10 Tips and Tools Essential for Travel Nurses on Road Trips

Your first travel nurse assignment has come through, and you’ve decided to make a whole adventure of it: you’re going to take a road trip! There are many benefits to deciding to travel this way, not the least of which is having your own vehicle while you’re away on assignment. But with a little planning and preparation, the journey can be as fun and fulfilling as the destination!

Plan your route

If you’re taking a road trip to a new job, planning that trip well will help ensure that you arrive at your destination in enough time to get settled and ready to start work. 

Plan your route. Find a good map app, such as Google Maps, with which to map out exactly how you will get from Point A to Point B. Consider purchasing a paper map as well. Although not as up-to-date as apps should be, you may find yourself in the middle of nowhere with limited cell service; a paper map may help you out of quite a jam. 

Check traffic apps like Waze and others. These are often crowd-sourced, which means they are updated frequently with accident reports and other traffic issues. 

Plan where to stop/eat/stay

Road trips require various kinds of stops: rest stops, food stops, and possibly overnight stops. Plan these things in advance so you’re not caught off guard in an emergency! Most road maps will show you possible towns where you’ll find a gas station, truck stop, restaurants, and possibly hotels. 

Truck stops can be one-stop-shops on your route. They will often have clean restrooms, restaurants, showers, and other accoutrements you may need while you’re traveling. 

Plan your food budget. Where will you eat along your route? Consider packing a cooler with sandwiches, cold water and other drinks, and snacks to keep you hydrated and satisfied. Eating at restaurants and drive-thrus sounds convenient, but fast food bills can sap your budget, as well as failing to give your body the fuel it needs to make the drive and be ready for your nursing assignment. 

Plan ahead for where you will sleep for the night, if your destination requires more than one day of travel. Don’t try to “power through” a long distance route; you don’t want to show up for your assignment already exhausted! Find a hotel/motel along your route using Expedia, Hotwire, or other booking site. Hotels Tonight is another option, showing immediate vacancies in your area. In any case, find a safe and comfortable place to sleep. Driving while exhausted is unsafe!

Prepare your vehicle

Have your vehicle fully serviced before you get on the road. Consider buying new tires, or at least have them rotated if they have some mileage left on them. Don’t forget to check your spare too–you don’t want to be caught without it if something goes wrong! Be sure you have the proper tools to change the tire, should you need to. 

Replace your windshield wipers, and check your headlights and brake lights. Get an oil change, check your spark plugs and belts, and get a thorough tune-up. You don’t want any surprises while you’re on the road if you can help it. 

Be sure to pack other vehicle-related essentials, such as jumper cables and a spare key. Join AAA and keep your card with you at all times. This step can be a life-saver when driving long distances. 

Create a budget

As you map out your route, calculate the mileage. Use that mileage to calculate gas usage–and gas costs. If you’re driving through multiple states, don’t forget to take differences in gas prices into your calculations. Make sure you have cash for tolls. Figure out your hotel costs ahead of time, including any incidental charges. Set (and stick to!) a food budget, including snacks, water, sodas, and other drinks. 

As you budget, leave room for “what-ifs.” What if you break down? What if your hotel falls through at the last minute? What if you need medicine? Give yourself some margin in your budget for unforeseen expenses. 

Prepare your entertainment

Driving for hours on end can be fun in its own way, but there’s only so much you can think about on long, empty stretches of road. Consider purchasing or borrowing audiobooks (many local libraries have audiobook options available with your library card). Create music playlists, maybe even some you can sing along to! This may also be a great time to find some podcasts on a topic you’re interested in, or learn a new language (be careful to avoid the more interactive language programs, as they often require you to press buttons and such). 

You will want entertainment options that don’t leave you a distracted driver, however. Stick to audio options that don’t require your interaction. And remember to save your social media and texting until you’ve stopped driving!

Prepare to be safe

Especially if you are traveling alone, take precautions to be safe. Purchase pepper spray and keep it with you at all times. Have a first aid kit in the car, including remedies for bug bites, sunburn, and other first aid needs. Keep hand sanitizer handy; you may find yourself in the middle of nowhere, at a rest stop that happens to be out of soap. 

Make sure someone knows where you will be, and when. Leave a trip itinerary with someone at home, and check in at regular intervals. Program an ICE (In Case of Emergency) number into your phone. 

Prepare to be comfortable

Pack your car with things to make your trip comfortable. Snacks, water, wet wipes (baby wipes are excellent for this; just be sure you never flush them down a toilet), a favorite jacket, etc. can all make your trip more pleasant. Pack some extra toilet paper–you don’t want to get caught in a lonely rest stop unprepared!

Prepare to be away

Be sure that you’ve prepared your home for your absence. Arrange childcare, pet care, plant care, mail collection, etc. before you leave. If you live alone, set lamps on timers and have someone check your home while you’re gone. This can help ensure peace of mind as you travel. 

Give yourself time

Try to plan your road trip so you’re not in a rush. Especially if you’ve got a longer trip ahead of you, be sure to leave plenty of time. It’s better to reach your destination early and well-rested than rushed and exhausted! If possible, try to plan driving days that are no more than about 8 hours, leaving time for rest stops and sleep. 

Enjoy the trip!

Finally, road trips can be downright fun! If you’ll be traveling through interesting locales, consider planning an extended stop to explore those places. Many historical sites or other points of interest can be great places to stretch your legs while you learn something new. 

Take lots of pictures. Stop for a sunrise (if you’re up that early!) or a sunset. Notice interesting architecture or nature. Capture it, for your own memories and maybe to share with friends and family. 

With a little foresight, taking a road trip to your nursing job can be a fun little mini-vacation, helping you feel refreshed and energized, ready to take on your next assignment. Enjoy the journey!

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