The Practical Guide to Travel Nursing With Your Family

June 21st, 2019

Travel nursing can be an awesome career opportunity, but many nurses who are married and/or have kids hesitate to try it out or discount it all together. Leigh Ann from thewhatnextmom.com tells us that there’s a good reason for this: it’s not easy. At all. Travel nursing can be a great way to get more experience, earn more money, and see new places. It’s not always as amazing as it sounds, but it can be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many. Can you make it as a travel nurse family? Read more from Leigh Ann to decide for yourself!

Our travel nurse family.

Last year, we decided to uproot our family of three and embark on a travel nursing adventure. There were a lot of factors that went into our decision. We were burnt out on jobs and home ownership. We were craving new scenery and opportunity. Maybe the two of us were having a bit of an early midlife crisis together? Either way, we decided to leave all known stability and support systems and move far, far away for a really unstable career. Crazy, right? Yeah, pretty much.

Not impossible, though! For the determined and extremely flexible souls out there, it’s entirely possible. Here are some major factors to consider when deciding if the travel nurse life is right for your family.

Childcare and household management.

This may seem like an obvious one, but who is going to take care of the kid(s)? Ideally, the non-nurse spouse or partner would stay home with the kids while on assignment. Perhaps one spouse works from home. Perhaps he or she becomes the stay-at-home parent, as I did. For the first time since age 16, I have the opportunity to be “unemployed,” and it’s working out well for us. I took a leave of absence from teaching to become our household’s manager on the road. I care for our toddler while my husband works. Our housing and moving logistics fall to me, as well as our finances and a lot of the paperwork for each agency job. I’m the resident adventure planner and travel agent. I find time to cook and clean some things every once in awhile too.

Childcare woes.

As a couple, we are fiercely protective of our time together. One might say we are a little selfish about it, and that’s probably fair. Maybe it’s because we had our child nine years into our marriage, so she’s definitely a newcomer to this relationship. Maybe it’s because it’s been “Ethan and Leigh Ann” for more than half our lives, so we don’t know any better. Yeah, our first date was the sophomore homecoming dance… Maybe we just really like each other and our kid is kind of stressful. Whatever it is, we get really, really grumpy when we don’t get to have date nights. Moving away from family and friends who were willing and eager to babysit? Not cool. Totally our choice, and a price we accepted, but it’s been a struggle.

If you are going to leave a support system to begin travel nursing with kids, be sure to consider this aspect.

Childcare resources:

Drop-in daycares. Do a quick Google search for drop-in daycares in your destination city. Some have them, some don’t. We have enjoyed using KidsPark, which has several locations in the U.S. I find that these are a little few and far between, though, especially if you travel to a smaller city.

Urban Sitter. This is an app and website that offers babysitters and nannies based on personal recommendations from parents in your city. Kind of like Yelp for childcare? The site/app allows you to browse profiles of sitters and read reviews from real parents. You can view their experience, background check status, pay rates and response times. It’s a very user-friendly option if available in your city. Care.com is another well known service for connecting with sitters and nannies.

On the bright side…

This is pretty much the only way I could leave my job to stay home with our child. Short of moving to a tiny apartment in a bad part of town, we could not have afforded a single income. As the stay-at-home spouse, I can honestly say that all this madness has been worth it. I get frustrated and exhausted and burnt out, like any other stay-at-home parent, but I have been gifted a year to focus on my daughter, my marriage, and my own wellness. The days still feel too short and the to-do list still feels miles too long, but I also feel more balanced than I have ever before. Going home means I have to return to the workforce, so while I crave the support of willing family and friends, I will also miss the freedom of being able to stay home.

Housing.

You can almost certainly expect to have a harder time finding housing, and it won’t be cheap. We have to find places that are at least two bedrooms, which is not super common for short-term housing. There seem to be a lot of studios, rooms for rent, and one bedroom units available on various travel nurse housing sites. Two+ bedrooms? Not so much. We have managed to find housing each time, but we have paid more than we wanted on a few occasions.

Some families choose to live the RV life. We considered it, but we couldn’t justify the expense of purchasing one when we only intended to travel for about a year. It can be a good option for some, though. It’s especially worth considering if you already have a vehicle capable of towing an RV, which we did not.

Another option is to take the housing provided by your travel nurse agency. Your mileage may vary on this: some companies offer better housing than others. A lot of the time, you end up with less take-home pay with company housing because you lose the tax-free benefits of the housing stipend. The math has never worked out for us in favor of company housing.

My top resources for finding housing:

  • Airbnb. This has been my number one choice for housing. There are a lot of housing scams out there, so going through a reputable company like Airbnb keeps me feeling secure. We have never had a bad experience in over five years of using the service.
  • FurnishedFinder.com
  • Facebook groups for travel nurse housing. Most of these are closed groups, which means you have to request to join. Search for Travel Nurse Housing or Gypsy Nurse Housing.

Transportation and Moving Logistics.

Traveling with a family means you have to consider the quantity of stuff you’ll be bringing. Does everyone get a tote of clothes and personal items? Will those totes fit in your vehicle? Do you want/need to take larger items with you? Do you need space for toys? A crib? Our little Ford Escape was definitely not big enough to haul everything we wanted to bring with, so we’ve had to get creative. Here are the different ways we’ve tackled the moving process:

U-Haul was our first choice. We had a trailer hitch installed and then rented a 4×8 trailer for the initial move.

We purchased a cargo trailer but then sold it after one move because it was a bit too big for our vehicle. The good news is that cargo trailers tend to hold their resale value extremely well, so our purchase ended up being a wash.

Lastly, we went on a major minimizing spree and outfitted our car with a rooftop cargo box and a rear cargo basket. It was a super tight fit, but we made it work. The rooftop box is definitely my favorite solution because we can use it for shorter trips, like our camping excursion to Joshua Tree.

Travel nurse agencies will reimburse you for some travel expenses, but typically it’s not enough to cover the full cost of the move. Be sure to factor that in when you are deciding if this is the life for you.

Is it worth it?

Our goal for this year was to embark on an adventure together, and we have certainly accomplished that. My husband and I have always said that our relationship works best when we have a project to work on together, and this has certainly fit the bill. It has not been easy, but let’s be honest. Life back at home wasn’t easy either. The challenges were different, maybe a bit less extreme and more mundane, but they were still plentiful.

So yes, for us it has been worth it. Will it be worth it for you? That’s a question you’ll have to tackle together with your family.