The Best Places to Be a Travel Nurse

best places to travel nurse
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As a travel nurse, you have endless options when it comes to taking an assignment across the US.  So what are the best places to be a travel nurse?  The truth is, I’ve liked everywhere I’ve gone for different reasons.  And when picking what you want, first you need to decide what you’re looking for.  If you want to get paid the big bucks, your biggest shot is to land an assignment in Northern California (or a very small town desperate for help).  If you’re looking for outdoor adventures then you’d focus on the PNW, Colorado, Montana, or even Wyoming.  If you want warm weather – the west coast; and if you want to leaf peep in the fall – the east coast.  The best city to travel nurse in is the city that you’ve intentionally sought out for whatever reason.  So before reading further, take a pen, and jot down what you’re looking for, what bucket list items you want to cross off, and go from there!


The Best Places to Be a Travel Nurse


Austin, Texas

i love you so much sign in austin



Working as a travel nurse in Austin, Texas has its pros and cons.  On one hand, you’re living in a fun city, with tons to do.  Texas is a compact state so if you hold a compact license you don’t need to apply for licensure.  There are also fun nearby towns to visit and wine regions just a day trip away.  However, on the other hand, housing is hard to come by and the traveler rates aren’t the highest in Texas.  Overall working in Austin is a blast and if you’re looking to be in a FUN city, add Austin to the list!



  • Bar hop on Rainey Street
  • Rent paddleboards/kayaks on Lady Bird Lake
  • Visit Zilker Park
  • Shop on South Congress
  • Eat breakfast from a food truck (preferably Biscuits and Groovy)
  • Day trip to Fredericksburg for wine
  • Day trip to Magnolia Market in Waco



The pay in Austin is mediocre – not too high, but not too low.  However, with the cost of living being high I would’ve expected rates to be higher than what was being offered at the time.  Austin is also a place where you’ll be working for your money; expect decent patient ratios.


Read more about Austin:

How to Spend a Weekend in Austin


Phoenix, Arizona

arid arizona desert



Why should you be a travel nurse in Phoenix?  Aside from the affordable cost of living, Arizona is a playground for those who love the outdoors.  And the best part about it is that it’s the perfect place to chase summer and escape those winter blues.  Spend your week in the city and your weekends hiking in Sedona, visiting the Grand Canyon or Horseshoe Bend, and squirming your way through narrow slots at Antelope Canyon.





The pay in Arizona is mediocre, but the cost of living is affordable.  Also, be prepared to work for your money in Arizona with decent-heavy patient ratios.


San Francisco, California



If you’re chasing high-paying contracts then San Francisco is definitely where you want to be.  The nurses in the Bay Area get paid more compared to nurses everywhere else in the US, so it only makes sense that the travel contracts here are also high-paying.  While the cost of living is equally high, you can still find a decent place in the city and save money.  Not only that but with most of the hospitals being unionized, the ratios are low and breaks are always respected.

Aside from the pay, if you’re looking to explore a city for 13-weeks San Francisco is a great choice.  There’s so much to do, incredible food to eat, and it’s a great place to come in the winter for warm(ish) weather.



  • Bike across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito
  • Walkthrough Golden Gate Park
  • Visit Alcatraz
  • Have a picnic at Dolores Park, Alamo Square, or Palace of the Fine Arts
  • Visit wine country



As mentioned earlier, the pay and nurse to patient ratio is the best in the US.  If you’re looking for a job where breaks are prioritized, patient safety is first on the agenda, units are appropriately staffed, and the pay is incredible – San Francisco (or the Bay Area) should be the first place on your list.


Read more about San Francisco:

8 Apps You Need for Transportation in San Francisco

The Best Places to go For Views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge

The Ultimate Guide to Travel Nursing in San Francisco


Santa Barbara, California

girl standing in front of rainbow structure in santa barbara



Santa Barbara is hands down one of the most beautiful places in the US.  If you’re looking to spend 13-weeks in an epic beach location, Santa Barbara would be it.  There are so many things to do including water activities, hiking, and even options if you love wine.




Read more about Santa Barbara:

California’s Best Kept Secret – Santa Barbara, the American Riviera

Places to Eat in Santa Barbara – 10 Restaurants You MUST Try

The Ultimate Travel Nurse Guide to Santa Barbara

Spending 2 Days in Santa Barbara; The Ultimate Santa Barbara Itinerary



Because it’s California, you don’t need to worry about ratios.  Like my experience in San Francisco, nursing in Santa Barbara is safe and has pretty great nurse-to-patient ratios.  I will say, however, that for such an expensive beach town – the pay doesn’t quite match.  If you want to live in the city of Santa Barbara, you more than likely won’t be saving a ton of money.  However, you could also choose to live outside of the city and commute in to save money.


Seattle, Washington



The better question is… why not Seattle?  Seattle is an epic destination for travel nurses for numerous reasons.  First off, the travel nurse community is huge in Seattle so if you’re traveling alone and looking to make friends you have pretty good odds.  Second, the pay is good and hospitals in the area are constantly looking to hire travel nurses.  And life outside of work is pretty great too.  Summers in Seattle are beautiful and there are so many outdoor activities to keep your days nice and busy.  Plus the food scene in Seattle is truly top-notch.





Both the pay in Seattle and patient ratios are decent.  Of course, some hospitals in the area pay more than others, but overall pay feels fair.  The ratios in Seattle are also decent.  The hospitals are constantly hiring travel nurses when things get busy.


Read more about Seattle:

10 Unique Things to Do in Seattle

6 Day Trips and Weekend Getaways from Seattle

How to Have a Perfect Weekend Trip to Seattle

The Ultimate Guide to Seattle

Photography in Seattle – Where to Get the Best Photos in and Around the City

Travel Nurse Guide to Seattle – Everything You Need to Know for a Successful Assignment

How to Spend the Day in the Seattle Rain… 6 Things to Do

Best Bars in Seattle – Beer, Wine, Cocktails, & More

The Ultimate Guide to the Seattle Food Scene

5 Dessert Places in Seattle to Get Your Sugar Fix

A Guide to Seattle’s Most Underrated Neighborhood – Beacon Hill

Best Neighborhoods in Seattle – Things to Do in Fremont

Best Places to View the Stunning and Unique Seattle Skyline


With so many places to check out in the United States, I’m interested to hear places that you’ve enjoyed.  Travelers, let me know in the comments below which cities hold a special place in your heart and where you think the best places to travel nurse are!


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Kylee is a Neonatal Intensive Care (NICU) nurse passionate about making travel affordable and accessible to nurses. Inspiring nurses to travel both near and far, Kylee began Passports and Preemies in 2017 while volunteering in Skopje, North Macedonia as a way to reach nurses and advocate for the prevention of nurse burnout by traveling. Kylee is the original creator of the “8 Day Vacay” – a vacation geared towards nurses who aim to take advantage of the potentially 8 days off between work weeks with no need to use PTO.

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