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

Whitney Eakin headshot

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.

Travel Therapy Pay 101

Travel Therapy Pay 101: How Does It Work?

A huge perk of travel therapy (Travel PT, Travel OT, Travel SLP) is that you can make more money! But how much more? And how does the pay work?

The way we get paid as traveling therapists is different than that of a normal salary or hourly position (such as at a regular permanent job or a PRN job). Why? For one, we don’t work on an annual basis, we work on a week to week basis, so you can’t discuss our pay in terms of an annual salary. We also can’t discuss pay in terms of a strict “hourly” rate, because we often receive tax-free stipends as part of our pay.

Typically, as a traveling healthcare professional, you’re going to get paid a regular hourly rate (which is taxed), plus a per diem or stipend for housing, meals, and incidentals (which is usually untaxed, as long as you meet the requirements of maintaining a proper tax home).

Why do we get paid this way? Well, as traveling workers, we receive pay not only for the work we do, but we also receive reimbursements to cover our housing and other expenses while we are there. Per the IRS, as long as you’re maintaining a “Tax Home” at your permanent residence, you get a tax break on the stipend part of your pay. So, at the end of the day, because you don’t have to pay taxes on that part of your pay, you end up making more money after taxes than at a regular job, where all of your pay is taxed.

  • To learn more about tax homes, stay tuned for the Tax Home part of our series coming soon! We also recommend visiting TravelTax.com to make sure you’re following all the proper rules!

Sometimes, travel therapists will also receive additional reimbursements for things like their state license, scrubs, and mileage/travel to get to the assignment.

So your pay is going to be broken into these segments which make up what’s called the “Pay Package“: Hourly Rate + Stipends/Per Diems + Reimbursements.

But, in order to easily discuss pay packages, people in the travel therapy industry normally refer to pay in what’s called the “Weekly Take-Home” amount. This is a number that encompasses how much you’re going to make each week in total, since it’s easier to discuss travel therapy jobs on a week by week basis. It’s important to distinguish when talking about “Weekly Pay” if the person you’re talking to is referring to gross pay or net/after tax pay. Most of the time we all discuss it as after tax pay which is what “Weekly Take Home” means, the amount you actually take home after taxes.

How do you calculate a “Weekly Take Home” number?

You take the hourly rate and multiply it by the number of hours you worked.

  • For example, $20/hr x 40hrs = $800

Then, you subtract out the taxes you have to pay on that amount, which depends on your state and your tax filing status (for example single/married and if you claim dependents).

  • So let’s say you owed 30% taxes, it would be $800 x 70%= $560 after taxes

Then, you’ll add in your weekly per diem amounts, for example $1000/wk total for meals/housing/incidentals.

  • So if your pay was $20/hr + $1000/wk stipends, your “weekly take home” amount would be: $560 (after taxes) + $1000 (untaxed) = $1560/wk after taxes!

Then you might get a one time reimbursement of say $500 for travel/license, so you’d get $500 one time, then each week also get $1560/wk!

Where Does the Money Come From?

It’s important to understand where the money comes from when you’re talking about pay. As a travel therapist, the facility decides how much they’re going to offer for the position. The facility pays the travel company an amount of money, which is called the bill rate. Then, the travel company has to take a cut for their costs (a commission for their services and overhead costs), then the travel company pays you out of the remainder of the bill rate left over.

Once the money gets to the travel company, they can decide how to divide it up and give it to the traveler, and the traveler often has some input too. Here is where money can be moved around and allocated different ways to maximize the tax benefits for both the travel company and the traveler. For example, as long as they’re following the IRS guidelines for per diems, they can put more money towards your stipend/per diems (which is usually untaxed as long as you qualify) and less money towards the hourly pay (which is taxed).

So the bill rate that the facility gives the travel company could be something like $60-80/hr. Then the travel company takes out their cut. Then your pay might look something like: $20/hr (taxed) + $1000/wk per diems (untaxed).

Similarly, they can choose to allocate some of the pay towards separate reimbursements. So you could see something like $20/hr (taxed) + $960/wk per diems (untaxed) + $500 one time reimbursement for licensure and mileage.

But, as we can see here, in the second example with the $500 reimbursement, the per diem is lower. If you divided that $500 out over the course of a 13 week assignment, $500/13=$38. So both the above pay packages are really about the same, because in one example the per diem is $40 higher each week, and in the other it’s $40 lower but has an extra $500 one-time payment tacked on.

It’s important to note that there isn’t just “free money” floating around that the company can give you for “extras”. Think of a pay package as all one big pie. You can cut the pie in different ways, but it’s still the same pie. Some companies will use gimmicks to say they’re going to give you more money for a certain contract by calling them reimbursements, bonuses, tuition paybacks, contract completion bonuses etc. But, as an informed and savvy traveler, you need to know that all the pay is coming from somewhere. Either, it comes directly out of the bill rate for that specific contract, directly from that specific facility to the travel company. Or, the travel company might allocate a particular budget into a department to give out money for things like licensure reimbursements. But, you have to understand that in order to have that budget available in their company, it means they take it out of their commissions/overhead for all contracts for all travelers across the board. So either way, the money comes from somewhere and affects your weekly pay in one way or another once it’s all said and done!

This is an important fact to remember if you find yourself trying to compare pay either between yourself and another traveler, or between two contracts you’re being offered by two different companies. You have to look at the entire “pay package” (the whole “pie”) not just one piece of it.

How Much Money Do Travel Therapists Normally Make?

The amount that travel therapists make varies highly based on a number of factors, with the main ones being: the type of facility, the location of the facility, and the travel company. These are all very important factors to keep in mind, especially again if you’re going to try to compare pay with another traveler, or compare between two different contracts you’re considering. You can’t expect the pay to be the same for a completely different setting, in a completely different state, and with a different company, which is just the same for perm jobs if you think about it!

So what’s a typical range?

A typical range for a traveling physical therapist, occupational therapist, or speech language pathologist, is going to be around $1500-1800/wk after taxes.

For PTA/COTA, you could see pay typically between $1000-1300/wk.

But we have seen PT/OT/SLP pay anywhere from $1350/wk to $2500+/wk! These extremes are going to be more rare. We don’t recommend taking jobs with pay below $1500/wk after taxes. However, during COVID, pay has been a little lower, and desperate times have called for desperate measures. But in general, we don’t recommend accepting below $1500/wk as a PT/OT/SLP.

Pay in the $1800-2500+ range is going to be only in certain parts of the country and for certain really high paying jobs.

For travel therapists, the setting that tends to pay the most is home health, while SNF tends to pay the lowest, and outpatient, hospital, or schools tend to fall in the middle.

The higher paying areas are typically more on the west coast, particularly in California. Where on the east coast and midwest you’ll see more moderate pay.

And as we mentioned, the travel company you’re working with can make a difference too, depending on how much overhead/commission they keep, and how they choose to allocate the pay.

The Bottom Line

So as you can see, travel therapists can make significantly more money than therapists at permanent positions in many cases. But, pay can vary highly across the board depending on a number of factors. And, it can be tricky understanding how your pay is broken down in order to compare pay between offers and with other travelers.

Learning and understanding how the pay works before you dive in and get started as a traveler is very important! To learn more, check out this Comprehensive Guide to Travel Therapy Pay.


We hope this article was informative and helped you! Stay tuned for more content during the remainder of our 6-week series Travel Therapy 101: The Basics

Please contact us if you have questions about getting started with your travel therapy journey, or would like our recommendations for great recruiters!