How to Avoid Booking Fees for Short Term Housing as a Travel Therapist

The Logistics of Finding Short Term Housing as a Traveler

When you begin to look into becoming a traveling therapist, it can be a little tricky to figure out how to find quality short term housing and still be able to pocket some of your left over housing stipend. While travel therapy pays better than a lot of permanent jobs, keeping a good portion of the tax free income is what makes it more lucrative. 

When searching for housing, not only do you want to find housing that’s affordable, but you also have to find housing that has a shorter lease term than most rentals, and most travelers prefer to find something fully furnished because most of us don’t have the ability to bring larger belongings on the road. If you travel in a small car, it can even be challenging to bring basic items like towels or bedding along with all of your other basics, much less worry about furniture and bigger items.

House 2

Using Vacation Rental Sites for Short Term Housing

Because of the need for travel therapy housing to be essentially ready to live in when you walk in the door, the original gold standard was for travelers to reach out to landlords of vacation rentals and explain their situation to see if these landlords would be interested in negotiating a “mid length” rental term. Most of the time, vacation rental owners are open to this idea, because it gives them the security of knowing that their space will be filled and bringing in income, without having to worry about people coming and going often or dealing with cleaning the unit between vacationers. 

However, vacation rental platforms are not designed for short term leases. They are designed to bring in revenue based on the number of bookings, and are priced to include cleaning fees, pet fees (sometimes daily depending on the space) and a vendor fee paid to the platform. Because they depend on these vendor fees, vacation rental sites absolutely need their travelers to book directly with them.

As a result, it can be hard to bypass the set fees, which can limit how much of a “deal” the landlord can truly give you as a traveling healthcare provider. Some of the fees the platform imposes cannot be adjusted. In addition, because these websites are designed to make money off of each booking, they don’t want you to easily bypass their system. 

So of course, travel therapists figured out how to work the system.

House 3

Trying to Work the System to Your Advantage

Let’s be honest. The concept of a travel therapist living in a vacation rental for several months is mutually beneficial for the landlord and the traveler. The landlord receives guaranteed income, and the traveler feels safe knowing they are renting a property that has been visited by other travelers and has visible reviews online. 

The [likely] obvious solution to this problem of booking fees is to arrange a way to pay the landlord directly without having to pay the platform. This would be super easy if travel therapists lived near where they were planning to move for work. You could arrange a meetup in a public place, see the property in person, the landlord could feel secure knowing you were a real person as well, and then you would negotiate.

But, because we have to arrange our housing from a distance for travel assignments, this simply isn’t an option for most travel therapists. Most of the time we want to feel secure that our housing is arranged far in advance, especially if we are going somewhere where housing is hard to find and/or is pricey. The last thing you want to happen is get somewhere and have no place to live and end up dropping a ton of money on a hotel or other accommodation for your whole assignment.

Some traveling therapists will book these vacation rentals for a week or two at the beginning of an assignment to sort of “try before you buy.” This allows them to check the place out, meet the landlord, and perhaps negotiate a short term lease from there. The only problem with this tactic is, the more time you wait to finalize a spot, the more time other people have to book the property. Occasionally vacation landlords will be willing to cancel these bookings to accommodate a longer stay, but many will not and you will end up back at the beginning of your housing search.

To try to get around this, many travel therapists will message owners directly and explain their situation. They send a chat within the booking platform explaining what they are going to be in town for and essentially ask for a monthly versus nightly rate. If the landlord is willing to accommodate they can send a “special offer” through the platform.

There are two problems with this. First, you (the traveler) are still slapped with the booking fees. And secondly, you are at the mercy of the platform design for how you pay your rent. Rather than a monthly rate, many booking platforms will collect a lump sum. And while you definitely should have a decent amount in savings if you work as a travel therapist, most people cannot afford to pay for three months of a short term rental up front. Plus, if you have a contract cancellation, you are once again at the mercy of the rental platform, and a lot of the time you will get little to no refund for the amount you paid up front.

The absolutely icing on the cake of this whole scenario is, even if you and the landlord are willing to connect off platform and make a long distance arrangement, you will have a heck of a time trying to do so. The chat platforms on these websites are designed to detect and block any personal information being exchanged such as email addresses and phone numbers. Like I said before, they rely on you using their platform to host the whole transaction to make money on your booking. 

Luckily, there is a way to dodge the booking fees without sending encrypted messages via vacation rental websites.

House 1

A Better Way to Book Short Term Housing

Furnished Finder and Travel Nurse Housing were designed to actually connect landlords and traveling healthcare providers directly without any weird hoops to jump through. Because these sites were created specifically for travel nurses and therapists, you don’t have to figure out how to work around limits set for other types of short term rentals. 

The main way these websites are different is they list the property contact directly on the listing. You are able to actually call or email the person listing the property and have a real conversation. Or, if you feel more comfortable, you can start by chatting on the Furnished Finder app.

These websites operate more as an advertising platform rather than a booking website. Meaning, they charge a fee to the landlord once per year to list, and they have no stakes in what you pay or how you arrange your lease with your landlord. This also means that you can discuss with your landlord directly any concerns such as potential cancellations, extensions, or even details like their pet policy. 

The other good part of this is that you can search for the property with filters that actually make sense for short term travelers. While most travelers don’t necessarily care if their rental comes with shampoo and conditioner, they definitely want to know proximity to local hospitals and if they have a washer and dryer available in the unit.

Furnished Finder also has similar safety features to those you would see on vacation rental websites. Guests can leave ratings and reviews, and there are different levels property owners can go through to reassure renters that they are legitimate. Every landlord is also screened by a staff member prior to listing, and property details are checked via public record to make sure they match up with what the listing says. Plus, if a property owner really wants to bump up their credibility, they are able to undergo a more thorough vetting process to alert travelers that they are verified, which includes adding a logo next to the title of their listing.

Another perk of using a website designed specifically for travel healthcare workers is that the landlords understand our profession and what our typical contracts look like. The landlords who choose to use websites like Furnished Finder and Travel Nurse Housing do so because they know what great tenants travel healthcare providers make, and they want to rent their property to more of those types of people. As a result, their homes are usually set up, stocked, and priced appropriately based on what they know is desirable for people in our field. 

And as one more added bonus, Furnished Finder provides several other tools that just make your life as a healthcare traveler easier. If you are short on time and don’t want to sift through properties, they actually have a Housing Request Tool that allows landlords to approach you. There is also a Free Owner Verification Report that can be used for any property, even if you don’t book on the Furnished Finder platform. And of course, there is a blog dedicated to all things related to travel healthcare housing, so you can empower and educate yourself on the housing process from top to bottom.

House 4

The Bottom Line for Improving Your Travel Housing Search

While the vacation rental style of housing is exactly what a travel therapist is looking for in short term housing, the rental model is not. It is possible to make these types of websites work for our needs, but it can also be very time consuming to do so. By connecting directly with landlords via a site designed specifically for traveling healthcare professionals, travelers are able to save money, time, and frustration by skipping over booking fees and landlords who might not truly understand the needs of a traveling healthcare professional. 

Any savvy healthcare traveler will tell you that being in control of your situation is the best way to make and save the most money, and housing is no different. You do not need to rely on a third party platform to manage your rental agreement (and often that will just cost you more time as well as money). Find the right landlords who value working professionals, utilize tools that are actually beneficial to travelers, and avoid crazy markups on websites that are designed to make the most money out of their guests’ pockets by using sites designed specifically for us as traveling healthcare professionals during your next housing search!


Guest Post written by Alex McCoy, BSN, RN  

Alex is a pediatric travel nurse and the content manager of Furnished Finder After traveling for four years with her husband, a physical therapist, they recently welcomed a daughter, Jade, into their crazy travel family. Read more articles from Alex on Furnished Finder or Travel Nurse Housing, or read about her previous travels at her blog Fit Travel Life. Have an idea you would love to share with fellow travel nurses or landlords, or want to ask Alex a question? Be sure to email her at Alex.McCoy@FurnishedFinder.com.

Finding Short Term Housing vs. Living in an RV as a Traveling Healthcare Provider

*This is a Guest Post that Whitney wrote for Furnished Finder where she discusses the differences in housing options for travel therapists, including some of the pros and cons of each! This post should be helpful to those of you trying to decide what’s the best housing choice for you as a travel healthcare provider!


Finding Short Term Housing vs. Living in an RV as a Traveling Healthcare Provider

One of the major concerns for many healthcare providers looking to pursue travel careers is how they will set up housing. There are many housing options out there for those of us who travel for work, from using sites like Furnished Finder to secure short-term furnished housing, to having the travel agency set you up at an extended stay hotel, to choosing some form of tiny living on wheels like an RV!

During my 5 years as a traveling physical therapist, I have utilized a few of these housing options and have had the opportunity to weigh the pros and cons of each. (And let me tell you, any option is going to have pros and cons!)

So let’s dive in to some of those pros and cons to considering these different options for housing, and maybe some of my insight will help you along your own travel healthcare journey!

Logistics and Considerations

When you’re considering what option to choose for housing, you will first need to take into account your own personal situation. Are you traveling solo, with a significant other, with children, or with a pet? Do you feel comfortable sharing accommodations or would you rather have your own place? If you’re thinking about tiny living/RVing, do you feel comfortable with the maintenance and upkeep involved with owning a home on wheels, plus towing it around the country?

In addition, you need to consider the location of your potential travel contract(s). Are you interested in traveling to big cities or more rural places? Some quick internet searches can reveal a lot for you as to how easy or difficult it’s going to be to secure short term housing on your own vs. having the travel company assist you with the process. It will also give you an idea of whether finding campgrounds/RV parks in the vicinity of where you might travel will be feasible.

For me, I am a traveling physical therapist and travel with my significant other who is also a traveling physical therapist, so after weighing lots of options, we decided to buy a camper and lived in it for about 3 years! This worked well for us overall as a pair, rather than finding short term housing for the both of us; however, we did end up renting a short term furnished place on a couple of assignments. More on our journey below and how we chose between short term housing and the RV life!

Company Provided Housing

This is actually the only housing option I have not utilized. Generally speaking, it seems that most travel healthcare providers choose to accept the housing stipend from the travel agency and then set up their own housing, rather than letting the company handle housing. There are some travelers who choose to let the company set up housing for them though.

I think generally the best time to let the travel company set up housing for you is if in the area where you’re traveling, you are having a lot of difficulty finding housing on your own, or you are short on time to be able to set this up yourself. Also, some travelers may just find it easier to have this weight lifted off their shoulders and let the company handle it.

The pros of letting the company set up housing for you would be that you have less worry and headache in getting the housing set up. You also probably won’t be on the hook for any rent/lease issues, in case your contract gets cancelled early. However, the cons are that, you may have less control over your accommodations, and you may end up losing money on your weekly pay because they take out a lot for housing instead of giving you the housing stipend!

Finding Short Term Housing On Your Own

I would say this is the option that the majority of travel healthcare providers choose! In your pay package, you will have the company allocate part of your pay as a housing stipend (hopefully tax free if you qualify by maintaining your tax home– hooray!). Then you will utilize different websites, like Furnished Finder; ask around in online forums and groups; call realtors and apartment complexes; and so forth until you can identify some good short term housing options!

The pros here are that you can usually find housing that’s cheaper than what the travel therapy company would take out of your paycheck, so after you pay your rent, you should come out ahead by keeping the extra money! (Who doesn’t like extra money?!) You also have more control over choosing your accommodations, such as proximity to work/attractions, as well as how many bedrooms/bathrooms, and other amenities at the accommodation!

Cons are that it is sometimes difficult to find places that offer short term rentals near where you’re going to be working. I’ve definitely run into this in the times that I had to search for short term housing. A lot of apartment complexes and personal ads for housing do not allow any shorter than 12 month leases. Also, lots of the places you find won’t be furnished or have utilities included, which leaves you with another problem to solve.

I will say that Furnished Finder has solved a lot of these problems for us. They only list places that offer short term leases (or even better, month to month!) for us as healthcare travelers. And all of their listings are already furnished. I can’t stress how much hassle this removes in terms of setting up leases, getting stuck in leases if your contract is cancelled, setting up utilities, and furnishing a place for only a couple months!

But, unfortunately there is never a guarantee that a property on Furnished Finder will be available for the location and dates that you need, so alas we must sometimes use the other options like Craigslist, Airbnb, VRBO, apartment complexes, extended stay motels, realtors, etc!

In my experience, I’ve rented two different places I found off Craigslist for two different assignments. Both were semi-private, meaning that they were part of someone’s home, but we had our own “suite” if you will. One was an over-the-garage studio apartment, but we had to share the kitchen and laundry in the main house. The other was a fully furnished basement with our own kitchen, but we had to enter through the main door and share the laundry upstairs. Overall these were good experiences, and we were very lucky to find furnished, short term rentals, with utilities included in the price, on Craigslist! Because Craigslist can definitely be hit or miss, and sometimes sketchy!

But unfortunately during our searches, we did find that there were extremely limited options for short term housing in the areas that we needed, with the criteria we wanted in an accommodation. When searching for short term housing as a traveler, you are definitely at the mercy of what’s available. So sometimes you’re either going to have to skimp on your ideal setup, or raise your budget, or possibly both.

Another consideration when choosing to set up short term housing as a traveler (whether on your own or with the company’s help), versus choosing an RV, is packing and moving often. This was a big thing we were trying to avoid by buying an RV. In an RV, you always have all your stuff with you, so you don’t have to constantly pack and move in and out of places. But, those travelers who do choose short term housing (again- the majority of travelers) do end up becoming pretty good at packing their cars and being minimalistic! And although it can be a headache sometimes, it’s just part of the traveler lifestyle and you get used to it!

Tiny Living or RV Life

Tiny living, van living, and RVing are definitely becoming more popular options for traveling healthcare providers. There is certainly some appeal to having your own home on wheels with you all the time, and traveling from place to place. To be honest, a lot of RVs now are just like little apartments, and you are by no means “camping outdoors” when living in an RV! However, tiny living is very much a lifestyle choice and not to be pursued by just anyone! It’s difficult to even compare it side by side with the alternative short term housing options, because it’s so different! I recommend not looking at this like option number 3, but like taking a left turn and pursuing a completely different path!

We chose to buy a camper pretty early in our travel PT careers, and there were several reasons why we thought this would work out better for us.

  • First, we thought it would make life easier to leave all of our stuff in the camper and just move it from place to place, without having to always pack, move in, and move out of places every 3 months or so!
  • Second, we thought finding campgrounds/RV parks would make the housing location search a lot easier than finding short term housing accommodations.
  • Third, we thought we would save a lot of money by buying the camper, staying cheaply at campgrounds, and then selling the camper when we were done.
  • Fourth, we thought it would be a cool adventure!

All of those were true, to some extent. However I don’t think it was exactly the all-around-perfect life choice that we envisioned when all was said and done.

Not having to pack and move all the time, and having all of our stuff in the camper with us all the time, was for sure a huge perk! We only had to do minimal “packing up” each time to make sure things didn’t fall down inside the camper. We could usually easily load up and move to a new place (if it was within driving distance) on a weekend, then get set up within an hour or so at the new place, and be back to work on Monday if we wanted!

The campground/RV Park finding process was easier than short term housing to an extent. However, it does sometimes limit the locations you can travel to. For example, it’s not as common to see RV Parks that allow long term (month to month) stays near bigger cities. We had pretty good luck finding them in suburban and rural areas, but it did limit us from going some places. The way we maneuvered this was, when presented with a potential contract to apply for, we instantly did a quick Google search to see if there were even any RV parks nearby before we submitted our applications for the job. That part made it a little more feasible. Because as compared with short term housing, you can’t always do a quick search to know whether there are places to rent readily available for the dates you need, before submitting for the job.

Financially, having the camper usually saved us on our monthly rent costs, with most campgrounds we stayed at costing between $300-900 per month. Whereas depending on the area, short term rentals could run you anywhere from $500-2500 per month! But, with an RV, you still have to account for the upfront cost of buying an RV, the costs for maintenance and repairs, and the depreciation on the vehicle if you plan to sell it afterwards. When all was said and done after factoring in these costs once we sold it, we probably about broke even over the course of 3 years. If you planned to keep it for shorter than 3 years, you’d most likely come out behind financially based on our calculations.

As far as adventure goes, it was certainly a fun experience and something we will be able to talk about for the rest of our lives! But it’s not for everyone. The part we didn’t really take into account were the maintenance and repairs. It’s like owning a house, but one that’s on wheels, with little parts that can break, and you can’t always easily find the part to replace or a repair person who knows how to fix it like at a normal house!

All in all, we are glad we chose to do the RV life for 3 years. But it did not come without its hassles and headaches. In the end, we were glad to sell it and not have the responsibility anymore! So this is a huge thing you need to take into consideration for yourself. Are you going to be the type of person who wants to maintain and upkeep your home on wheels? Or would you rather just rent short term housing and not have a place to worry about all the time?

What Type of Housing Is Best for You?

So what’s the best choice for housing as a traveling healthcare provider? I don’t think there’s one answer to this question. You really have to consider what type of person you are, and what you’re comfortable with. As I mentioned, most travelers will choose to go with short term housing and set up their own accommodations. But there’s always the option of letting the company set up housing for you for an assignment and seeing how that goes. Or if you’re feeling really adventurous, or already know you like the camper lifestyle, maybe you decide to jump into RVing/Tiny Living, but just make sure to do your research before making any big purchases!

I hope this information has been helpful to you in terms of deciding what types of housing will be best for you as a traveling healthcare provider! Happy Travels, and enjoy the journey!

 


Written by, Whitney Eakin, PT, DPT, ATC

Whitney has been a traveling physical therapist since 2015 and travels with her significant other and fellow Travel PT, Jared Casazza. Together they have a personal blog titled “Fifth Wheel PT,” which got its name from their 3 years traveling and living full time in a fifth wheel camper! Whitney and Jared have traveled for PT work up and down the east coast, and in their time off between contracts have traveled all over the world! Together with Jared, Whitney also mentors current and future travel therapists at their website TravelTherapyMentor.com. You can follow their travel journey on Instagram or Facebook @TravelTherapyMentor.