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What Are the Hidden Costs of Traveling on a Job That Nobody Ever Talks About? 

Treyvon Kurr
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Being a traveling nurse can bring the excitement of new opportunities, new places, and fresh faces as you travel and work in locations across the country. The experience can also come with hidden costs you may be responsible for covering, however.  Many employers may cover some, or even all of these costs. Some will not, however. When you add in the fact that some of the costs listed below are ones you need to cover yourself upfront before being reimbursed, the potential for unforeseen surprises can increase.  

Are you not sure what you’re in for? Check out our list of hidden travel nurses expenses so you can approach your personal planning in the best way possible. 

Licenses and Certifications   

When looking at your budget while on a travel assignment, two things you don’t want to forget are your certifications and nursing licenses. 


Most employers will require that you pay for your license and certifications upfront and reimburse you later. This is done just in case your commitment to the job falls through. Your reimbursement may come with your first paycheck, or it may be further down the line, such as in the middle of your contract.  

It’s important to know the cost for a state nursing license can vary considerably from one state to the next. For example, an RN license by endorsement in Texas costs about $186, while in Massachusetts it can run up to $275. It’s best to be prepared to pay up to $300 for your new state nursing license and associated fees.  


Certifications are generally nationally recognized, which is a blessing when traveling for work. This means that, while you need to keep your certifications up-to-date, you don’t need new ones for every state in which you work.  

Remember these common certifications often expire every two years and so you must alot enough money to pay for their renewal. In addition, be sure to keep all your necessary certifications current. If something expires, you could be disqualified for a travel RN (registered nurse) or PT (physical therapy) position.  

As with licenses, certifications can cost you anywhere between $50 and $300 or more. In fact, a CPI (Crisis Prevention Institute) certification can cost over $1000. Check with the hospital you are currently employed with to see if they will cover any certification courses for you, for free.  

Gas Mileage 

Gas isn’t really a hidden cost but it’s one you don’t want to neglect. If you are traveling by car to a new position, consider how much your gas will cost each day to get there. Gas is expensive and being able to conserve it in any way possible can help.  

Have you been considering investing in an electric car? Now might be a great time to do so. Some companies will help pay for your gas, but this could come as a reimbursement after your assignment is done.  

In order to access the cheapest gas, use a smartphone application to find the best price in your area. Some top gas apps include: 

Lodging/Housing Costs 

Are you going to be far enough away from home that you need lodging? Keep distances in mind. For tax purposes, the IRS states you must be a certain distance from your permanent home in order to take advantage of tax-free travel per diem.   

Some employers will provide you with a home allowance during travel assignments. This will cover the costs of lodging in a furnished, one-bedroom apartment. If this isn’t available, you will want to research discount hotel rates in your work area.  

Some people even go so far as to stay in KOA campsites in order to save on lodging. These can offer small cabins with a bed and grill. If you love the outdoors, this can be a fun way to travel, work, and a great way to save at the same time. Just don’t forget your sheets, blankets, kitchenware, and pillow. Strike up a campfire at the end of the day and take in stars.  

Medical Records 

No travel assignment checklist is complete when planning your budget without considering the cost of your medical records. In most cases, agencies will cover these costs for you. It can be a good idea to bring a copy of your own medical records with you, however. This can help you save money in case your agency isn’t willing to pay for your records in case you fall sick.  

In addition, if you supply a complete and comprehensive set of your medical records, this could improve your chances of squeezing some extra money out of each contract. It could also make you a more attractive potential employee as you’ve already covered some of the paperwork yourself.   


Each hospital and new setting has their own rules with regards to uniforms. You might find you can use what you already have, but when traveling often for work, you may discover you need to invest in a new uniform. In general, you may find when traveling for work as a nurse that you end up purchasing scrubs and shoes more often than normal.  

Leisure and Food 

When working away from home it’s important to remember that you may be tempted to spend more money on takeout food and leisure, in order to play tourist wherever you are. Just remember to set a budget and stick to it. This way you can socialize with your new colleagues but not worry about overspending. Cooking wherever you are staying can always help save money on restaurant bills and you can use the leftovers for lunch the next day.  

When it comes to TV and internet, if you have unlimited internet usage on your phone and a Netflix subscription, this can be one of the most economical ways to catch your entertainment.  

Contact MLee Healthcare to learn more 

Working as a traveling nurse can have huge benefits. You get to see different parts of the country while earning money and making new friends, which can be amazing. In order to stay on top of your spending as a traveling nurse, it can be wise to create a reasonable budget and stick to it. Inquire with your employer about being reimbursed for gas, lodging, certifications, and licensing, and have fun! 

If you’re wondering what is the average pay for a traveling nurse or how much travel nurses make a year, you might think about seeking a recruiter’s help. At MLee Healthcare, we can help answer your questions and find your next great contract. As a nationally ranked travel nurse agency that adheres to the highest standards, we have your best experience in mind. Contact us now to learn more. 

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