The Power of Packing Light: How Travelers Are Keeping It Simple

July 8, 2021


Megan Bebout

Packing Light

One of the common mistakes of professional travelers is overpacking. It’s normal to want to bring all of your favorite things with you on the road—they’re familiar and safe. However, while you should pack a few of those cherished items, you don’t need to pack (and unpack) it all for each assignment.

The Power of Packing Light: How Travelers Are Keeping It Simple


Simplify your travel lifestyle

Traveling for a healthcare job can feel like a vacation, but what you would pack for both is not the same. For professional travelers, less is more—only bring your essentials and a few sentimental items.

Also keep in mind that your list of must-haves may look different than another traveler’s depending on your housing situation. For example, if you rent an unfurnished apartment, you’ll likely need to obtain furniture, cooking utensils, and then some. On the other hand, if you prefer to stay in a fully-furnished unit, it’s vital you pack smart.

First, decide how many bags you’re willing to bring. Once you make that decision and set those limitations, it’ll be easier to determine what comes and what goes. These packing tips for healthcare travelers can help, too:

  • Bring an appropriate number of scrubs and remember, you’ll wear these the most
  • Plan your recreational clothes around the weather of your job location
  • Pack small homey items that don’t require a ton of space (i.e. a cozy blanket or a scented candle)
  • Don’t forget something to fill your free time. If you have a hobby or activity that you enjoy doing, bring those essentials (i.e. knitting needles, fishing pole, sketchbook, etc.)

Save space in your suitcase and buy your toiletries at a local grocery shop or drug store once you arrive at your destination. Focus on belongings that will help you feel safe and comfortable in your temporary home away from home. Plus, unless you are going from back-to-back assignments, you’ll have the chance to regroup at home and restart the packing process before you travel to your next destination.

Q&A with traveling RN, Kylee Nelson

Experienced travel nurse, Kylee Nelson, RN, shares how she keeps it simple while hopping from assignment to assignment. As a bonus, she also included a video

Megan Bebout: Can you describe your packing process? How do you get started? How many bags do you use?

Kylee Nelson: I’ve been a travel nurse for 4+ years and my packing process has DRAMATICALLY changed.  When I started travel nursing, I would pack everything I owned into my car and drive to my assignment.  One time, I even took a Crockpot with me!  I’ve learned a lot since those early days and realize that the value in travel nursing isn’t about your personal belongings, but instead about the friendships you form and the memories you make along the way.

That being said, now I only pack the bare minimum, and instead of driving to each assignment, I fly.  I usually pack one checked bag, one carry-on bag, and ship two boxes.  I start by packing necessities – scrubs, nursing gear, toiletries, and expand from there.  I’ll pick up to 20-30 outfits to bring with me (which sounds like a lot but trust me, it’s not!) and then bring a few pairs of shoes and purses.  You have to remember you’ll be on assignment for about 90+ days, and 39 days you’ll be working.  That leaves 51 days for whatever it is you like to do!  That’s how I think about packing.  So if you like to be active, bring enough clothes to do that.  If you like to dress up and go out, bring clothes to do that.  And remember, you can always purchase what you forgot or don’t have with you.

MB: How do you decide what to bring on an assignment?

KN: As I mentioned above, I think it’s important to pack what you like to do.  For me, that looks like fun dresses and shoes because I love getting dressed up and going out.  If you’re someone who loves to run and hike, make sure to focus on that area of packing.  If you’re low-key and like to lounge – maybe you’ll focus on comfortable clothes.  Before you pack, start a list of things you’ll need to bring with you on your phone and add to it as things come to mind.  Then once you’re ready to pack, you can pull up your list and it’ll feel less overwhelming.

MB: What are your top three “must haves” while away from home?

KN: The first thing I have to have is definitely my camera.  I want to capture everything I can while I’m gone so I can look back on my assignment and remember the city, food, day trips, everything.  The second item would be my pillow.  Although I stress packing minimally, I can’t sleep without my personal pillow!  And lastly, prescription medicine.  Always make sure that you have a good supply of medicine before leaving so that you don’t run out and you’re not stressed about finding a pharmacy right when you get to your new city.

MB: What’s better: a soft suitcase or a hardcase?

KN: Hard.  By far.  And you can never change my mind.

MB: Where is your favorite place that you’ve traveled so far?

KN: This is hard because I have a few favorites for different reasons!  Overall, my answer is Seattle because I loved the hospital I worked at and the city is just incredible.  But if I’m strictly speaking about location and not work, then Santa Barbara.  There’s nothing like waking up on the beach every day and immersing yourself in a smaller town for 13 weeks.  You really start to feel like you know the people and the ins and outs of the town.

MB: How do unwind after a long day of work?

KN: I find cooking very cathartic so I usually cook dinner and watch trashy TV.  (Real Housewives anyone?).  I also get in bed pretty early because I’m usually drained from the day.

MB: What do you enjoy doing on your days off?

KN: I love to explore the city that I’m in!  I’m usually trying a new restaurant or visiting a museum.  I also love to travel so I love exploring the surrounding areas too.  If I have a stretch of 3+ days off I’m usually taking a road trip somewhere close by.

MB: Where do you see yourself a year from now?

KN: I still see myself as a bedside nurse in the NICU but whether that is as a traveler or staff nurse is still undecided!

MB: How has Fusion helped shape your healthcare career?

KN: Fusion has shaped my career immensely.  The experiences I had with Fusion over and over made me want to continue travel nursing.  I not only felt like Fusion listened to me as a traveler, but they valued what I valued.  I also feel really empowered working with Fusion.  Because they are all about transparency, I have been able to learn about the industry, which makes travel nursing feel more approachable.

MB: What sets Fusion apart from other online job boards?

KN: The information is presented so well that it makes everything easy to navigate.  You can find a job by searching your preferred area of interest.  You can find a job by setting a job alert based on your preferred start date.  You can find a job based on location.  It’s just really easy to filter through “the noise” to get to what you’re looking for.

MB: What’s your advice for other healthcare travelers in search of their next travel assignment?

KN: My advice is to just have fun with it!  Moving to a new city, meeting new people, and starting a new job can be overwhelming and stressful.  You don’t need to add more stress onto yourself by worrying about having enough clothes with you or worrying about how you’re going to fit all of your stuff into your car or apartment.

Don't make the common mistake of overpacking for an assignment and keep it light. Fusion helps you keep things simple by offering a streamlined application and hiring process, plus gives you enhanced transparency as a traveler so you know exactly what to expect when you accept a new travel job.