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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Travel Therapy Housing 101

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.

  1. 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!
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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

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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.