We often receive questions about whether it’s feasible to travel with kids or travel with a family as a travel therapist, travel nurse, or other traveling healthcare provider. The answer is YES. absolutely! But, this will look different for different families, and there are a lot of logistics and considerations. We are excited to share Alex’s story about traveling with her husband and two young children to give you one perspective on how this travel healthcare couple has made it work!
Travel Healthcare with a Family
Hey all! My name is Alex McCoy and I am a traveling Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) nurse. I have been a nurse for eight years, and I have traveled for about five of those years. I started out using travel nursing as a way to make more money when I was the sole provider for our family while my husband, Keaton, finished physical therapy school.
Once he graduated, we were able to travel together as a couple, which was such a fun way to experience the country together. We traveled for two years and were able to coordinate Travel PT and Travel Nursing contracts together most of that time– which also allowed us to pay off debt, buy a car in cash, and save a lot of money as well!
Adding to Our Family
Around the two year mark of traveling together, we decided to start a family. I was actually on contract through the first half of my pregnancy, and then we ultimately decided to move home to be closer to family while we adjusted to parenthood. A lot of things about transitioning to permanent jobs didn’t pan out the way we had hoped– for example, I was not at mine long enough to accrue any paid maternity leave, and my insurance didn’t kick in until I was almost seven months pregnant. In hindsight, I should have probably continued a travel job until delivery simply for the better benefits and pay.
Anyway, our daughter was born late in 2019, and I was able to work a PRN job as I eased into being a working mom. And little did we know, but a global pandemic was about to wreck the entire healthcare system as we knew it. We had initially talked about going back to travel after our daughter was born, but the physical therapy market crashed in mid 2020, and the pediatric nurse job market wasn’t looking any better, so we stayed put near home for the time being.
Near the end of 2020, we got pregnant with our second, also a girl, who was born in May of 2021. We were living the iconic American dream– two adorable little girls, a nice house in a nice neighborhood, working in well-respected jobs– but we were struggling. Keeping two under two in daycare full time was going to cost us $2500 a month (this was in our home base in Kansas City, Missouri if you were wondering). Most of our call-offs and vacation days were being used to juggle days where one kid was running a fever and couldn’t go to the sitter, or the other was vomiting and needed one of us at home. Even with an incredible support system, we barely had time as a family, and all of the “perks” of working a regular job weren’t really being utilized to our benefit.
The Leap Back Into Travel
When our youngest daughter was about seven months old, I reached out to a friend of mine who had become a travel nursing recruiter. On a complete whim, I asked her for a list of travel nursing jobs that were within three to four hours of me that were paying high rates. She immediately sent me a job in St. Louis that was paying per week what I made in a month, and it was weekend-only nights.
Thus started the craziest three months of our lives. We decided to “try before you buy,” if you will. I would work Friday-Sunday nights in St. Louis, and my husband, Keaton, would work four, 10-hour days during the week at our home base in Kansas City. This meant we only needed childcare Fridays and Mondays, and I could be home with my girls four days a week.
While this arrangement was hugely beneficial from a financial standpoint, it was not a long term option. I got used to the driving pretty quickly, but Keaton and the kids would also drive up most weekends. I was still nursing my younger daughter, and it was nice to be able to see my kids for a few hours on Saturdays and Sundays when I woke up before my shift.
Hitting the Road Full Time
As my contract in St. Louis began winding down, we decided we were ready to go all-in on travel. Keaton was used to solo-parenting all weekend, so he felt a lot more confident if he had to be the stay at home parent. I was loving the freedom and flexibility that much higher pay provided us, and I was excited to not feel tied to a regular employer.
That summer we hit the road to Virginia and haven’t looked back. Thus far we have continued to have me work the contracts while Keaton keeps the kids, simply because PICU travel nursing is paying an average of $3500 a week or more, and I only have to work three days per week. We do plan to have Keaton take the next contract so he can keep up his clinical skills as well.
Transition to Full Time RV Living
Unaware that we were going to go back to full time travel, in the fall of 2021 we had purchased a pop up camper to use for road trips. If you have kids, you know how much of a chore it can be to pack for any sort of outing. The pop up camper was our solution to this. We would have most of the basic necessities stocked, and we could just pack clothes and go. The pop up would also allow us to travel more cheaply while still having a climate controlled space to use for naps and bedtimes.
We actually brought the pop up along with us to Virginia, where we stayed at a short term rental for our housing, and it was so fun for weekend beach getaways. On these trips we started discussing the idea of full time camper living.
Our housing arrangement in Virginia was great– for a couple or single person. We found a cute little house on Furnished Finder at a reasonable price. The problem was, everything “reasonable” was a one bedroom. We made it work, but it was tight. Our bedroom basically functioned as a bunk room, and the main living area felt chaotic all the time with the kids’ stuff being everywhere.
Keaton and I started doing the math and figured that even if we had to finance a truck and/or a small portion of a larger camper, we would still end up paying less than what it would cost for a two bedroom furnished rental in most places. Ultimately, we decided to purchase a used camper and newer truck.
Perks of Full Time RV Life
So far, we are really enjoying full time camper life. Our floor plan is the Keystone Bullet Premier Ultra Lite 31 BHPR. It allows us to have a full bunk room for the girls to use for their toys and things, and then Keaton and I have a small “bedroom”.
My favorite part is all of the time we spend outside as a result. Since you can’t really live in areas with extreme weather in an RV, it is typically nice enough to spend at least part of the day outside each day. Plus, when you are living in a campground, there are usually lots of places to walk and explore, and we even have a playground nearby most of the time. Plus, we just invested in a Frozen Power Wheels Jeep— so mom and dad get lots of steps while the girls drive around.
We also love that we can just close our slides and take off. On our contract in Virginia, it took several days to pack, load, and organize our stuff. Pre-kids, we could typically do it in a day, but since we can’t just power through these days, it just wasn’t that simple. In the RV, we try to do some cleaning and organizing beforehand, but we don’t have to be as perfect as when we are returning the keys to a rental unit.
Downsides of Our Lifestyle
Hands down the hardest part of being on the road full time with two small kids has been the lack of a “village” or support system. Keaton and I have been married for over seven years, but we still try to be intentional about our quality time together. Without babysitters or family nearby, we often can’t have traditional date nights or time away.
We work as a team to make sure we each get time alone to decompress or work on our own hobbies. We also always find a gym with childcare so our kids can go play while we work out, and we don’t have to worry about juggling kids and workout schedules.
The other thing we are conscious of is taking advantage of time we do have with childcare available. If we go home or have visitors on assignment, we usually ask for a few hours to get out and reconnect. We also try to plan a trip once a year to go on a trip as just the two of us.
Overall we are thankful for the time we get together as a family, but we recognize how important it is to also take time to be ourselves and make it work even while on the road!
What the Future Holds
Honestly…we aren’t sure just yet! And we’re okay with that. Continuing to travel and homeschooling our girls is always an option, but our oldest is only three, so we have some time to decide. As long as we are traveling, we plan to alternate who takes a travel job and the other one of us will stay at home with the girls.
At this point, if we continue to travel, I don’t think we will go back to short term housing. It’s so nice having our own space and not having to worry about packing each time, and I can’t see a world where we would want to give that up.
If we do decide to go all-in on continuing to travel, homeschool, and live in the RV more long term, I think we would look at upgrading our rig and truck just to have more space. We would love a fifth wheel and maybe a toy hauler space that we could use for a multipurpose room.
In the end, we are constantly thankful for the options our careers afford us. Whatever we decide to do in the future, there is always room to pivot and do what works best for us and our family!
Alex McCoy is a Pediatric ICU Travel Nurse who has been active in the travel nursing community as a writer and content creator since 2017. She is currently traveling with her husband, Keaton, and their daughters Jade and Cecelia in a 35 foot travel trailer. Alex and her family love exploring different areas and love getting outside to hike and explore the national parks and monuments! You can reach Alex on Instagram @alexmccoyrn or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We would like to thank Alex for sharing her story about how her and her family are making travel healthcare work for them! If you’re reading this and wondering if travel healthcare could potentially be an option for you and your family, of course there will be special considerations depending on your specific circumstances. We have definitely heard of a lot of families making travel healthcare work for them. Whether it’s a single parent with one or more children who finds childcare locally on contracts, a couple who both work, or a couple where one works and the other watches the kids. There are plenty of healthcare travelers that have either young children or school-aged children. Many of them bring their families along with them, but we have also talked to travelers who go away from home and leave their families behind, visiting often on weekends.
If you’re looking for more info about traveling with a spouse who’s not a healthcare worker and needs different work options, whether remote or locally on your assignments, check out this article. Whatever your situation might be, we guarantee there is another healthcare professional in a similar situation who has made travel healthcare work for them if that was their goal!
For more insights on this topic, watch the video we made discussing Travel Healthcare with a Family!
If you’re a healthcare traveler who travels with your family, we would love if you’d leave a comment below & share your story about how you’ve been able to make this lifestyle work!