One of the best aspects of being a travel nurse is the ability to choose when and for how long you have time off. Whether you take a tropical vacation, plan an awesome road trip to your next assignment, or have a stay-cation (vacation without leaving home), there is some advanced planning required.
Nursing burnout is becoming a prevalent problem in the healthcare profession. Travel nursing allows you to take time for yourself and take a break from work. Nurses spend countless hours providing and caring for others. It’s important to take some time for self care to preserve your ability to be compassionate and empathetic. No matter what you do during your time off, treat yo’ self with something special
Enjoying Time in between Travel Nurse Assignments
Take a vacation! Traveling between assignments is a great opportunity to unwind and explore the world. Being able to dictate your time off is a huge perk of travel nursing. You’ll need to save some money, but it’s definitely possible to take a trip on a budget. Explore more of the US or go international! Take yourself to a nice restaurant, take a long trek, or get a massage during your vacation for a mental health boost!
Plan a cheap international getaway
There are many countries that you can travel to that are affordable to stay and play. Check out Southeast Asia, Central America, SouthAmerica, and Eastern Europe for vacation on a budget. International flights are often equal in price or even slightly less expensive (per mile) than flying US domestic. My favorite flight booking website is SkyScanner. Make sure to search flights in private or incognito tab to avoid price increases as a result of IP address tracking (yes this is real thing!). I frequently use Booking.com to find great deals on hotels and apartments. You can join Facebook groups based on travel interests for ideas and advice on taking an economic holiday! Otherwise you could try to sign up to Scott’s Cheap Flights for great deals in your inbox.
Give your time to charity or do a medical trip
Many travel nurses want to do medical trips abroad during their time off. This is a selfless act and provides an opportunity to help people with some extreme needs while traveling in other countries. This is a great alternative to a traditional vacation, but may prove to be more costly. There are often fundraising efforts, in addition to self pay for travel, that can be cumbersome and make it difficult to complete one of these trips. This option is totally possible with the right money saving technique and I highly encourage you to investigate it if you are interested!
Staying in your area for a vacation is an opportune time to volunteer and give back to your local community. Donating your time to a homeless shelter to serve food, or to an animal adoption agency can be rewarding and looks great on a resume!
Take a Road Trip
Road trips are an affordable option and perfect for those with a fear of flying. Explore a location close by, or take a little extra time to get to your next travel nurse location and stop at some cool places along the way. Weather permitting, National Parks in the US are perfect spots to explore the beauty of the US. Use apps like Roadrippers or GyPSy Guide to enhance your experiences and make the most of your trip!
Take a stay-cation or go home and visit family
A stay-cation is always nice. This is a perfect choice if you don’t want to take more than a week off and are planning on staying at your current travel nursing location. Take your time off to get chores done, make any necessary home repairs, get caught up on school work, or just relax and sleep. You can take the time to do things for yourself that will leave you feeling accomplished and less stressed. It’s also a great time to invite friends from home out to visit since you will be available and free to spend time with them.
Some travel nurses go back to their home area to see family and friends during the time off in between assignments. You will have to pay for travel costs but can stay with family or friends for free to save some money. You can work Per Diem at your home hospital, but will most likelyhave to had this set up before leaving that job for your current travel nursing assignment. Working Per Diem provides some income during your time off and still allows you to dictate your schedule. Additionally, returning home and working Per Diem fulfills some of the permanent tax home requirements.
Remember to give some thought to your housing situation and how you will manage it during your time off.
Logistics of Travel Nursing Time Off
Unfortunately, travel nurses do not get paid time off. It is important to start budgeting and planning for time off at the beginning of your assignment. You have to think about health insurance, income, and housing, as well as your next assignment. Whether you are planning on checking out another area after your assignment or if you are going to extend in your current location, both options have obstacles.
Extending an assignment is an easy option but still comes with some complications. If you have taken agency provided housing, they may not allow you to live their during your break, or you may have to pay out of pocket for a period of time while you are actively working in an assignment. If you have found your own housing, keep in mind that you will still need to pay rent during your time off.
BONUS TIP: Pet care can be a challenge during time off, if you are in an area where you don’t know many people. If you are staying in your location, try to find someone to care for your animals as early as possible in your assignment. You will grow to trust them more over time. When you are ready to travel you will feel more comfortable if you are leaving your animal in the hands of someone who is familiar.
If you know you want to extend, let the facility know early and feel them out for this option. Some travel nurse assignments will not offer an extension if they become fully staffed while you are working there. It’s better to find this out in advance if you are planning on trying to stayin the same area.
Your Next Travel Nursing Assignment
Start thinking about finding your next travel nursing assignment shortly after you begin the current one.
Travel nurses that are planning on finding another destination at the completion of their contract should start preparing for that no later than half way through their current job. If you plan on taking a vacation, you need to consider if you will be available for phone or video interviews during that time. If you are going to a remote area with the possibility of little cell phone service, it’s best to complete as much as possible for your next assignment before you depart. Explore housing options, complete any on-boarding or medical tests (most jobs need the medical within 30 days of employment), and make sure you are clear with your recruiter if you may not be reachable for a period of time. You want to be able to enjoy yourself on vacation, be free,and not be stressed about finding your next job.
Proper planning and preparation will help you maximize your time off in-between travel nurse assignments. Being able to choose when you do or do not want to work is one of the biggest benefits in travel nursing. It’s certainly possible to work back to back assignments, but I recommend taking at least 30 days off per year to prevent burnout and ensure your mental health stays intact 😊
Cheers to safe travels and self- care!