Packing Lightly: 6 Travel Nurse Tips For Packing Lightly

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By Kevin Devoto

October 7, 2021



6 Travel Nurse Tips For Packing Lightly

It can be difficult to pack for extended trips, especially when you’re traveling for work rather than for vacation. Not only do you need everyday items such as clothes and toiletries, but you may also need cookware and even furniture. Here are six travel nurse tips for packing lightly for your next travel nurse assignment.

1. Use Combination Products

Products that combine two or more uses in one are particularly useful for reducing the number of things you need to pack. The most common combination products are personal care items and toiletries. For example, instead of packing separate sunscreen, you can pack SPF lip balm, foundation and moisturizer, and two-in-one shampoo and conditioner, so you only need to pack one bottle. Clothing and bags are also multi-tasking products. You should pack several pieces of light clothing that can be layered in cooler weather. Instead of small purses, backpacks, and cases, you can bring one medium-sized or large bag for everyday use.

2. Get Travel-size and Portable Items

You can use this strategy instead of or in conjunction with combination products. Travel-sized toiletries are sold at most stores and are useful if you’re flying or taking public transportation to your job destination rather than driving a personal vehicle. If you use items such as hair dryers, curling irons, or electric toothbrushes, look for portable versions of them, which are typically smaller and lighter than the regular versions.

3. Check Whether Bulky and Heavy Items Are Included In Your Housing

Many travel nursing employers are aware of the limitations associated with long-term work-related travel and so will work to accommodate you as best they can. Before you start packing, confirm with your employer what type of housing is included in your contract. Some companies provide corporate apartments, while others will reimburse you for temporary housing. Check with your employer what types of furniture, appliances, utensils and other amenities are provided, and then determine what else you need.

4. Research What’s Best to Purchase After Arrival

No matter how much is provided in your housing and how much you pack, you’re likely going to need to purchase at least one thing after you arrive at your destination. Food, cleaning products, and replacements for your travel-sized toiletries are the most common items you’ll need to purchase. If your mode of travel limits how much you can pack, you may need to plan to purchase items such as cooking utensils and hangers. Additionally, make sure you have refills on all prescription medications you’re taking so you can get them if you run out while you’re away from home.

5. Go Digital Where You Can

You need to carry all essential paperwork when you travel for work, including your government-issued ID, employment contract, and credit cards. You should also carry copies of documentation, such as your social security card and your nursing license. Aside from these, you should try to keep as many of your records, documentation and entertainment material confined to digital storage as you can. Carrying a laptop, an external hard drive, an e-reader or tablet, and a phone means a much lighter load than packing books, binders, and files. 

6. Only Pack Essentials

You may think packing essentials only applies to things you physically need to live and to do your job. While you need to prioritize personal care items, medications, and clothing, you should also pack to accommodate your mental and emotional needs. Since you’ll be away from home for several weeks at a time, you should bring some small items to combat homesickness, such as a knick-knack that reminds you of home or a framed photograph of loved ones. You should also pack one or two items to help you relax and feel calm, such as scented candles, sheet masks, a plush blanket, or your favorite sweatshirt. 


Remember, the things you need for work are important as a travel nurse, but you shouldn’t neglect your comfort either. Try to balance professional and personal items as best you can so you can stay healthy, happy, and able to do your job well.

If you are a new travel nurse or looking into becoming a travel nurse:

Travel Nurse Guide: Step-by-Step (now offered in a PDF Downloadable version!)

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