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11 must-haves every traveler should take on assignment

Veteran travel nurse Bob Goldnetz shares his list of travel nurse must-haves everyone should consider taking on their next travel assignment.

Before I get into my list of travel nurse must-haves to take on assignment, I want to start with a given: have a great company and recruiter. I have been fortunate that I do not have any horror stories and have not had any hiccups, but I read about them every day on the nursing blogs/Facebook pages. At the end of the day this is a business, but try to have a personal relationship with your recruiter and, if possible, your company. I feel like I have had a good personal relationship with the recruiters I have worked with. They have been awesome with calling or e-mailing to check in, and they do so within normal hours! They also have a personal touch where we are able to talk about recent holidays, trips, and hobbies. I personally think there is a line — I wouldn’t call my recruiter on Christmas Day unless it was an emergency — but I do believe she would get back to me and that says a lot.

Start out by doing your research. Does it seem too good to be true? It probably is. How organized and efficient is your onboarding? What do other travelers say? What is the company’s reputation on social media and travel blogs? How organized are they? Are they transparent? Are they giving you resources without being pushy? At the end of the day this is about you and an assignment you have to work through and complete.

Travel nurse must-haves

Now that I’ve covered that essential item, here’s my list of things to bring on a travel assignment. I think of myself as a minimalist but there are some things I never leave for an assignment without. Some simple things make life much more pleasant. 

Infographic explaining 11 things every travel nurse should take on assignment.
Click image to enlarge

1. Remote battery car jumper and jumper cables

This essential has saved me several times over! I’m bad at leaving lights on. It’s nice to be self-reliant when your battery is dead and you’re getting off a shift, are stuck in the middle of nowhere without service, are running late for work, or are in an unsafe place to be. Most models also come with a compass, USB port, and a light. 

2. A good spare tire

It’s critical to have a good spare and know how to change it. When going to and from an assignment, you don’t want to be stuck with a poor spare tire that may blow out or can only go a certain number of miles. If you can spare it (pun intended) get an extra actual tire. My buddy who drove the Alcan (Seattle, WA, to Anchorage, AK) recommended I take two tires, as he had done the same trek and gone through two spares! Costco has nice deals and the warranty coverage applies to all locations. Several times, I have been driving cross-country and had to stop in a random city to get a patch or replacement.

3. Roadside assistance

My last cross-country trek was during the polar vortex of artic temperatures across the Midwest. Nearing midnight — in single-digit temperatures — I locked my keys in the car in the middle of Kansas while filling up with gas. Thank God for roadside assistance! Embarrassingly, I lock my keys in the car a couple times a year and at $100 bucks a pop for a locksmith, I’d rather pay the additional several dollars a month. It is also invaluable if you get stranded and need a tow. Don’t forget to have replacement car coverage on your insurance in case something happens. You definitely do not want to get stuck paying out-of-pocket for a rental!

Van packed with travel nurse must-haves

4. Emergency food

I once got the car stuck in a forest outside of the Grand Canyon for the day with no food or water. With minimal cell service and a holiday weekend, it was a long day and a pleasant sight waiting until sunset when the tow truck showed up. In hindsight — and with plenty of knowledge later — it was a big no-no. Whether you get stuck, have a breakdown, or forget your lunch, having some non-perishable, easily consumable food and water in the car is always a good backup.

5. Backpack

Whether you’re outdoorsy or not, a good backpack is nice in many situations. Need an easy way to get all your stuff into and out of work? Car breaks down and need to walk/pack a bag quickly with the necessities? Extra storage when you’re road tripping? A good backpack is something you should bring along. 

6. Bluetooth speaker

Enjoy jams or podcasts? A speaker makes things feel a little more like home. Also useful at road trip stops, cooking at the house, going to the park, trekking on a hike, hitting the pool/beach, or wherever you explore. A little life hack: it’s nice when cooking to have the recipe read aloud to you!

7. Sharp knife, a frying pan, and condensed travel spices

A tail-gate breakfast

If you are into cooking, a sharp knife, frying pan, and a small cylinder spice pack are essentials. You may travel somewhere where people are weird about their kitchen, or they have dull knifes and sticky pans. A reliable knife and pan will work wonders in your cooking world. No need to bring the spice cabinet, but don’t do without. Buy a travel spice cylinder for your 6-8 most common spices. It’s easy to store and keeps the spice in your travel life!

8. French press or tea strainer

Leave the espresso machine, but no need to drink instant coffee or break the bank on to-go lattes. It may be the hipster in me, but the French press is easy to pack, store, and travel with. I may seem a bit of a snob as I take my French press to work, but it sure does gain me popularity when I offer to share at three in the morning with my co-workers! 

9. Yoga mat, small pillow, and blanket

Not into yoga? No problem! A mat can serve many purposes. I have slept on mine in the airport, used it to sit on at the park or the beach, or used it as a surface to put dirty stuff on in the car. A small (or inflatable) pillow and blanket are always a nice touch as well, especially when your accommodations aren’t what you expected on arrival.

10. Passport or extra accepted ID

In the event things get stolen or misplaced, have another form of ID as backup. Whether you want to go to the bar, catch a flight, or withdraw money, it takes another worry off your plate. 

11. Memoirs of home

Travel nursing is amazing, but we all miss home sometimes. Bring some pictures, cards, letters, or trinkets from home that bring a smile to your face. Tired of scrolling social media? Get a digital picture frame for your memories. Make sure to leave room for the new ones!

Don’t forget to thrift and ship

Bob Goldnetz on his mountain bike

Some people put their nose in the air at thrift stores, but it’s an affordable way to get things that are convenient to have but a pain to lug around; crock pot, blender, plates and utensils, hangers, rice cooker, and books are all easy finds to go thrifting for. Don’t forget to join the local library to cut the weight of books, and use the app Overdrive for free audio books. Are you short on space? Look into shipping bulky light items.

Bring what will make the assignment better for you

Don’t forgo spending a little extra to make your assignment the dream job it should be. I met a couple in Alaska who had never backpacked. They made it a goal to backpack as much as they could while in America’s last frontier. I believe they may have been REI’s biggest customers while they were there! You cannot put a price on a memory, so bring or buy your toys for your passions to make it one for the books! 

Interested in learning more about travel nursing? Call us for more information at 800.866.0407 or view today’s job openings.

Article updated on 7/27/2022.

About the author

Bob Goldnetz

Bob Goldnetz is an ICU travel nurse whose goal is to follow his hobbies across the world and experience as many cultures, cuisines, and cups of coffee along the way as he can. When he’s not taking care of patients, he’s probably traveling abroad or out-of-cell-service backpacking, snowboarding, skiing, surfing, mountain biking, paragliding, or rock climbing.


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