellent travel nurse packing hack — use a packing list idea generator to remind you of any item you might forget. 

Fill out your destination, length of stay, and who is traveling. While it may not be specifically tailored to travel nurses, an online packing generator will instantaneously create an extensive itemized list of clothing, electronics, documentation, and more. 

It’s perfect if your mental capacity is burned out; you’ll get the satisfaction of checking off items on a list without making it yourself! It will also generate a to-do list of tasks to complete before leaving the house, like paying bills.

Find Your Next Assignment with Triage Staffing

You’re set for takeoff now that you’ve perused our tricks for packing for travel nurses. And when you’re ready to find your next assignment, Triage Staffing is waiting in the wings to help. We are a medical staffing agency specializing in travel opportunities. 

Search travel nurse jobs by state and see the weekly gross pay upfront. Filter by shift type, schedule, and assignment length. Then, we’ll give you the scoop on traveling nurse requirements to help prepare you. 

Whether you want to try travel nursing for the first time or simply need a better way to find work, Triage Staffing is with you every step of the way. Happy trails on your next assignment!