Top 7 Things on a Traveling Nurse Packing Checklist

Traveling around the country to various nursing assignments can be exciting, but it also takes a lot of planning and condensing your items. You can’t take an entire apartment with you when you are on a traveling nursing assignment. You also don’t want to purchase all new items every time you pack up and change posts.

Of course, simple and small items are easy to replace. In most of your locations, it would be easy to get a stick of deodorant or a new toothbrush, but other items will not be as easy to replace. Some items aren’t worth the cost of moving. Here is a list of the items you will most want to have on hand as you take up your new assignment.


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Clothing

Of course, you won’t be able to do a lot without an assortment of clothes. While you can buy items at your location, you won’t want to spend a lot on clothing each time you move. At the same time, you won’t want to pack a lot of excess clothing that will need to be lugged around. Instead, a capsule style wardrobe is a great way to have plenty of choices without packing a ton.

Start with casual basics: Choose shirts, pants, skirts and shorts that coordinate in a color pallette and align with your personal style. Add items like a cardigan, kimono, cami or scarf to help change up the outfit with layers. Just and handful of items can make numerous outfits when paired differently. You will also need scrubs, but only take a few to last for the work week because you will also be doing laundry. You may need a few extra items if you enjoy specific activities, like going to the gym or hiking. Check on the weather expectations for your location during the time period you plan on working there and adjust your wardrobe accordingly.

Reduce Your Shoes: Don’t take all the pairs you want to take, instead narrow your selection to only the ones that will work best paired with your limited wardrobe. Choose a comfortable work pair, a dress pair and a casual pair.

Take a small stock of accessories: Jewelry, sunglasses, headbands, hats, watches, purses and more should be limited down to a handful that will work with your outfits.

When it comes to a traveling wardrobe, limiting your selection to a coordinating closet will not only help cut down on your packing amount—it will make your daily decisions easier. When you need to choose an outfit, you will be able to make a quick decision. Since all of your items work together, you won’t spend a lot of time trying to figure out what works with what. Only take the items that you feel your very best in and fit you perfectly. This will help reduce your decision fatigue while on the job.


Electronics

Next up is going to be your most important electronics. If you are a traveling nurse, you will need to think about taking your laptop, tablet, phone, and more. Try to pare down your electronics, since they are touchy and expensive to replace if anything happens to them.

  • Choose bags that are waterproof and padded so they travel well (a multi-purpose bag that holds more than one device might be ideal)
  • Do not forget to take chargers
  • Backup your systems and information before you leave
  • Look into cloud storage options to back up any work or data you want to keep while you are gone
  • Take portable chargers if you are making a drive–you can even get a bigger car charger that will allow regular plugs in case you want to use a laptop while taking a break from the drive.

Take as few devices as feasible. Some traveling nurses prefer to buy second hand and others choose to rent bigger electronics, like TVs or DVD players to cut down on packing. Electronic devices are fragile and will be impacted by changes in temperature–so make sure they aren’t left in a hot car or tossed in with regular luggage.


Important Documents

Possibly the most important items to remember are the ones that will be hard to get when you are out of town. Important documents can be quite the hassle to forget. A small, fireproof safe might be helpful for keeping these items secure wherever you stay.

  • Driver’s License
  • Passport (if going out of the country during your stay)
  • Social security card
  • Insurance documents
  • Any roadside assistance information
  • Copy of your nursing license and certification
  • A list of emergency phone numbers (next of kin, doctor, dentist, insurance, etc.)

Not only should you take the important documents, but you also want to have digital copies on at least one of your devices as a backup. If you do decide to get cloud storage, back your documents up there as well. You will want to double-check your debit and credit cards before leaving—and notify the bank of your new location so they don’t suspect fraud when they see charges coming from an unusual place.


Household Items

Traveling nurses might need to take a variety of household items to furnish or stock their new (temporary) home. It can really help to choose basic solid colors that will be easily matched if something is broken, damaged or lost. If you need furniture, it might be best to rent it. For the rest of the household, you might need items like:

  • Dishes
  • Cooking pots and pans
  • Cooking utensils
  • Mugs and glasses
  • Travel mugs
  • Flatware
  • Dish towels
  • Bath towels
  • Sheets and blankets
  • Pillows and pillowcases

Try to limit your amounts to one or two of each item, since you will be able to do dishes and laundry at your location. The more durable your items, the easier it will be to haul them without worry about breaking them. Dorm-style items are often made to be conveniently compact and inexpensive.


Personal Items

Think about what really makes you feel like you are home. It may be a favorite mug or a family picture. You might release stress by writing in a journal or love a fresh herb on the windowsill. Taking a few personal things can make a place feel more like home. You want to feel connected to those you love and the place you feel most welcome while you adjust to the new place.

Music is soothing, mood-setting and nostalgic. When you are feeling strange or uncomfortable, play your favorite songs to relax. Make sure those songs are on your devices and backed up on the cloud. Take earbuds in case you are in a place (like an airplane or apartment) where you can’t listen with speakers. A few good books on your device (especially audible books) can also be great for when you have downtime or need some extra distraction.


Pet Supplies

Do you have a furry, scaled or feathered friend that keeps you company? You might be taking a pet with you on your trip. Before leaving, you will want to remember supplies including:

  • Food
  • Cages, crates, tanks or beds
  • Medications (check with your vet before leaving to make sure your pet up up-to-date on necessary vaccinations for your new location before leaving)
  • Toys
  • Clean-up bags, cat litter, wood chips, stain removal spray and other items you might need for cleaning up after your pet
  • Dishes for food and water
  • Copies of your pet’s vaccination and registration records in case of emergency
  • Check to see what rules apply if traveling by plane, bus or train.

Make sure your pet is microchipped and take a few focused pictures of your pet from several angles just in case something happens and your pet is lost. A pet can be a great way to wind down at the end of the day and relax after a long day of work.


Toiletries

You will be able to purchase smaller items once you arrive. Check to see what stores will be in the area before you leave. Stock up on any items that might be hard to get. Take a small supply to get you through the first week or so. This will give you time to settle in before making a big shopping trip.

  • Hair care items
  • Toothbrush, floss, mouthwash and toothpaste
  • Makeup
  • Facial and body lotions
  • Facial and body washes
  • Hair dryer
  • Toilet paper
  • Paper towels
  • Monthly cycle items
  • Pain relievers
  • Vitamins or medications
  • Hand soap
  • Tweezers
  • Nail Clippers
  • Contact lens solution
  • Razors and shaving cream
  • Perfume
  • Laundry Detergent
  • Dish soap

Having even a few of your normal personal care routine items will help you feel at home faster. This will allow you to settle in as soon as you can, feeling a sense of normality. Smells and the feel of products (like hand soap, laundry detergent and hair supplies) can alter how a place to feel more or less like home.


This nurse packing list is designed to help make your transition smoother. As you pack, mark your boxes clearly with the contents, trying to keep similar items together. When you arrive, put on your favorite music, unpack immediately and get organized. The faster you get settled, the faster you will be prepared to work and enjoy your assignment. You want a smooth and low stress trip.

Feeling more prepared? Join our Inspired Traveler Facebook Group to learn more! There you can share photos and check out travel resources.

➡ We would love to hear from you. Do you have any great tips for packing as a traveling nurse?

Share them in the comments below!


BONUS: Need a complete list around every time you pack?
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