If you’re considering getting into travel therapy (Travel PT, Travel OT, Travel SLP), one of the first questions you might have is, how does the housing work when you’re away on assignment?
Does the travel therapy company set up housing for you, or do you find housing yourself?
There are lots of options to find short term housing for travelers, so let’s go over them all.
Company Provided Housing
If you’d like for them to, then the travel therapy company can set up housing for you. However, when they do this, you don’t receive a housing stipend, which is often what makes travel therapy pay so lucrative.
So you have a choice, either the company can take care of the housing for you, and you get paid less, or you can take the housing stipend, find your own housing, and if you can find housing for cheap, you get to keep the rest of the money.
There are some benefits to having the company set up housing for you. It takes away a lot of the hassle of finding it yourself and arranging a lease. Also, if your contract gets cut short, you’re not responsible for being stuck in a lease, the company takes care of that for you.
Of course, there are some negatives too. One is that you lose the housing stipend/leftover money. You also don’t have control over where they pick for housing.
Typically if the travel therapy company arranges the housing, they will have an established relationship/contract with an extended stay hotel system or some type of corporate/furnished apartments.
Occasionally, the facility where you’re going might be able to provide housing that they’ve used for staff in the past. For example, in some remote locations, like Alaska, Hawaii, or Cape Cod, they could have an arrangement with local apartments or cottages that they use for travelers quite often. Some hospital systems could have dorms or apartments they use for travelers, students, MD residents, etc.
Making Your Own Housing Arrangements
Most often, travel therapists will choose to accept the housing stipend and make their own housing arrangements. As mentioned, if you’re able to find housing for less than the amount they give you for the stipend, you can keep the rest of the stipend and consider it extra pay, which is a huge perk. In our experience, we’ve always been able to arrange housing for much cheaper than the housing allowance.
There are lots of options that travelers use to arrange housing, including:
- Traveling to locations where they can rent from family or friends
- Crowd-sourcing their friends/acquaintances to see if anyone has a place to rent where they’ll be traveling
- Searching for short term housing options on websites including:
- Searching for apartment complexes that provide furnished/short term leases
- Contacting local realtors to ask about short term leases
- Searching for extended stay motels/corporate housing
- Checking with local colleges for housing pages/subleases from students
- Asking the facility/HR department if they have contacts for short term housing that other travelers have used in the past
- Calling RV parks/campgrounds to see if they have Cottages/Park Model RVs available for monthly rentals
- Traveling by RV/camper, van, or tiny home and staying at campgrounds/RV parks, or searching for locations/private property that have RV site hook-ups
Considerations For Arranging Your Own Housing
Setting up short term housing can definitely be tricky as a travel therapist. There are some things you’ll need to consider to make sure you have the best experience.
- Watch out for scams!
- Most of the time, you’ll be arranging housing over the phone/internet, sight unseen. This has always worked out fine for us, but you do need to be aware of scams. Go with your gut if something seems sketchy! Make sure to talk to someone on the phone before agreeing to housing and sending any deposit, and ask for references if necessary. Most of the time if you’re going through a legitimate business (apartment complex, campground, etc) it’s going to be fine. It’s the individuals on Craigslist/Facebook etc you have to be most concerned with. Usually if you go through a website like Airbnb or Furnished Finder, the business itself will have your back if there’s a scam, but make sure to do your due diligence and don’t get taken advantage of.
- Some therapists will choose to move to a location and stay at a hotel for a few days before their contract starts, then use those few days to go look at places in person to avoid getting scammed!
- Try to get a month to month arrangement
- Sometimes travel contracts get cancelled early, so if you commit to a 3-month or 6-month lease, you can get stuck in that lease and not be able to get out without hefty penalties and fees, or having to pay the full lease term! Ideally, try to set up a contract/lease that allows month to month rentals, or has an appropriate cancellation clause. Usually individual landlords will be okay with this if you explain your situation. It can be more difficult with apartment complexes/businesses.
- Shop around to get the lowest rent and try to negotiate!
- Ideally as a traveler, you want to find the cheapest housing possible that still suits your needs. You’re going to save the most money to be able to put aside for paying off debts, investing in your retirement funds, or taking additional time off if you can keep your expenses low! For some travelers, they’re okay with renting a room in someone’s house to save a lot! For some, they really want their own space or need their own space due to traveling with a partner, family, or pet. That’s okay too, but still try to shop around and get the lowest rent possible. Often, if you explain your situation as a traveling healthcare worker, they might be willing to negotiate a lower rate than the posted monthly rate.
- Take pictures before/after
- If you have any concerns about the location where you’re renting and want to be sure you won’t be held liable for anything, take photos when you move in and move out to make sure you won’t be charged any unnecessary fees for damages or things in disrepair.
- Carry renter’s insurance
- This is good practice whenever you’re going to be renting somewhere, in case of unforeseen issues like theft, fire, water damage, natural disasters, roommate problems, etc.
- Try to find furnished places with utilities included
- Everyone has their own methods for finding short term housing, and sometimes you’re going to find better deals than others. But in our experience finding short term housing, we’ve always tried to find a place that is already furnished and has utilities included. This makes life so much easier when you’re moving to a new location and will only be there a short time.
- If you’re not able to find furnished or utilities included, try to go pretty basic for the few months you’ll be there. Some travelers bring their own furnishings, rent them, or buy stuff upon arrival. If you have to furnish it yourself, you can honestly get by with so much less than you think for just a few months! Same with utilities. Get just the necessities! It can be a huge hassle to set up utilities for just a few months then cancel them.
Bottom Line for Housing
Arranging housing as a traveler can be frustrating sometimes, but there are lots of tips and tricks to make it easier and have a better experience. We generally recommend trying to set up housing on your own, so you can get the housing stipend and keep the extra money. If you are really struggling to find housing for an assignment, talk to your recruiter/staffing company and see if they can help you, and be sure to reach out to your colleagues in the travel therapy community, such as in Facebook groups!
Thanks for reading! We hope this gave you insight to how housing works as a healthcare traveler. Stay tuned for the rest of our Travel Therapy 101 Mini-Series!
If you have questions or are ready to get started on your travel therapy journey, please feel free to contact us or ask us for recommendations for our favorite travel therapy recruiters to help you get started!
Written by Whitney Eakin, PT, DPT, ATC
Whitney has been a traveling physical therapist for over 5 years and travels with her significant other and fellow Travel PT, Jared. Together they mentor and educate other current and aspiring travel therapists via their website Travel Therapy Mentor.