Kyle Leffel
Kyle Leffel
April 30, 2016 - 6 min read

Hidden Costs in Travel Nursing – Tips on How to Avoid Them

We have all heard that within travel nursing there is some serious money to be made. Not only do you make good money but you also get paid to travel and have fun. Sounds like an easy gig…right? Well it’s not quite that simple.

While the potential to make a lot of money is there, it is important to be aware for the hidden costs. For example, most travel nursing companies tell you they will reimburse you for getting your nursing license in each state. What they don’t tell you is that you will not get reimbursed for any additional costs it takes in getting your license.

I had to pay an additional charge for a company to electronically verify and send my nursing credentials to each state I was applying to which was an additional $30 for each state, on top of the license and the FBI finger print background check. But rest assured my fellow nurses and follow my tips that I have laid out for you and hopefully you will dodge past a lot of those hidden costs.

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#1 – Plan ahead

My wife and I would start planning our trip about a month in advance. That is because we brought with us two dogs, a cat, and all of our personal belongings. So imagine trying to drive across country from Indianapolis, Indiana to Seattle, Washington with all of that in one car.

Yeah, it was fun at first but because we planned ahead we saved a lot of money and many headaches down the road. I knew some nurses that would just drive the whole distance in a night or two. But unfortunately we couldn’t do that nor did we want to. We would take about a week to travel in between our assignments. Split the days up and see all the local sites in between. Just watch out for souvenir costs.

It is easy to spend a lot of money on souvenirs. Instead, consider taking your camera and document your travels by taking pictures. It’s free and it lasts a whole lot longer than a corny t-shirt. While driving on the road we would pack lunches to eat, so we wouldn’t have to stop and pay for fast food. Beware of gas costs! Just because the travel nursing companies tell you they pay for your gas mileage, doesn’t mean you get that money up front.

They will usually reimburse you the money on your first pay check earned on your assignment. So to save money at the gas pump, we would enroll in gas reward cards. We would also go online and calculate the drive miles and budget for gas. We would use applications on our Smartphone to help us locate the cheapest gas.

Get more details on how reimbursements work – speak to a staffing agent today.

#2 – Sleep Happy

Travel nurse costWhen it came time for us to stop and find lodging for the night we would not stay at your typical hotel or bed and breakfast. Remember you do not typically get reimbursed for staying at places in between contracts. So to keep costs down we would stay at KOA campsites. They are located all over the country and are about half the price of an expensive hotel room. We would stay in their little cabins with bunk beds.

They are a nice inexpensive place to stay, and all you have to do is supply your own sheets and pillows. Not to mention you can cook outside on your own grill. If grilling is not something you enjoy, you can always order food from the KOA. They supply all the same amenities as a hotel but for half the price.

When it comes time to finding a place to stay during your assignment most nurses take what’s called the housing stipend option. This is where you can make a couple extra hundred bucks a month. The housing stipend is where the travel nursing company gives you the money that they would pay to put you in a one bedroom, fully furnished apartment. That’s utilities and everything all included. FYI, cable and internet are not part of the utilities and comes out of your own pocket. So make sure you follow tip #1.

A typical nursing assignment is for three months and to be totally honest with you, it is next near impossible to find a nice fully furnished one bedroom apartment with utilities included, is pet friendly, and is in a safe area all for 3 months at a cheap price. Save yourself the headache and hours calling places. For your first assignment I would highly recommend letting the travel nursing company find your housing. That way you can learn what works best for you, and what you can learn to live without. If you choose to take the housing stipend and find your housing all by yourself, take my next tip to heart.

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#3 – Make friends

While you travel from state to state you will meet so many travel nurses and new people. Each person has a different trick or trade up their sleeves to help you save money. One tip I picked up was instead of paying for a cable bill each month; just pay for good internet so you can utilizes all the free TV and movies apps online. While I was utilizing tip #1 and #2, I would talk to my friends and family that lived in the states I was traveling to.

Sometimes they would offer a place to sleep for free, or they would go and check out an apartment complex for my wife and I. They would quickly let us know if we were walking into a bad living situation or not. Sometimes they could inform us of places we could stay for a great price. Friends can also share with you the best local site attractions, places to eat and provide a great friendship. If you make some friends at work you could start a car pool in order to save some gas money.

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#4 – Know your costs of living

Like I mentioned before, when you take the housing stipend option you are basically taking liability to find your own place to live for three months, or for the extent of your contract. Don’t wait and procrastinate.

Plan ahead and utilize my other tips I mentioned to help find the best, safe and secure place to live. Figure out how much your utilities are going to cost and then if you find an apartment to your liking, your next step is to furnish it. Make sure the apartment comes with a washer and dryer otherwise you are going to be stuck looking for the local laundry mat. Furniture can be expensive to rent, especially if you have pets.

They always add on an extra pet fee or they will not rent to you. Instead of renting a whole set of furniture we would only get what we needed. Usually we would just rent a couch, dresser, bed and a TV.  Often times we would go to the local thrift stores and find our kitchen items such as plates, silverware and such, sometimes they were brand new items and only cost a couple bucks. We lived simple and if we needed anything else, we would stroll over to the local thrift store to find something. Remember that when you take the housing stipend, any extra money you don’t use is yours to keep.

Then when we were done with everything we would send it all back and move on. Key point is to know your costs of living in advance!

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#5 – Be happy and be healthy

This is my last tip, but it was our most important rule while we traveling. We always invested in a gym membership wherever we worked. If you tell them up front you are a travel nurse and will only be there for 3 months, they almost always give you a discount.

It’s very important to always be happy no matter where you are located. If you become unhappy at your current assignment, talk with your company recruiter about your likes and dislikes with that location. Then start planning your next adventure. Always remember that no matter the cost or the distance we travel as a nurse, you have a large support group by your side.

It can be with your family, travel company, Facebook or even a travel nurse forum. Just remember that there is always a nurse somewhere who has been in the same situation you are in. We are a growing family and we are always here to help each other out. We are nurses and we can handle anything.

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