Hitting the road this holiday season? As a travel nurse, you’re savvy when it comes to planning an efficient and frugal journey. Still, getting around this time of year can present unique challenges. Whether you’re heading home or taking a vacation, here are some tips for keeping your holiday travels safe and easy.
- Plan in advance. The holidays are an incredibly busy time for travelers. Planning ahead will help you get the best deals on hotel rooms, car rentals, or airfare!
- Schedule wisely. If you’re on assignment, it’s important to make sure you have a clear sense of what shifts you’ll be working and any on-call duties. You might also check in with your recruiter in the week before your trip so that you can touch base about future assignments.
- Score airfare early. If you’re flying and have flexible dates, search tools can give you great results and help you nab a deal. Google Flights offers an easy-to-navigate grid that displays the lowest known prices on a calendar. Kiwi allows you to set a price range and receive several booking options.
- Check the weather. If you’re driving, review the forecast frequently in the days leading up to your departure. Look for apps that go beyond the basics and provide hour-by-hour predictions of precipitation risk.
- Book hotel rooms in advance. In popular holiday destinations, rooms fill up quickly! Trivago is an awesome source for finding last-minute discounts and comparing lodging options. For your best bet, search multiple engines. Kayak will scan a bunch of sites and show you the best deals.
- . . . or stay in a dreamy winter wonderland. If you find you’ve waited too long to book a room, don’t give up hope! Camping out can be a great alternative. Have you ever dreamed about a cozy campsite or cabin at Christmas time? ReserveAmerica can help you find one. Airbnb is another great way to find homey options.
- Check your tires. Winter weather can be dicey. Remember to check the air in your tires. Cold weather will deflate them, bringing down air pressure. That can be unsafe, particularly if you’re traveling in poor conditions. Bring quarters for the air machines you find at gas stations, too.
- Top off your windshield wiper fluid. If you hit a storm, you’ll go through it quickly.
- Go for a tune-up before you hit the road. Ask the mechanic to pay special attention to the things that really matter in cold weather, like your tire condition, heater/defroster, brakes, and whether you have adequate anti-freeze.
- Ride in comfort. If you drive to your travel nursing assignments, you’re familiar with the aches and pains that can come with too many hours on the road. The last thing you want to do on vacation is to spend your time doubled up in bed! Try to take a break at least once every three hours, if not more often.
- Use cruise control. It will help you rest your legs, stretch your body, and get the best gas mileage.
- Pack your car with winter emergency essentials. In addition to your normal first aid and emergency tools, pack cold weather essentials, like a heavy blanket in case you get stranded in a cold area. Don’t forget your ice scraper — an essential time-saver if you encounter ice or snow. (See this list from the Department of Motor Vehicles for a complete list of recommended items!)
- Feast on snacks! Packing snacks can help you limit unnecessary stops and reduce food costs. Avoid gas station temptations by packing a cooler or bag with your favorite treats. Warm favorites, like coffee and hot chocolate, can brighten your winter spirits and keep you toasty.
- Make a packing list and check it twice. Holidays are crazy busy. You don’t want to have to step away from festivities to seek out items that can be difficult to replace (like medications or contact lenses). Make your list in advance of packing so you can be sure to remember all essential items.
- Be realistic about your travel options. It may not be feasible to take a dream vacation this time of year — and depending on your schedule, you may not have time to get as far as you want. If you can’t get all the way home, see if your family might meet you halfway.
- Find a hot off-season destination. Okay, so maybe you can’t fly to the Maldives to escape the winter blues or ski the best powder in Aspen. See if you can find a deal by looking at destinations that are “off-season” in winter. Florida and California have great options, as do Cape Cod, New Orleans, and Las Vegas.
- Watch your wallet. If you’re like most people who go into travel nursing, you’re driven enough to earn a high income and smart about finances. Keep up the great work while you’re on vacation. Use Mint to monitor your assets and sync your daily spending or Goodbudget for an even simpler solution.
- Make your hotel do double-duty. Consider hotels with add-ons. Many chains offer free breakfast, and some even offer free cocktail-hour grub. During the holiday season, you might even find luxury hotels that offer special packages, like free champagne or discounted spa services. While they’re still a splurge, you’re getting more bang for your buck.
- Dine smart. When you’re eating out, order water instead of marked-up beverages.
Consider buying an appetizer instead of a full meal. Read menus closely to think creatively about how to save money by pairing choices.
- Use your coupons and rewards! Most chain restaurants now have customer reward/coupon apps. Download and use them! Or try Restaurant and Groupon to buy discount vouchers for sit-down establishments. Another easy place to curtail expenses is at the tank. Find the best prices in your area through Gas Buddy. Get partner rewards with your favorite grocery store chain or sign up for a gas card.
- Charge it. Credit cards with travel rewards are a no-brainer for frequent travelers. Earn frequent flyer miles, free gas, upgrades, and more. (If you’re in the market for a card, Compare Cards can help you see differences between options.) A big bonus of credit cards? If you find yourself in an emergency, they can save the day.
- Window shop. One of the pleasures of traveling during the holidays is enjoying the beauty of lights, garlands, and other decorations wherever you visit. Most shops will set up lovely displays this time of year. Enjoy them — and write a little Santa list while you’re at it.
- Do something unexpected. Want to make your vacation memorable? Discover a new experience through a funky site like Roadside Attractions — or explore TripAdvisor’s “Things to Do” sections for user-ranked lists of tourism activities. (Check out Santa Claus, Indiana!)
- Get outside. Whether it’s ice skating, skiing, hiking in a national park, or soaking in a hot spring, you’ll give your vacation a healthy kick if you spend some time in nature.
- Treat yourself to an indulgence (or two! or three!) The holidays can be stressful, and as a grown-up, you may find shopping for your own gift is a lot of fun. Check out Groupon for offers on spas, activities, and events at your destination location.
Looking for more holiday tips? Check out our blog on how to raise your patients’ spirits this holiday season.