Turn Your Job Into A Vacation: Travel Nursing 101

With a traditional job, vacations come every year or so. However, with traveling nurse jobs, vacations can happen more frequently. Because travel nurses work in a variety of places, moving from assignment to assignment, vacations are sometimes more difficult because they can impact such things as insurance or might not be near typical vacation spots. That said, it is easy enough to work vacations into your job and do so in a way that they can sometimes be free–or vastly reduced in price.

1. Know The Process

Understanding the process is simply understanding that your overall work schedule is determined by the length of your assignment. Travel nurses typically work an assignment for 13 weeks. However, assignments can last as long as 26 weeks, or they might be as short as two months.

Because of the nature of your job, you will be working regularly during your assignment, and you will not be able to take enough time off during an assignment to call it a vacation. To actually enjoy a vacation, you need to take time off between assignments. Enjoying quality time between assignments requires both planning and budgeting.

2. Know Your Assignment Areas

The key to any great vacation is to know where your current or upcoming assignment areas are in relation to relaxing vacation spots. Since you can usually select your assignment destination, you should pick at least one place during the year that is relatively near a relaxing place worthy of a vacation. In regards to your current assignment, you can plan your vacation to follow it. In regards to an upcoming assignment, you can plan your vacation either before or after it.

Of course, some travel reimbursements require you to return home in order to receive the full reimbursement. In this case, you need to plan your vacation spots between your assignment location and your hub destination, which is typically your home. In this instance, you can plan to take a vacation on your way home. Additionally, if your hospital processes reimbursements in a timely fashion, you can take your vacation after you receive your reimbursement and then book your reservations prior to your upcoming assignment.

3. Plan

Once you know your assignment areas, planning is the key for any road-weary travel nurse, and you should plan the length of the vacation according to your financial and personal needs. The vacations come in three different types.

– weekend or short stays

– typical

– stopovers

Weekend Stays

For the average worker, weekend vacations are just that–time taken during a weekend to travel somewhere nearby and enjoy getting away for a couple days. However, one of the many enjoyable perks of traveling nurse jobs is that weekend vacations are different–and more enjoyable.

First, you want to plan a three-day stay near your current or upcoming work assignment. However, you should plan your stay to begin on Wednesday. Arriving on Wednesday is the key to having a quality weekend stay. Once you arrive and are settled, you now have Wednesday night to unwind and go through the initial decompression phase. Once you have decompressed, you have Thursday, Friday, and Saturday to relax before setting out on Sunday for your assignment.

Short stays are similar to weekenders. The key, again, is to ensure you always arrive during the week. Doing so allows you to have multiple weekdays in addition to Friday and Saturday to relax.

Typical Vacations

Typical vacations or extended vacations are vacations that last at least two weeks. These are easier to plan as you simply need to select your nearby destination and plan your arrival. Once your two-week vacation is over, you can then proceed to your next assignment.


The stopover is one of the best vacations for any travel nurse as it allows you to maintain concurrent work assignments without interrupting your work schedule. The key to this type of vacation is planning work assignments that are somewhat distant from one another.

During the travel time between assignments, you should plan to stop in places along the way and enjoy at least one or two full days relaxing and enjoying the area. For instance, if you are traveling from California to Texas, you might stop in Arizona and enjoy Flagstaff for a Tuesday night and Wednesday before resuming your travel on Thursday. Typically, if you have your travel routes planned, you can enjoy at least two stops between assignments.

4. Insurance Against Interruptions

Of course, any type of vacation could possibly be interrupted in such a way that you would like to simply postpone it until the end of the next assignment. For instance, if a storm breaks across the entire southern coast, you might find staying in a hotel untenable.

In this situation, it is best to have travel insurance to reimburse you for any reservation fees you might have made. Of course, as with any insurance, you will need to review the particular stipulations regarding covered events. In any case, travel insurance is important if you spend 13 weeks looking forward to a vacation only to have it squashed by events beyond your control.

5. Insurance Between Assignments

For your own personal health, it is important to remain on your healthcare provider’s plan as long as possible. Many plans offer continuation of coverage as long as you are not vacationing for longer than 30 days between assignments. Other plans, however, cover your health only while you are on assignment.

In the former case, you will want to keep vacations to fewer than 30 days. For the second case, you will want to obtain bridge insurance, which will provide you temporary insurance between assignments.

6. Saving For Vacation

In terms of affording a vacation, one of the best ways to save money is to simply set aside bonuses that you might be able to receive for re-booking an assignment for an additional 13-week period. Thirteen weeks equal roughly three months, so if you re-book your assignment for another 13 weeks to get a bonus, you will average one vacation every six months or so. This is a pretty fantastic vacation schedule made even more enjoyable because part of it is funded by your bonus.

In addition to saving your bonuses, you can also set aside your travel reimbursements. Traveling is expensive, but if you set aside half for an upcoming weekend stay, you might be able to have the entire stay paid for in advance.

Saving money is possible in a variety of other ways as long as you are thrifty and remain aware of the resources available to travel nurses.

– save the difference between your housing stipend and the cost of housing

– avoid tourist areas, which can be more expensive

– cook meals and freeze portions to avoid eating out or cooking every night

– pay only with credit cards that offer generous points

In terms of traveling, many travel nurses travel by car. However, if you travel by plane, you should consider two things to save money.

First, departures on Tuesday or Wednesday can save you hundreds of dollars on a ticket, depending on where you are going.

Second, you should not repeatedly check prices using the same computer or phone. The first visit to a booking site will typically involve regular prices. However, if you use the same phone or computer, prices often increase because the site now associates your IP address or cookie with someone who is actively shopping for a ticket.

7. Internet Connections

During brief vacations, you will need to ensure you have ongoing internet coverage in order to keep tabs on your upcoming assignments or patients. Doing so can be easy at hotels, but the best way to maintain a secure connection is by creating a hotspot with your phone. Doing so will allow you to connect a laptop while maintaining a secure connection.