A career in travel therapy is one of the most rewarding ways to make a living. It may be the prime choice for therapists (PT, OT, SLP, PTA, COTA) who love to help others and also love to see as many corners of the country as they possibly can. Perhaps you just like to get away from your principal residence and drive a few hours to a different location and state of mind. You get the satisfaction of helping others while doing what you love plus seeing new places! Now, that all sounds pretty exciting.
However, there are a lot more factors you need to consider that you wouldn’t have to think twice about if you were settling in one area, especially finding suitable housing. First, you’ll work with one of our dedicated recruiters to find the perfect travel therapy contract. Then, when you know where you’ll be traveling, you’ll have to figure out where you’ll live while there. That’s when a new series of questions arise; are some places more expensive? What is a housing stipend, and how do they work? What if I have pets and need pet friendly housing?
Travel Therapy Careers
Traveling therapy aims to reinvent how society deals with staffing shortages and fill open positions at facilities that are in need of patient care. At Marvel Medical Staffing our mission is to provide healing places where patients and facilities need support while protecting our nation’s future healthcare workforce. Facilities need therapy professionals all across the country. Travel therapy is booming, meaning you can be a travel physical therapist, a travel occupational therapist, or even a travel speech-language pathologist and will be able to find work anywhere.
Traveling therapists have the added benefit of meeting a more diverse group of people, patients, and other therapists alike. They are consistently exposed to new practices/methods and can care for a wide range of patients in all different settings. This can help them learn to work with all types of people and advance their career as a therapist. Not to mention, they also get to experience different cities and explore new places!
Choosing Your Own VS. Company Provided Housing
It can be overwhelming to know you have a job but not know where you’re going to live. Luckily, you do have a few primary options when finding housing while on a travel therapy assignment.
Choose Your Own Housing
When you elect to find and pay for your own housing you are applicable for a housing stipend as part of your overall pay package. Many travel therapists prefer this option because they have the freedom to choose whatever you want. Hunting for your own housing may also be the more lucrative option and is part of the appeal of becoming a traveling healthcare professional.
Modern resources and short-term rental companies take the stress out of finding housing. Nowadays, you can find your dream apartment with the click of a button, and many places offer both furnished and unfurnished options. You also don’t have to stress over utilities and internet with short-term rental companies, as that it is typically taken care of by the landlord/owner.
The downside? If your contract abruptly ends for any reason, you are responsible for paying the amount of time left on your rental or lease. Make sure you tell any potential landlords about your status as a travel therapists and see if they have flexible cancellation policies.
You can also opt for Marvel Medical Staffing to select housing for you, which comes with several benefits. First, you can focus your energy on preparing for travel and living in a new place, rather than scouring the internet for housing and dealing with leases, landlords, and property management. Less stress means an easier transition for you!
When you choose to use Marvel Housing to select your living arrangements, you do not qualify for a stipend. If you’re going to a city, we may have an agreement with a local hotel or furnished apartment complex, so be sure to ask what we have available.
How do Stipends Work?
To understand how housing stipends work, you must assess all monetary aspects of a travel therapy career. Most travel therapists ask themselves three questions:
- Which expenses are my responsibility?
- How much money am I earning?
- How do taxes work?
Traveling therapists and SLPs get housing stipends (free from taxes) to go towards the cost of living/housing (if they elect to find their own). This amount is factored into your weekly pay, which can be kind of confusing when you break it down. Keep in mind, the cost of living from state to state varies, therefore your stipend amount will also vary depending on where you are going for your travel assignment.
Your contract may tell you that you’re earning close to $50 an hour (before taxes), and they’re guaranteeing 40 hours. Great! But wait, there is more info that’s puzzling you. When actually broken down, it says you’re getting a taxable hourly rate of $20, a housing stipend of $800 per week, and a meal stipend of $500 per week. What does all of this mean? What happened to the high hourly wage?
An easy way to figure this is taking the $20 rate times (before taxes) hours worked (40) which equals your taxable weekly rate ($800). While your stipend is tax free, you still have to pay taxes on your hourly wages. Since the stipends are technically reimbursements, they qualify as tax-free. Your taxable wage combined with your weekly tax-free stipends ($800 + $500 divided by 40) to create your total hourly wage. You only have to pay taxes on the hourly wage, which is ultimately better than if you were working a permanent position at a facility. Remember, tax rates vary from state to state also.
As we mentioned, you get to keep whatever is left of your housing stipend if you stay somewhere cheaper than your allowance. For instance, Marvel Medical Staffing may offer you $2000 a month for housing, but you’ve found an amazing rental for $1200. Now you get an extra $800! No, it’s not too good to be true; you get the untaxed money for yourself!!
Cost of Living
Cost of living is defined as the total amount of money that is needed to live in a particular area. The expenses that factor into cost of living can include housing affordability, transportation expenses, food prices and entertainment costs. Cost of living is also tied to income, as salary levels in a geographic area are measured against these expenses. So, some locations have a higher cost of living than others, which most times will be taken into consideration when calculating a travel therapist’s pay package. Southern states like Kansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Alabama, and Georgia have a lower cost of living. States with a higher cost of living include Hawaii, Massachusetts, California, New York, and Alaska. If you break it down even further, you’ll see that cost of living also varies for region to regions within a state. For example, a large populous city like Los Angeles, CA will have a larger COL than a rural northern California town.
Sometimes the places that you really want to see mean they are a little more expensive. Differences in COL don’t just apply to housing costs, but also other resources like groceries, gas, utilities, etc. It is recommended to use online resources or a cost of living calculator to compare your current location with your new travel assignment location.
Best Resources to Find Housing:
If you’ve decided to take a housing stipend and do the work yourself, you should check out the following resources:
- AirBNB: If you’re not staying somewhere permanently, why bother signing a lease? AirBNB is an immensely popular short-term rental company offering fully furnished accommodations for travelers like yourself. It’s a great option if you need something for a fixed amount of time, but less than a year. Several AirBNB hosts offer monthly stays, similar to renting with a landlord.
- Hotel Engine: Offers lower rates for hotel stays to people traveling for business or their careers.
- Furnished Finder: This site is similar to AirBNB but more tailored towards traveling healthcare professionals. It only has listings in the United States.
- Corporate Housing: Connects medical professionals to fully furnished dwellings and short-term rentals in the United States.
- VRBO: Like AirBNB, VRBO has global accommodations available for people in need of temporary housing.
- Choice Hotels: Choice Hotels International is one of the largest and most successful lodging franchisors in the world.
Traveling With Pets
These days, many people have dogs, cats, or other pets they simply can’t bear to leave behind. At Marvel Medical Staffing we love your pets just as much as you do, however we do not offer housing services for travelers with pets. Luckily though, travel therapists can often accommodate their furry friends in the most hassle-free ways possible. However, there are a few things to keep in mind if you want to bring a pet along for the ride.
2. You may have to pay for some expenses on your own if they concern your pet, so be sure to write down a budget. This may include paying an additional cleaning deposit for living arrangements. You must also keep tabs on food, toys, and other pet accessories.
3. Check the pet policies of where you’re staying and whoever will be transporting you and your puppy pal. Check with airlines about how they can accommodate traveling animals, and talk to your Marvel recruiter, landlords, or rental hosts about pet rules, deposits, and fees.
Lastly, your traveling furry friend is a living creature, not just an extension of you. This means they have their own fears, preferences, and comfort levels you must consider. Ask yourself the following:
- Does your pet have a fear of travel?
- Does your pet like to stay at home?
- Is your pet adventurous like you?
- Does your pet panic when left in confined spaces?
- Does your pet panic when left alone while you’re at work?
- Would it be better for your pet to have a sitter since you’ll be working a lot?
Logistics aside, a travel physical therapy career should be about having a great experience. Do you have a dog that loves hiking, and you’re about to take off to a beautiful, scenic location? They should totally go with you if they can handle the move!
Some folks just need the great outdoors and basic amenities when embarking on a travel therapy assignment. Traveling with an RV can be extremely useful for rural, scenic destinations where you know the weather will be agreeable.
If you don’t have to fly, you can consider hitting the open road in a motorhome. Not only do you get to pocket the bulk of your housing stipend, but you get to see all the places between home and your assignment.
An RV also makes it much easier to take your pet with you. You don’t have to worry about pet policies for housing or forcing your snuggly friend to get on an airplane.
Other benefits of using an RV for your travel career include:
- Exploring the outdoors.
- Moving around as you please.
- Being in total control of your living space.
- Roadtrips while on or between assignments!
It’s no secret that traveling PT, PTA, OT, COTA, or SLP is a lifestyle! Housing is one of the top priorities for every on-the-go travel therapist. You can decide to sit back and let your travel company take care of it for you or enjoy the housing stipend and take on the responsibility yourself. We feel full confidence knowing that you have your best interests at heart, whatever you decide. If you want to become part of our MARVELous Family, contact one of our recruiters today!
To learn more about travel therapy, check out additional resources from our blog page!