How to Plan An Epic Road Trip as a Travel Nurse

Medical Staffing Options

Part of the adventure of travel nursing is the ability to enjoy new sights and cities. Planning an epic road trip offers an easy opportunity for a mini-vacation before digging your heels in for a thirteen-week contract. Once you have ironed out the details of your travel nursing assignment with your recruiter, it’s time to determine how to get yourself to the next location.

Plot Your Assignment's Path 

A great plan is a key element of success, so nail down the logistics first. This way, you can arrive on time for your travel nursing assignment and fit in some extra fun beforehand. It is ideal to be present at least two days before your assignment begins to give yourself enough time to adjust. Start by finding out the total drive time from your initial to final destination on Google maps. From there, you can break up the drive into manageable chunks while zooming in on cities to stay in along the way. Here are some factors to consider:


  • The shorter the drive time per day, the more room you will have for spontaneous activities.
  • Be reasonable about how long you (and your potential driving buddy) can actually drive in one day. Extra time to sightsee is optional, but can make the drive feel less tedious.
  • For budgeting purposes, consider the expense of lodging. The average cost of a single room or home on Airbnb can range from $60 to $150 dollars a night. Hotels might be on the higher end of this range.
  • Stay with a friend or family if possible to save on lodging while spending time with loved ones.
  • You don’t have to take the most linear path if you have a little wiggle room. Plan for a small detour if it means you can stop by that national forest or waterfall you have been dying to see.
  • Check the weather ahead of time to know what to expect.


Safety First

Before you take off on your sojourn, give a little love to your vehicle. After all, you don’t want your trip to be riddled with preventable turbulence. A quick safety check should include:


  • A full car service: make sure your car is up to date on any oil changes, fluids, tire alignments, and filters. You want all blinkers, lights, and brakes to be fully functional as well.
  • Check the condition of your spare tire and jack. Alternatively, consider signing up with a roadside assistance agency like AAA and keep their information readily available.
  • Depending on the weather conditions, pack ice scrapers and tire chains if you will be driving through snow. You don’t want to be caught in a dangerous situation.
  • Pack a paper map in the event that the GPS fails.
  • Have a first aid kit ready with extra water and a flashlight for worst-case scenarios.


Plant Gems Along The Way

Logistics aside, the recipe for any epic road trip includes crispy snacks, beautiful sights, spontaneous adventures, a solid playlist, and maybe even meeting some cool new friends. Consider these ideas for things to see and do along the way:


  • National parks: For travel nurses who are nature lovers, visiting a national park is a relatively inexpensive way to get your fix of flora and fresh air. Camping is optional.
  • Fun eats: Explore the best and most interesting flavors along the road to reward yourself for a long day of driving.
  • Connoisseur of fine wine and spirits? Depending on where you are in the country, there are various wineries and distilleries to stop by and enjoy the finer things in life.


Pack The Essentials

Your personal road trip survival kit should include plenty of healthy snacks, toiletries, and comfort-boosting items. This list could include: 


  • Sunglasses and glasses for driving.
  • Breathable and flexible clothing, including comfortable sneakers.
  • Lotion with sunscreen. Although you are inside the car, you are still getting a considerable amount of UV exposure. In the same vein, grab good chapstick with SPF. Travel tends to exacerbate chapped lips—especially with the air conditioning running for long hours.
  • Reusable water bottles.
  • Car phone chargers and auxiliary cords if you don’t have Bluetooth.
  • A mini-cooler that is within arm’s reach. Keep fresh healthier options on hand to avoid gorging on overly processed, high-sugar snacks.
  • A small blanket and pillow for comfort and taking short breaks.
  • Any self-care items to help you unwind such as a yoga block, a lacrosse ball, or a small foam roller to relieve tension in your hip flexors and neck. 
  • Extra masks, wipes for cleaning spills, and small bags to collect your trash. 

Keep Yourself Entertained

Sometimes, long drives can be a time of deep contemplation and peaceful daydreaming. However, eight hours of gray pavement might leave you seeking some stimulation. There are plenty of options to keep you lively and focused on the road such as listening to podcasts, audiobooks, and music. Some ways to stay entertained include:


  • Spotify and Itunes. For a small price, these services offer access to a huge selection of popular podcasts and artists. You can learn about a new topic, dive into a true crime mystery, or laugh along with your favorite comedian.
  • Audibooks can be downloaded for free through public library systems, or through a paid service like Audible.
  • Go old school and turn on the radio. You never know what you’re going to get and it will keep you on your toes.
  • Play car games if you have a buddy with you.
  • Call a friend and catch up. 


Whether it’s three hours of Justin Bieber’s top hits or the pristine silence of the drive whistling around you, there is pleasure to be found in every moment of the journey. Remember that this road trip is only the beginning of your travel nursing adventure and there is more to look forward to during the rest of your assignment. If you’re still looking for your next position, check out our job board.




Author bio: Midge Lee is a registered nurse with six years of experience in burn, trauma, emergency medicine, and intensive care. She has also dabbled in travel nursing and home health. Midge enjoys writing about a range of topics—from self-care and wellness to hospital haikus.


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