If you’re gearing up for your first travel nursing assignment, you may be wondering what to do for transportation once you arrive at your assignment location. Should you drive your own vehicle? Fly and rent a car while you’re there? Embrace public transportation?
For an experienced travel RN, you may either be interested in traveling somewhere new for work that would require different transportation than you’re used to, or you may simply be ready for a new mode of transportation after sticking to one method for a while.
Either way, we’re here today to help answer your questions about travel nursing and transportation — including what your options are, how to choose the right transportation, some helpful transportation apps for travel RNs, and the considerations of travel stipends.
Your Transportation Options
Your transportation options may fully be up to you — or you might be limited to the choices provided by your staffing company. Just as in the work of travel nursing itself, every assignment is a unique and different experience. Your choices for transportation will all be affected by the distance of the assignment from your home, the length of the contract, your staffing company’s available options, and even your own preference.
Regardless, it’s important to know your transportation options as a travel RN. You never know when you’ll need to shake things up! Let’s look at four of the most common choices, plus a fifth one you might’ve never thought about before…
#1 — Driving Yourself
If you have your own vehicle and would prefer to drive it to your assignment location, you really have two options: driving it or shipping it.
Being a travel nurse doesn’t necessarily mean you have to travel to the opposite end of the country for every new contract. It might simply be more affordable and convenient to take your own vehicle on the road for a short hour to a few hours’ drive away from your home. This is especially appealing for short-term assignments lasting only a week or two.
You might ask yourself, “Why go through the hassle and cost of other transportation options when I can use my own car that I’m already comfortable with?”
As mentioned by Cup of Nurses about driving your own car as a travel nurse,
“This is a great choice for someone who packs light and enjoys road trips.”
The primary downside to bringing your own car, of course, is that not every travel nursing job is going to be within a reasonable driving distance from where you live. Weather concerns like snow or rain might also play a factor in your willingness to drive to your job location. And don’t forget about gas and other car maintenance you’ll still be responsible for!
#2 — Shipping Your Car
If you still want the freedom to drive your own car once you get to your travel nursing assignment, the other option you have is to travel to your location by another means like an airplane or train, then have your car shipped to arrive at your destination soon after your own arrival.
Cars are generally shipped either in covered containers (a more expensive option) or are most often secured to a carrier trailer with other vehicles. Upfront costs could lean a little high, but the long-term benefit of shipping your car could be worth it.
Shipping calculators can help you determine if the cost of shipping would be overall more economical compared to renting a car or taking a cross-country drive, particularly for longer-term assignments. Occasionally, car shipping companies even offer discounts for travel nurses, so be sure to check around!
Naturally, there are also a few potential downsides to note about shipping your car. First, as previously mentioned, is the upfront cost. It’s hard to justify the higher upfront cost of shipping a car for short-term assignments. Some shipping companies may also require you to leave your car empty for shipping, meaning you can only take the luggage you bring with you when traveling separately.
The other possible downside is that your car might not arrive exactly when you do. You could still be without a car for a few days after your arrival depending on shipping logistics.
#3 — Renting a Car
For travel nurses who still want the freedom to drive while on an assignment but don’t want to deal with either driving to the location or car shipment, renting a car is the next best option.
There are a variety of vehicles to choose from when renting, whether you want something more reliable like an SUV for taking trips on your days off to something more economical like a compact or hybrid car. Basic car maintenance can often be taken care of by your rental company, too.
Renting a car can be a great option for travel nurses on short assignments far from home. Not to mention, you can take the opportunity to drive something new!
As for downsides to renting a car as a travel RN, your choices may be limited by the car rental agency’s vehicle availability as well as how much the travel stipend from your staffing company will cover (more on that later). Rental costs should also be compared to shipping and driving yourself before making any final decisions. While renting a car can be one of your most affordable options, it isn’t always the case.
Remember, too, that just like with shipping your car, you’ll only be able to take what you can fit in your luggage with you on the flight to your destination.
#4 — Public Transportation
Some travel nurses are on assignment for so much of the year that it doesn’t financially make sense to own a car. In this case, you can either rent a car every time, or you can embrace public transportation as much as possible.
Public transportation options include busses, subways, trains, or even rentable bikes and scooters available from various companies that have popped up across many cities in recent years. Don’t forget about your own two feet, too! Walking is an exciting way to explore a new city and also get some exercise.
As we’ll mention in our next section about transportation vs. location for travel nurses, public transportation isn’t always an available option. Even when it is, not every city’s public transportation is reliable to get you where you need to be on time — especially the hospital or healthcare facility where you’ll be working.
Regardless, making the most of public transportation is something any travel nurse can incorporate into their transportation go-tos. It’s certainly the most affordable option of all!
#5 — The RV or Tiny Home Life
Yes, you read that right. While certainly less common than your other transportation options, owning an RV or tiny home could actually be a viable option for both transportation and housing for some travel nurses.
Let’s start with the benefits. First, you’ll be able to take the most with you inside an RV or tiny home compared to any other transportation option — including pets. It’s essentially like moving your entire home with you for every travel assignment around the country.
RVs offer the freedom of both transportation and living arrangements, while tiny homes do still require a vehicle for transportation. Either way, they can be a plausible package deal for some travel RNs.
Downsides, of course, include extra fuel costs, not being able to stay close to the city, and needing to still have a car either by being towed by your RV or by your car being the one to tow your tiny home. Other concerns for RVs and tiny homes are also more intensive maintenance responsibilities and finding campgrounds and other rental parks.
Despite the high upfront costs to invest in an RV or tiny home, a travel nurse who really wants to embrace the nomadic lifestyle can find great freedom and flexibility in them.
Choosing the Right Transportation for Your Location
While you might have a preference for transportation as a travel nurse, the location of your assignments will greatly influence not only your most affordable options, but also your available choices over all for transportation. The U.S. is a large and geographically diverse country, so it’s important as a travel nurse to be prepared to work in any range of cities and regions.
So, how do you choose the right transportation for your job location as a travel RN?
Medium to Large Cities
Medium to large-sized cities quite obviously provide the most transportation options. Cities are abundant in roads and highways, which are the most convenient for driving both your own car or a rental car. Depending on how close you will be living to your assigned facility, driving in a city could also be economical when it comes to gas and mileage.
Public transportation can also be very accessible in cities. Of course, the reliability of public transportation heavily depends on the city itself. Check reviews of public transportation systems before deciding which transportation you want to opt for in a new city. If you don’t want to drive while on assignment, you can always try a blend of public transportation and ride sharing like Uber or Lyft to get around while still saving costs.
If you’re a travel nurse with an RV or tiny home, you might have to stay on the edge or just outside of the city due to space constraints, and you’ll likely need a car to be able to get into the city to get to work.
Small cities and small towns offer similar transportation options to medium-large cities, but with notable differences. A huge benefit is that travel distance and travel time between your temporary home and work are likely to be shorter than big cities. Small towns often still have car rental companies, but it’s possible your vehicle choices may be more limited.
Public transportation may or may not exist depending on how small the town is, but RVs and tiny homes may be more convenient to bring along with more open spaces available around small towns.
Finally, we have remote areas. It’s fairly safe to say that public transportation is pretty out of the question if you’re working in a very remote area. A car will be your only reasonable mode of transportation, whether you bring your own or rent one. With limited lodging options, bringing an RV or tiny home along for the assignment could be the perfect choice to have a comfortable stay while working in a remote area as a travel nurse.
Transportation Apps for Travel Nurses
Let’s be real here — the internet is inundated with lists of the best apps for nearly everything. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but rather an example of the types of helpful transportation apps you can look for to suit your needs as a travel nurse.
If you’re looking for an alternative to a traditional car rental company, new car rental apps like Turo are a great place to start. Whether you need a car for the entirety of your assignment, on your days off, or just until your car arrives if it’s been shipped and is running late, car rental apps provide a new level of convenience and flexibility.
Public transportation apps have also revolutionized how people in cities effectively get around using public transit. The app appropriately named Transit integrates itself with many existing city public transportation systems, as well as ride sharing apps like Uber. It provides relatively accurate travel estimates and maps including walking time, public transit, and ride sharing to help you get where you need to be on time.
Lastly, health and environmentally-conscious travel nurses can take advantage of any number of bike rental companies such as Lime provide bikes (and sometimes even electric scooters) available to rent at any time across many of the U.S.’s major cities. Cities may also have their own local version of these companies that you can enjoy, as well.
Whatever your travel nursing transportation needs may be, there’s likely an app to make the whole process easier!
Factoring in Travel Stipends
The final piece of the puzzle for transportation as a travel nurse is the travel stipend. We aren’t here to go into great detail about travel stipends today, but we do want to highlight their influence on how you get around while on assignment.
According to Nursing 2021, one of the most important questions travel RNs should ask before signing a new contract is,
“Will I have typical mileage reimbursement when I travel for the agency or hospital? Will the reimbursement cover a portion for transportation to the assignment and then reimbursement for return to my home (or to my next assignment)?”
Your travel nursing company will likely provide some amount of a travel stipend, which could include covering the cost of your airfare and at least partially covering car rentals or other related transportation expenses. However, there is no fixed amount that agencies are guaranteed to provide, and any costs over the stipend will require your own out-of-pocket pay.
Each contract is different from another, so it’s important to clarify before signing a travel contract just how much is going to be provided in a travel stipend or in reimbursements.
Be sure to keep your receipts and all documentation for transportation costs. These documents will be essential both for travel reimbursements from your travel nursing company and for tax purposes.
Expanding Your Horizons
So, there you have it — a basic run-down on everything you need to know about transportation as a travel nurse. We hope this information has been a great starting point for new and experienced travel nurses alike looking to expand their horizons when it comes to getting around on your travel assignments!
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