How to Find Housing for your Travel Assignment

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How to Find Housing for your Travel Assignment

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If you currently looking for a placement or are just considering a career as a travel healthcare worker and perhaps may not choose to live in a van/RV/something mobile, finding housing will be necessary for each assignment. It can be difficult to find short term furnished housing that’s not outrageously priced. This was one of the more stressful parts of traveling OT before I went to full time van living. It took me a few assignments to really get the hang of how to find housing. All companies offer corporate housing which can be a good option.

Benefits of Choosing Company Housing

Less Risk for You

As a contract worker, your contract can get cancelled at anytime with very little notice provided. If you have company housing they handle the cancelled housing for you. If you found housing on your own it may be more difficult to get out of the housing contract if you have to move out of that area.

Less Housing Stress

When I was searching for housing I would spend many hours searching for before an assignment, on top of preparing to move to the next assignment; it can be very overwhelming. I always wanted to make sure I was getting the best deal, it would take me at least a week to crunch all the numbers and find the best choice. If your company finds the housing for you they typically give you some options, if there are any, and then have you approve a location. This does not consume nearly as much time as finding housing on your own.

No Upfront Money

When you are finding your own housing you typically have to front some money. Almost always a security deposit and  sometimes first and last months rent is required right away. So, you are expected to give money either before or on the day that you arrive. If your company finds your place for you they handle all the transactions.

Benefits of  Finding your own Housing

More Money in your Pocket

This is the number one reason I found my own housing before van life. When you are a travel healthcare worker your pay consists of an hourly rate and a various amount of tax free stipends. The stipends include housing which can be the largest amount of money you receive. Thus, if your company finds your housing, they use all of that housing stipend money and in turn you have less money in your paycheck each week. If you find your own, you can almost always find cheaper housing than your housing stipend, making that extra money just cash in your pocket. If you can’t find housing that is less expensive than your stipend it’s better to go through your company, otherwise you will lose money.

More Control

Another good reason to find your own housing is to be in control of where you will be living. A lot of company housing (not all of it) is hotel/extended stay type residences. Finding your own apartment/housing can make your experience a little bit more comfortable and “homey”, instead of feeling like you are living out of a hotel.

How to Find your own Housing

So you have decided to find your own housing, but what’s the best way to go about it? When you typically travel around every three months, it is not ideal to travel around with furniture. So most of the time you will need a furnished apartment that allows you to rent short term. Here’s how I have found places in the past.

After completing our first week of our first ever OT travel job! Maryland 2013

My very first assignment, I was traveling with my best friend who was also a traveling OT. We  didn’t really know what we were doing we just knew we didn’t want all of that housing stipend money taken out of our checks so we found our own. We ended up finding an apartment complex that had 3 month leases and then we rented furniture from Cort. It was fine, no complaints it was actually the nicest place we both ever lived in, but it definitely was more affordable because we split it. This option would be not worth the money if you were traveling solo.

We’re OTs, we adapt well to our environment.

For our second assignment we had a difficult time finding our own housing, so we had the company find ours. It ended up being a glorified motel- no joke. To be fair to our travel company, it was a location in the  middle of nowhere in an oil boom town with ridiculously high rent prices. The day we found multiple cockroaches we said “eff this” and were determined to find our own housing. Since the area had many people coming in for short term work there were a number of independent corporate housing companies. It was slightly less than our housing stipend. My friend and I shared a full size bed in a one bedroom apt for about $2,600/month, the most expensive place I’ve lived so far.

For my third assignment I was on my own in San Jose, California. Since I was on my own (for the first time) I wanted to get into the area first and check it out before I established housing for 3 months. I set up a room to rent through Airbnb for a week until I figured things out. Good thing I did because as I was driving to California I got a call from my recruiter informing me that the travel job wanted to cancel due to low census. Luckily my company had been strict about reinforcing my 30 day notice so they had to give me at least 30 days of work and pay. After a few days I told my airbnb hosts what happened and asked If I could just stay the 30 days until I figured out what my next job situation would be. They were completely awesome and said it was no problem. Since I was renting just a room it was pretty affordable especially for San Jose. I asked for a discounted rate since I would be paying for 30 days all at once and they agreed, so it worked out.

Sabino Canyon: 10 mins away from my apartment in Arizona.

My next travel job was in Arizona. Arizona was a place where I made a lot of money because the pay was decent and cost of living was low. This time I googled a few apartment complexes just to get a feel for the area and called each one to see if they had short term rentals. One complex actually had a short term furnished package which was about $1100/mo. It was an older complex with no A/C besides a window unit, communal laundry, but in a good part of town. I decided to go for it since I was going to be there in the winter months. I was right at the foot of the Catalina Mountains. It is one of my favorite places where I have lived.

For my last placement (sans van) in Salinas, CA I could not find any housing that was cheaper than my housing stipend. I had my company find housing for me and they were having some trouble as well, but eventually came through. It was unfortunate that I couldn’t find my own place cheaper for the purpose of saving money, but sometimes there is no other option.

Housing Resources

Craigslist: I feel craigslist can be taboo but it really is the go to for most landlords. A few travelers I have met mostly use craigslist to find cheap sublets and short term housing. I even found my current camp spot for my van on craigslist.

Airbnb: This is a great resource to find housing. If you are a traveling professional people are more eager to have you rent. If you can commit to three months, hosts are also more willing to give you a discounted rate as airbnb is mostly based on a per night basis.

Your Recruiter: Chances are you will not be the first traveler to go to your new travel job location. Recruiters can have ideas of where past travelers have stayed in that location and can sometimes get you connected to other travelers who have stayed in that area in the past.

In conclusion, it is definitely a lot easier and less stressful to have your company arrange housing, but I think it’s worth it to find your own.

How do you find housing during travel assignments? What other questions do you have about housing and travel therapy?

Related Posts:

Why I Chose Travel Occupational Therapy

5 Tips to Land your Travel Job Interview

How to Pick a Travel Company

About the Author


Hi there! My name is Sarah and I am the creator of Tiny Van Big Living. I am a former traveling Occupational Therapist who lived in a converted camper van (Vanny Devito) full time for almost two years. I am collecting experiences, not things while slowly climbing out of the giant hole that is student loan debt.

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