The Ultimate Guide to Travel Therapy Housing
When you become a travel therapist, one thing that you will learn is that things move quickly. Once a contract is posted, it’s typical to have an interview the next day, with the expectation of accepting the offer or moving on within 24 hours.
And while you already have a lot to do and think about during this process, one of the most important steps to take is to start exploring housing options before you ever accept any offer. This will ensure you are receiving a housing stipend that actually covers the real costs of living in a given area.
And, worst case scenario, it can help you pass on contracts that may have little to no viable short-term housing options.
Different therapists approach travel therapy housing in different ways. Some are looking for the most bare bones housing possible so that they can maximize their stipend. Some are traveling for fun and attempt to stay in cool areas. Some are traveling with pets or family and need more space than a studio apartment. And most are trying to balance a combination of these factors.
Since speed is the name of the game here, these are the four easiest ways to find travel therapist housing quickly, along with eight more options if you have a bit more time before you start your contract. We conclude the guide with seven considerations to think about before choosing your housing.
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This is definitely the easiest option. Instead of finding housing on your own, your company handles it entirely, including paying for it. So what’s the catch? This is typically (but not always!) the most expensive option. Instead of receiving a tax-free housing stipend, your company will keep this part of the pay entirely, leaving you with only a meals and incidentals stipend and your hourly pay.
The vast majority of traveling medical professionals I know don’t even consider this option because of the pay difference, but it’s worth keeping in your pocket. Despite probably costing you more money, it does remove a lot of the headache and risk. You won’t waste any time trying to find housing on your own, and you also won’t have to pay any of the upfront costs like deposits or getting utilities turned on.
Best of all, if your contract is ever cancelled, you won’t be on the hook for any early termination costs like you would be if you were locked into a traditional lease. If you do decide to pursue this option, ask your recruiter to prepare you two pay packages before the interview – one with the company housing and one without. This way you can see exactly how much money you’d be giving up and make an informed decision on if it’s worth it to you.
It’s also important to note that in some cases the company housing does end up being the more financially prudent option. I’m currently working in an area under a major housing crisis. I was originally offered a housing stipend of about $2500 a month. When I searched for private apartments that allowed pets and short-term leases, I found that most were at or above that price. Not to mention the cost of furnishing it, utilities, and deposits!
I bounced it back and asked my recruiter to look into company housing, and they ended up booking me a fully-furnished one bedroom apartment that costs somewhere in the range of $3700 a month. They also paid to put me up in a nice hotel for a week while my apartment was being finalized.
Now, I definitely could have spent more time searching for roommates or rented a bedroom in someone else’s home that would have come in under $2500 a month. But while saving money is nice, it’s not the number one reason I travel. I would rather have a private space that has enough room for my partner and our cat – so for this contract, company housing was phenomenally cheaper for those purposes.
This is another option that is probably on the more expensive side of things, but definitely quick. It’s also one of the most findable options – even in areas that may not have a lot of rental homes available, there’s usually some sort of hotel nearby. Hotels that specifically advertise as extended stays are often ideal because they already have the amenities in place that you need, but don’t discount other types of hotels.
Even if not advertised, many hotels offer weekly or monthly rates. And some extended stay hotels may have special rates or discounts for your traveling company or traveling medical professionals in general. It can never hurt to ask! And while certain parts of hotel living can definitely get old, it is kind of nice to have access to maid service, breakfast made for you daily, and maybe even access to a pool or a gym.
This option is probably best for contracts no longer than 8 – 13 weeks – any more than that, and you’re probably better off renting an apartment.
Originally used for finding vacation lodging, Airbnb, VRBO, and HomeAway have become great resources for business travel as well. What I like about these platforms is you will usually quickly get a response, places are generally fully furnished, and you can use built-in filters to find housing that meets your needs, such as having access to a kitchen or washer and dryer. While most places will have a daily rate listed, like hotels, most are willing to negotiate a cheaper rate for a longer-term stay.
One note of caution: Do be sure to read cancellation policies closely as some traveling therapists have ended up losing money if an assignment is suddenly cancelled.
If you’d like to learn more about how to negotiate and save money when using Airbnb, be sure to check out our post, How to Save a Bundle on Travel Therapy Housing by Negotiating on Airbnb.
This is an option that I almost always put some time into, even if it doesn’t lead me to my housing in the end. Just searching on Google for what rentals are available can give you some leads to start looking into more. It can also help you quickly determine an average cost for renting in an area – good to know when you’re still in the process of deciding to accept a contract or not.
Besides just searching for “apartments for rent in potential city” I like to search for the following terms: “short term housing in potential city,” “corporate housing potential city,” “travel nurse housing potential city” “furnished apartments in potential city” to give the search a little more direction if there’s a lot to narrow down.
8 Other Options If You Have More Time Before Starting
Some of these travel therapy housing methods may take longer than those listed in part one of our guide, these options are how traveling therapists and other medical professionals save money while on assignment.
Asking the Facility
This is a great option if you’re going to a rural area that doesn’t have much of an online presence. Often someone at the facility will know someone renting a room out, or they may be able to advise you what a previous traveling therapist did for housing. Even if they can’t offer you a personal connection, they can often tell you the best methods to look for housing in their area.
If you’re leaning towards accepting the position during your interview, this is an appropriate time to ask. A simple “If I do end up accepting a position at your facility, do you have any suggestions for finding housing?” can open a lot of doors.
In some cases, the facility might even have housing on site they can offer you!
If it wasn’t already invading every other aspect of your life, Facebook now may be able to help you find housing, too. There are several Facebook groups that have popped up to specifically help traveling medical professionals find housing.
Most are labeled for travel nurses – but don’t be afraid to join if you’re a traveling occupational therapist! The two most popular ones I’ve found are Travel Nursing: Places/Rooms For Rent and Travel Nurse Housing – The Gypsy Nurse.
These groups allow both travelers and landlords to join. Many landlords like renting out to traveling medical professionals specifically, and it’s always nice as a traveler to be able to rent from someone who understands our needs, so it’s a win-win.
If you don’t find what you’re looking for on a Facebook group, be sure to check the Facebook Marketplace for the area you’re headed as well. Many traditional landlords have moved to Facebook as their primary means of advertising.
Staying with Friends or Family
This a great option if you’re looking to kill two birds with one stone! If you have friends or family you’ve been meaning to visit, ask your recruiters to look for contracts in these areas.
Now, regardless of how close you are, you do have to draw up a contract and pay them some rent in order to qualify for a tax-free housing stipend. But this is likely an infinitely less stressful option than going through a stranger who may tack on fees or pressure you into signing a lease you’re not comfortable with.
Obviously, if your loved ones aren’t spread across the country, or are in areas that don’t utilize travel therapists frequently, this may not be an option, but it’s worth telling your recruiters to have their ear to the ground in any cities where this is even potentially on the table for you.
Furnished Finder is a website that was developed specifically for travel nurses and other medical professionals to find short-term housing. It is free for travelers to use and gives the options to search by budget, private room vs whole house, and pet friendliness.
Another option travelers have is posting an ad listing their housing needs that allows landlords to respond. The only downsides of this platform are that it’s less widely used (but appears to be gaining popularity!) and the listings it does have are a little on the pricey side when I’ve used it to compare.
Contacting a Real Estate Agent
Many people think real estate agents are only for buying or selling a home, but for many, rental housing is a lucrative side gig. I’ve known many real estate agents to have property of their own that they rent out, and others that simply assist in finding a place for renters.
This service is generally free to the renter – the real estate agent will usually receive a commission from the people or company looking to rent out their home. A potential drawback of this option is that it’s not like this everywhere – it was very rare in the area where I’m from. But it’s definitely worth the time to call a few and find out if your other leads are coming up dry.
There are definitely a lot of pros and cons with this one. The biggest pros are that this is often the cheapest option for finding housing, and it’s widely used. The biggest cons are that Craigslist can be rife with housing scams, and just less-than-savory people in general.
If you do pursue this option, NEVER send money before physically seeing a place, and I strongly recommend not signing anything until you get there in person. Obviously, these restrictions may make it more difficult since landlords may not want to hold a place on your word alone – but to me, it’s not worth the risk otherwise.
Finding Housing Locally
This is definitely one of the most risky options, and one that I’m probably too much of an uptight planner to ever try personally. But, if you are reasonably confident that you can find housing in an area, you can always accept the contract and attempt to find housing in person.
If you’re somewhat nearby already, you can travel out on a weekend, or, you can book a hotel the first week of your contract and then get your boots on the ground when you get there. While it may be scary, this option can have great rewards. I’ve known travelers to do this for every contract and somehow always meet someone renting out a room for cheap. And in my hometown, I found both of my permanent apartments by just driving/walking around looking for signs in yards – in the areas I wanted to rent, landlords really didn’t need to put in much more effort than that.
The other nice thing about this option is that no matter how much online research you do, you don’t ever get the real feel of a place until you’re there in person. Checking out the town before you sign any lease can help you narrow down a place that’s in a safe area with a reasonable commute in a way that just really isn’t possible online yet.
Last but definitely not least! While this is an option that honestly is easier and has a lot of benefits in the long run, it does have a lot of upfront planning and costs that traveling therapists might not want to go through, especially if you’re still deciding if traveling therapy is right for you.
However, if you think you’re going to be doing travel therapy long-term, and you’re willing to give up some creature comforts, having an RV is probably the easiest and most cost-effective option.
It’s also great for people who have pets since you don’t have to worry about finding a place that will accept them every contract. The other nice thing is that even if you don’t have the money to buy an RV outright, your housing stipend can go towards your monthly payments.
I haven’t done it personally, but I’ve definitely considered it since I know I want to travel for at least a few years. There are a lot of great guides online to help you decide if this option is right for you, and if so, what kind you should get.
Most travel nurses and therapists I’ve known get the kind that can be attached to your vehicle rather than being drivable on its own since we usually need our cars on assignment. I’ve also known some travelers to pay a company to haul the RV from place to place for them if they don’t have a vehicle with towing capabilities.
This also opens up the option for “tiny homes” that really don’t look much like traditional RVs at all. While not the cheapest option, one company that I drool over is WheelHaus, whose models are beautiful and space-efficient.
Potential downsides of travel in an RV are that you still need to rent a place to park the RV, heating a RV somewhere with a cold winter may be prohibitively expensive or impossible, and obviously, you’re probably living in a much smaller space than usual and may be giving up a bathtub, real bed, or full kitchen. And, depending on what kind of lifestyle you want to live while traveling, an RV may not be ideal [Side-note from Sarah: Do consider the hassle of emptying the tanks frequently and running out of water and/or propane!].
If you make any friends, it’s definitely harder to have people over, and because campsites are usually where you will find space to park an RV, you’re probably not going to be walking to any restaurants, bars, or grocery stores, which I always value. However, it’s always possible to find an interesting spot to park (check Airbnb for people renting out their driveways!) that may have more access to city conveniences. And maybe even someone that will let you borrow their tub on a long, stressful day where the only cure is a bubble bath.
When to Book Your Housing
Once you’ve decided on your ideal housing option, you may be tempted to book right away. However, I would caution against doing this until you have definitely accepted the contract. Even though once you have an interview scheduled it’s very likely you will be offered a job, I always wait until I have a signed contract before I rent a place, especially if I’m putting money down.
This will ensure you aren’t locked into anything if for whatever reason you don’t end up taking the job – remember that when you have an interview, you’re interviewing the facility just as much, if not more, than they’re interviewing you! So while it’s important to get an idea of what’s out there before accepting a job, hold off on pulling the trigger on anything until you have that contract in hand.
What to Look for In Travel Therapy Housing
Now you know the different types of travel therapy housing options, but how do you know which housing option is right for you?
While there are a lot of factors to consider, asking yourself these simple questions will help you focus your priorities to find the perfect housing for you.
How long is your travel contract?
With such a variety of settings and needs, it’s possible to get a contract as short as six weeks or as long as a year. If you’re on the shorter end of things, an extended stay hotel might be a great option – but if you’re going to be there for more than a few months, it might become tiresome or just more cost-efficient to rent an apartment.
How much do you want to spend?
Obviously, you don’t want to overpay for housing and you definitely want to be spending under your monthly housing stipend. But beyond that, how important is saving money to you? Would you rather book the cheapest housing possible to be able to pay off your student loans more quickly, or are you traveling for pleasure and hoping to live in a fun neighborhood? Are you hoping to have extra space for friends and family to come and visit?
Think about the things that are really important to you in a home and the things that you’re willing to sacrifice. And remember, it’s all temporary, so you’re not giving up anything forever. Lastly, don’t forget to think about utilities – if you can get them included in the rent it’s ideal, especially since it means you won’t have to spend any of your precious time getting them set up or cancelled. However, if they’re not included in the base rent, try to find out the average monthly cost.
What kind of lease agreement is available?
The gold standard in travel therapy housing is a month-to-month, or maybe even week-to-week lease. While it’s the worst-case scenario, you want to protect yourself if your contract gets cancelled, so avoid signing any more restrictive lease if you can help it. If not, keep a close eye on early termination fees and see if you can find an agreement that both you and the landlord agree on.
One last thing to keep in mind is a security deposit – while some landlords may not be comfortable renting without one, try to negotiate for a low amount. And regardless of amount, always be very careful and make sure to do a thorough walk-through both when you move in and move out.
While the vast majority of landlords I’ve had are reasonable, I have had to sue in small claims court to recover an improperly withheld deposit. Being a traveler means that you may immediately be moving states away and unable to complete that process.
Do you want just a private room or a whole place to yourself?
This is totally up to you and depends on how you enjoy living while on assignment. The pros to just renting a bedroom from someone are that you will generally spend a lot less money, the place will likely be furnished, some cleaning and other household tasks may be included, and personally, sometimes I enjoy having that built-in social structure of a roommate type situation.
On the negative side, you may feel cooped up having an only bedroom, sharing space such as kitchens and bathrooms can be challenging, there may be rules you have to follow that you wouldn’t in your own space, and if you end up not getting along with the person, it can be a pretty miserable experience.
It also may be harder to find this setup if you have a pet or a partner. If you do decide to live with someone, I would spend at least a little bit of time getting to know them and their living style before you make your decision.
How close is the apartment to the facility? Groceries? Fun stuff?
Many travelers really value being close to their facility. I’ve known some travel nurses to not even consider a place if it was longer than a ten minute drive away! I also like having a short commute, but sometimes I prioritize distance to other things like restaurants, entertainment, and shopping, especially if I think I’m going to spend significant time walking around exploring an area when I’m not working (which is really what it’s all about, right?!)
If you’re working home health or splitting your time between buildings, it may make sense to try to find housing in a central location, or it may make more sense to look near a main office.
And, regardless of what you value in location, always make sure to research a neighborhood to make sure it’s a place where you’d feel safe and comfortable.
Do you want furnished or unfurnished?
Renting a place that already has furniture is definitely the easiest option, but it’s often the most expensive as well. If you decide to rent unfurnished to save money, you have a couple options. You could go through a rental company and pay a certain amount a month to have everything from furniture to linens to plates to art set up in your apartment for you, and moved out when you leave.
Or, you could try to cheaply and quickly furnish the place yourself. I’ve known some travelers to really bring it down to the bare necessities and just have an air mattress and a patio chair, but personally I don’t think I’d like to do that longer than a few nights.
Your last option is moving furniture with you, but I don’t really recommend this since you’ll likely spend more money and effort renting a truck or shipping it than it would cost to just buy some stuff on IKEA. I do take some stuff with me – like towels, pillows, and a few small pieces of art. But few things have felt more freeing than being to fit all my worldly possessions in our hatchback.
Do you have any other special needs or considerations?
Being a traveling occupational therapist with a pet is very possible! But it definitely complicates housing somewhat. Besides pets, try to think of any other non-negotiables you have that may limit your housing options – such as traveling with a spouse, or needing an apartment without stairs.
Make sure to be upfront and honest with any potential landlords or roommates that way there are no surprises for either of you.
Lunchbox surveys the ‘catio’ we designed for him on our short-term apartment’s balcony.
This concludes our guide on travel therapy housing, but if you have any questions please feel free to ask in the comments below! We hope you’ve learned a lot and are ready to hit the ground running.
While it may take some effort at first, finding the perfect housing will set you up to crush your travel assignment and have fun doing it!