Housing is often a confusing and stressful aspect of travel nursing, especially for new travelers. Many sources recommend first-time travelers accept agency-provided housing for simplicity reasons, but I didn’t take this advice and you don’t have to either. Nurses should make the housing decision that’s right for them. This guide will break down the differences between agency-provided housing and a travel nurse housing stipend.
Technically, no. You can either choose between agency-provided housing or a travel nurse housing stipend. Either way, you’re paying for housing. Even when an agency promotes “free housing” it just means they will deduct that amount from your total pay. Let’s break down what a travel nurse housing stipend is so you can decide which option is best for you.
Most agencies offer travel nurses a housing stipend to cover their housing while on assignment. This is calculated as part of your compensation package. If you choose to take agency-provided housing, you won’t get a housing stipend.
Stipends, like bill rates (the total amount a hospital and agency agree upon), will depend on the region, facility, nursing specialty, and demand. Your travel nurse housing stipend may be offered in the form of a weekly or monthly amount.
Most travel agencies like Advantis Medical Staffing provide a “break-down” of your pay which lists out line-by-line your compensation package. (If your recruiter doesn’t provide this up front, ask for it).
Keep in mind that, unlike your hourly pay, your travel nurse housing stipend is not taxed. Some nurses balk at a low hourly rate but fail to take into account a sizable stipend. You need to consider your entire pay package, that is, the hourly base rate, housing stipend, meals and incidentals (M&I), and any benefits you opt for (health insurance, etc.) to determine if the package is best for you.
Let’s try an example. You receive a $2,500 monthly travel nurse housing stipend which you will receive weekly, $625. With a stipend, you have the option of choosing cheaper housing, which will increase your weekly take-home pay. If you secure housing for $2,200 per month, you pocket an extra $300 per month for expenses.
Agency-provided housing takes this variable out of the equation.
Not every nurse is eligible for a housing stipend. This is where it can get confusing and nurses can get themselves into (tax) trouble. A travel nurse housing stipend is only applicable when you have a tax home, are traveling away from that tax home for work, and are incurring housing expenses while away from your tax home.
In other words, the travel nurse housing stipend is based on your duplicating expenses. It is not meant to be 100% profit and is illegal to accept if you are not using it for its intended purpose. If you aren’t sure if you qualify for a travel nurse housing stipend, discuss it further with your recruiter or a tax professional.
Some nurses enjoy not having to worry about the housing aspect and let their agency’s housing department secure a short-term rental. These are often apartment complexes or extended-stay hotels.
Housing can be very hard to find in rural areas or ridiculously expensive in cities. Agency-provided housing takes the hassle out of searching with better rates. The largest benefit to agency-provided housing is that you are protected in the event your assignment gets canceled. This happens from time to time.
On the other hand, agency housing options may seem modest. While you’ll have the essential basics like furniture, linens, and dishes, they don’t usually cover utilities, tv, or internet, so those are on you to connect and pay for.
If you’ve decided the housing stipend is the route for you, you’re now responsible for finding and securing your new temporary home. It can seem daunting and time-consuming, but it's also fun choosing a home-away-from-home. Travel nurse housing can be booked online or offline. These are the resources travel nurses use most to locate housing:
This website is dedicated to travel nurses and other traveling professionals. The property owners understand most contracts are around 3 months in length and require a minimum of a 30-day stay. These aren’t for quick weekend trips. There is a mix of apartments, hotels, private rooms, and entire houses for rent. You can search for your specific area and budget and communicate directly with the property owner.
Pros: Choosing your living arrangement on a site that is trusted by nurses. Utilities, internet, and laundry are usually included. You can often live in style in rustic cabins, a contemporary city apartment, or with luxurious amenities like resort-style pools.
Cons: Scams happen on occasion. Travelers can request an Owner Verification Request which will provide a report of the owner’s name and property details. If your assignment gets canceled, it's up to you and the owner to work it out. Usually, a 30-day notice is required.
Most people are familiar with or have utilized Airbnb for vacations. I’ve used AirBnB myself for travel assignments and booked private rooms, garage lofts, condos, and entire mountain houses. I’m lucky I’ve never had a poor experience and only excellent hosts. Hosts will often agree to a lower monthly rate if you contact them directly and tell them your situation (don’t ever tell them how much you make!) They can send you a private rate through messaging.
Pros: Choosing housing you will feel comfortable in and treating your travel assignment like an adventure. All utilities should be included (always read the description and reviews or ask).
Cons: Cost. Airbnb’s fees have skyrocketed and made many housing situations unaffordable. Again, contact the host directly and negotiate a rate that works for both of you.
Certain hotels offer discounted weekly rates to travel nurses. Call and ask to speak to the hotel manager. They often offer reduced rates since a room booked for weeks is better than an empty one. I recommend opting for a room with a kitchenette unless you prefer Chinese take-out and sandwiches for 3 months.
Pros: Free breakfast, housekeeping services, free Wi-Fi, and amenities like pools and fitness centers. You may also feel safer with a 24/7 front desk receptionist and doors only accessible with key cards.
Cons: Costs can still sometimes be just as expensive if not more than apartments or Airbnb. Living in basically one room for months may make you a little crazy.
When in doubt, turn to the pros. Travel nurse Facebook groups often share reputable housing as well as areas to stay away from. Search Facebook for “Travel Nursing Housing” and you’ll find multiple options with thousands of members sharing recommendations.
Pros: Insider knowledge on safe cities, legitimate hosts, hotel discount codes, as well as scams to be wary of.
Cons: Some property owners may still post scams that haven’t been validated. Never send anyone money directly through Facebook.
Advantis Medical is pleased to offer our travelers discounted hotel rates through our partners: Extended Stay America, Wyndham, Traveler’s Haven, Hotel Engine and more! We offer a concierge type service for our clinicians where we help them at the beginning, middle and end of the housing process. We send our clinicians a housing form they fill out with all their preferences/stipend/budget. From there, we work with our partners and resources to find the safest most affordable housing for our clinicians. We will even book housing for them if that is a service they would like. We also have a special discount code with Enterprise Rent-a-Car if that is a mode of transportation our travelers are interested in!
The recruiters at Advantis Medical Staffing will be more than happy to help you find housing to ensure that your travel assignment is as pleasant and comfortable as possible. Sign up on Advantis Connect to join the Advantis Medical clinicians team and find unforgettable travel nurse assignments.