My husband Skyler and I began travel nursing solely for the travel. We knew upfront that the way we planned to do things wouldn’t necessarily be aligned with maximizing income. Our top priority was to see our beautiful country and get paid to do it! What a cool, once-in-a-lifetime type of opportunity, right?!
Skyler and I have now been to 46 states in five years. No, we haven’t had 46 separate assignments, but we have taken the time to enjoy our road trips to and from assignments, and we have done lots of exploring in and around our new “homes” on each and every assignment.
The first way we make sure to get as much out of our adventures as possible is to take our time going to and from assignments. Now, that isn’t always possible of course. There have certainly been times when we had to book it to get from point A to point B in time for a new start date, but our general rule of thumb was to give ourselves at least a couple extra days in between to site-see along the way.
I LOVE road tripping! I typically plug in our start and end points into Mapquest, check out the route, figure out convenient stopping points to break up the drive, and then start filling in fun things to see and do along the way.
On our very first road trip from Missouri to California we stopped at The Big Texan in Amarillo, Texas (home of the 72oz steak challenge). Skyler chickened out on the challenge but it was a neat stop nonetheless.
Our next stop was a day in Albuquerque, New Mexico where we explored Old Town and rode the 2.7 mile Sandia Peak Aerial Tram at sunset, experiencing some breathtaking views.
From there we stopped off in Phoenix, Arizona where we spent a couple of days golfing and relaxing by the pool.
Then, before making the final trek to Los Angeles we stopped off in San Diego to see our friends and be with them the night their son was born. We did all of that in less than a week, and got to see and do so much along the way. It was the perfect way to kick off our travel nursing adventures.
On our way to Seattle we spent some time checking out Portland, Oregon, including Voodoo Doughnuts. On our way from Washington back to Missouri we stopped at the Little Bighorn Battlefield in Montana, as well as Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse in South Dakota. We also happened to be driving through during the Sturgis bike rally, so that was an experience all in itself.
As you can see, we really try to make the most of our travels to and from assignments. I would say we try to site see on at least half of our road trips. The other half we end up being in a hurry or on a budget crunch so just get there as quickly as possible. Just like with anything in life, it’s all about balance.
We also like making the most of our new surroundings while on assignment with mini vacations and day trips. Once we know where we are going I get busy researching the entire surrounding area and start planning our next adventure.
We try to see and do a wide variety of things. We take city tours, visit museums, go to various sporting events, try out raved restaurants, hit up the popular and even the less known sites, festivals, markets, etc. We like to really feel like we are getting a good idea of what life is like in a particular area.
One thing to note with all of this gallivanting around the country is that it definitely is not cheap. We accepted before we ever started that we weren’t going to get rich off of travel nursing. We wanted the adventure and excitement of it all and that, of course, takes money. You have to be smart about it so you don’t go backwards financially while you are traveling.
We have a working budget that I keep saved in an Excel spreadsheet. When I plan activities I try to spread them out based on expense. If we have a five day trip planned to see and do as much as possible in NYC one week, then the next couple of weeks we might take it easy by doing low budget or free things.
The average 13 week assignment flies by much faster than you might anticipate, especially if you are living it up like we do. I recommend making a list of your must see places, another for places that you would love to see if it works out, and one list of places that sound interesting but you’re kind of indifferent to then try to plan it out as best as possible.
Schedule the bigger, more expensive road trips that are on your must list first. Then, based on time availability and your budget, start fitting in the other things that you want to do.
I write all of the details into my planner. As soon as we get his schedule I write it into my planner. Then I find where he has several chunks of days off together and write in those bigger trips and must do’s and of course anything that is date/time specific. I also include how much I anticipate it to cost (including food, lodging, gas, entertainment, etc.).
After I schedule our must see’s, I write a list of those things that sound neat but we aren’t going to worry one way or the other if we make it or not. It’s nice to have options if you wind up having a day where you want to do something but don’t have anything planned. Often times they wind up being an unexpected awesome day!
However you go about planning things, just make sure that you live up your time as a travel nurse and get the most out of the experience. Not many people are as blessed as those of us that get to travel for a living so we owe it to ourselves to have as many awesome experiences as possible! Ask your new co-workers what they recommend doing, do your homework, and get to exploring!
By Kelli Leach
Kelli Leach and her husband Skyler have been traveling since July 2010. Skyler is a CVICU RN and Kelli is a writer. They are from Missouri and had a baby boy in November 2013 so they are now a traveling family of 3! Connect with Kelli on Facebook.