January 14, 2021

How Travel Nurses Can Maximize Time Off During a Pandemic

One of the best perks of being a travel nurse is having the ability to take extended time off between contracts. A huge number of travel nurses take weeks or even months off after a contract ends to take advantage of international travel experiences.

Unfortunately, the list of countries allowing United States citizens to visit is short, and the rules and regulations to obtain permission to travel to a lot of these are almost impossible to meet. In addition, a lot of countries are also requiring visitors to quarantine for fourteen days and carry health insurance that is accepted in their country, so it takes a lot of careful planning to go overseas these days.

But this does not mean you can’t still fulfill some of that wanderlust and take the extra time off to enjoy yourself between assignments. Nurse burnout is real, and these kinds of breaks are often necessary to keep your cup full when you are working a draining contract. Instead, you just have to get a little more creative when planning your time off--and you might be surprised with how fun it ends up being!

Make a Bucket List of Places You Want to Visit in the US

We may not have a lot of options for getting out of the country but we are blessed in the fact that our country is HUGE. You can literally see everything from beaches to mountains to deserts and everything in between. And trust me, once you start moving around the country you will see there are plenty of different cultures to learn about even within our continental US.

Once you start researching, you will be shocked at the number of places you have yet to visit even if you are an avid traveler. Even if you plan to work as a travel nurse indefinitely, some of the best places are a little off-the-beaten-path and require you to take more time than you may have available during an assignment. These are great places to hit up right now, since you have all the extra time you could need.

Some of my favorite bucket list must sees/have dones are:

  • Horseshoe Bend
  • Times Square in New York City
  • The Grand Canyon
  • Top of the Space Needle
  • Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado
  • Arches National Park
  • Mount Rushmore
  • Any restaurant I’ve seen on Food Network

Next, you can take a map and mark out where each of these locations are. See if there are any that are near your current assignment, on your way home, or even just a few within reasonable driving distance of each other.

Option A: Plan the Ultimate Road Trip

Once you have your bucket list items mapped out, you can plan a route or routes that will take you to see all of these amazing places! You could start by organizing your locations by category, such as “National Parks” or “Must Try Restaurants” if you are a foodie like me. Or, you could go by geographical location

Then I like to list out each location with drive time between each. For example, if I was trying to hit National Parks in the western part of the United States my itinerary would look like this:

  • Drive to Red Rocks (~9 hours)
  • Red Rocks Amphitheatre (1 day)
  • Drive to Arches National Park (~6 hours)
  • Arches National Park (2 days)
  • Drive to Grand Canyon (~6 hours)
  • Grand Canyon National Park (2 days)
  • Drive to Carlsbad Caverns (~10 hours)
  • Carlsbad Caverns (1 day)
  • Drive home (~13 hours)

That way you can easily add up approximately how many days it will take you to complete the trip, and make a plan for how much you want to drive and rest in between. For example, if I took a drive day for each trip listed above, this road trip would take me approximately 12 days if I left from my hometown of Kansas City, Missouri.

Take Your Road Trip to the Next Level

One couple took their road trip to a whole new level by converting a minivan into a camper for the duration of their trip. This was a neat option because it wasn’t permanent, and the bed platform could be removed once they were home and the vehicle used as normal. Plus, if you travel to and from contracts with your car, a minivan wouldn’t be a bad option when it comes to having more space to pack!

The extra bonus to making a DIY camper van is you can save on the cost of hotels and minimize contact with others as you travel around the country. While a lot of the national park campsites book far in advance, you can always check for last-minute cancellations, or there are typically some privately owned campgrounds just outside each park. You can also find legal places to park for free overnight, but staying at a campground gives you a good chance to shower and refill on water.

Option B: Staycation in a Dream Location

Most travel nurses have a list of places they would ideally like to work on assignment. However, some of those locations may not be likely for different reasons. Either they are a “destination location” where the contract rates don’t keep up with the cost of living, or jobs in your specialty are scarce most of the time.

Now is a great time to try living in one of those places! Just because you aren’t working somewhere doesn’t mean you can’t experience living there. Try a “staycation” away from home.

If you had money saved for extended time off or a tour through Europe, you could use some of that cash to spend several weeks or even a month somewhere in the United States. For example, if beaches are your thing, Florida is known for low travel nurse pay rates. However, if you look on Furnished Finder, you can find plenty of furnished month-to-month rentals at rates much cheaper than you would spend while traveling from hotel to hotel.

Consider picking a nice waterfront condo and moving in for a while! You will have the luxury of exploring the area or relaxing on the beach without having to stress about timeframes or a work schedule. Plus, you can enjoy cooking at home since you won’t be moving from hotel to hotel or staying in a crowded hostel like on typical vacations.

Even if this isn’t the “exact” vacation you had imagined, don’t underestimate the power of slowing down and just relaxing in a spot you have always dreamed of working or living for a short while.

Option C: Reconnect With People Back Home

As travel nurses, our time between contracts is often spent adventuring or moving from one place to the next. While we are blessed with the ability to take extended time off, sometimes we can get too caught up in the “doing” and forget to tend to our relationships back home. Now is a great time to slow down and reconnect with people you value most.

If you are struggling to find a contract or simply feel the pull for some time away from the bedside, it might be the perfect time to go wherever your people are and just relax. Even if this isn’t your hometown, it might be a city where you have a lot of travel friends or some extended family members.

The bonus to this is you can even save a little money this way. Either you can stay wherever your tax home is (after all, you do pay for it year-round) or crash with friends or relatives for a bit. Take the time to visit those friends you haven’t seen for awhile, have coffee with your grandma, or even play tourist in the city you grew up in. Once again, don’t underestimate the simple pleasures in life.

Be Grateful for This Time

Now, I’m not saying you have to be thankful that we are in a global pandemic or that most of the world doesn’t want US tourists. But there is nothing we can do to change those things, so try to look on the bright side.

Appreciate the fact that your job gives you the flexibility to stay employed when many people are being laid off. Put your time off to good use by doing those “someday” trips that always get pushed aside for international travel. Enjoy the peacefulness of not having to rush to the next big adventure. Someday we will be able to go, go, go again but for now, there is plenty to do right here at home in the USA

Author Alex McCoy

Alex McCoy, BSN, RN

Alex is a pediatric travel nurse and the content manager of Furnished Finder . After traveling for four years with her husband, a physical therapist they recently welcomed a daughter, Jade, into their crazy travel family. Read more articles from Alex on Furnished Finder or Travel Nurse Housing, or read about her previous travels here. Have an idea you would love to share with fellow travel nurses or landlords? Be sure to email her at Alex.McCoy@FurnishedFinder.com.