Road trips are a big part of being a travel nurse. When I was recruiting, it seemed like almost every traveler I worked with got to their new assignment by driving their own car, road tripping as little as 100 miles to as much as 3,100 miles. While it’s true that road trips are typically fun, they can also be risky, stressful and grueling. Check out these tips for travel nursing road trips.
How to be Well-Prepared for Your Road Trips as a Travel Nurse
1) Plan Your Road Trip
This might sound obvious, but a lot of travel websites and blog posts about road trips recommend a “flexible itinerary”. Essentially, get the map out and go with the flow. They say this makes the road trip more fun.
The problem is that you could actually miss something that you would really like to see if you only knew it was there. You could also get stuck without knowing where the next place to sleep or rest is located. More importantly, travel nurses are often taking road trips to get to their next travel nursing assignment, so time can be an important factor. Find your next assignment.
Therefore, consider mapping a detailed road trip itinerary in advance. By doing so, you can avoid potential pitfalls and take advantage of tons of tools and services that can help you get the most out of your road trips.
2) Consider RoadTrippers.com
The name “RoadTrippers” says it all. This website and the accompanying App for iPhone and Android helps you find things along your route. Simply enter your starting point and destination and the service will map out accommodations, attractions, dining options, recreation areas, points of interest, camping options, entertainment, services, shopping, and sporting options along the way.
The service also has a feature that allows you to control the area for the results. You can set it as low as 5 miles to as high as 30 miles from your route.
3) Consider TVFoodMaps.com
If you love to watch food shows and dream of chowing down at all the amazing restaurants they feature, then you might like TVFoodMaps.com and their App for iPhone and Android. The service features over 4,000 restaurants that have been featured on over 30 TV shows including Man vs. Food and Diners, Drive Ins and Dives. There are several search options including by show and by state. However, you can also enter your starting point and destination to see the options available along your route.
4) Consider RoadFood.com
RoadFood.com can help you find the restaurants that the TV food shows haven’t discovered yet. The site lists only non-franchised restaurants and has over 1,800 listings. You can search by state, city, food item, keyword and restaurant type.
Their insider service costs $20 per year and provides several premium features. You can download all reviews to a PDF. You’ll also get access to a mapping service to help you find things easier. You can also integrate with Google Earth to take your search to the next level.
5) Consider RoadsideAmerica.com
RoadsideAmerica.com bills itself as “Your online guide to offbeat tourist attractions.” If you like to visit quirky attractions like giant chickens, or dinosaurs made out of used car parts, then this site is for you. On the website, you enter a city and state and it returns the attractions in the area. They also have an iPhone app that will let you locate attractions that are around your current location. The app charges by region and it’s less than $10 to purchase all regions.
STAYING ON COURSE
6) Consider Google Maps
There are tons of map services out there, but there is a reason that maps have become synonymous with Google. They do maps better than most, especially for long distance road trips. You can start by mapping your trip on your computer which makes it easier to look at an alternate or scenic route. Or you can go straight to the app which includes an “Explore” feature that will display things to do near you in several different categories.
7) Consider Waze
Waze is an app that allows users to contribute information about road conditions so that everyone can benefit. The app works like other navigation apps in that you enter a destination and it provides tracking and automated voice guided navigation. Meanwhile, the app is tracking the progress of all users to determine traffic issues that the app uses to determine if there is a better route for your road trip. Users can also enter information like police radar traps and vehicle accident reports. The app will also help you find the cheapest gas relative to your current location. Finally, you can connect with others and share your road trip progress.
It’s important to note that the app only accepts road trips of less than 1,000 miles. So, it might not be the best option for your cross country trips.
8) Bring a Paper Map
Technology is awesome and all, but it requires energy and a data connection. You may find yourself without one or both of these things on a long road trip, so be sure to bring a paper map with you. Considering that travel nurses could potentially trek across the country several times during their careers, a great map might be a good investment.
Have a Safe Road Trip As a Travel Nurse
Besides packing plenty of water and snacks, make sure to always check in with your family members daily to let them know you are safe while traveling. Let’s review some additional ways to make sure you have a safe road trip to your travel nurse assignment.
FINDING PLACES TO STAY ON YOUR TRAVEL NURSING ROAD TRIP
9) Truck Stops Aren’t Just For Truckers
Truck stops are great options for your road trips. They typically have the cheapest gas in the area. They always have restaurants attached to them and their retail stores usually offer an eclectic mix of interesting and useful items. Or if you just wanted to grab a couple of snack items and keep them in a small cooler, truck stops are great for this.
Perhaps most importantly, you can always count on truck stops if you just need a shower. The shower fees are typically $10 – $15 and the service usually includes a fresh towel, washcloth, bathmat and soap.
You can sleep in your car at a truck stop, but you’ll probably want some pepper spray on hand. Most travel nurses carry pepper spray while traveling for safety reasons. However, many truck stops have major hotel and motel chains attached to them these days, so if you need a bed you can typically find one nearby.
10) Finding Truck Stops
There are tons of apps that can help you find truck stops along your route. One of the most popular is called “Truck Stops and Travel Plazas”. The app is provided by AllStays which provides tons of useful services for travelers. However, this app costs $10.
Another app to consider is called Trucker Path Pro. The app lets you plot a route and shows you the truck stops and rest areas along the way. Best of all, it’s free.
Another premium app to consider is Rest Stops Plus. This is another app provided by AllStays. It has over 4,000 rest areas, welcome centers, turn-outs, service plazas and scenic vistas in the USA and Canada. The app costs $2.
11) Comparison Shop Vacation Rentals and Hotels with Hipmunk
Hipmunk was founded in 2012 and you can already find articles on Forbes proclaiming it “The World’s Best Travel Site“. One of the reasons is that Hipmunk was the first service to let users comparison shop for hotels and vacation rentals in one place. This means that the listings include accommodations from Airbnb, VRBO and others. Check it out if you’re looking for a place to stay on your road trip.
12) Try Hotel Tonight
Hotel Tonight is an app that is designed to get you great deals on hotel rooms at the last minute. It won’t always be useful for a road trip because you’ll often find yourself in small towns and rural areas that aren’t well serviced by the app. However, it’s always worth a shot as it’s typically considered the best way to save on hotel rooms.
PREPARE YOUR VEHICLE
13) Check Your Tires
According to TechAuto.com, the most common vehicle component to fail is a tire. When inspecting your tires, you want to look for uneven wear, warn tread, and proper inflation. If you discover any issues, then you may need to have your tires balanced, rotated or aligned.
14) Check Your Spare Tire
Given that tires fail more than anything else, it’s wise to make sure you have everything you need to switch to your spare. Make sure the spare is properly inflated. Also, make sure you have a jack and tire iron.
15) Check Your Windshield Wipers/Jumper Cables
Getting stuck in a big storm with shoddy windshield wipers opens you up to unnecessary risk. Windshield wipers are cheap and easy to replace. Also, you never know when you or another stranded driver may need jumper cables. Make sure you check for both before you embark on your new adventure.