One of the most challenging aspects of being a traveling Nurse Practitioner is having to live out of a suitcase. Ironically, when traveling abroad I tend to pack light. In fact, I once “back-packed” through Costa Rica with some good friends from Florida State University! Yet, for some reason, whenever I travel in the USA I always seem to over pack. I think because being abroad, for the most part I will be wearing the same outfit the entire day. Compared to here, I typically need separate day and night outfits.

For my first assignment, I was pretty nervous about fitting everything I needed into one large suitcase. I downloaded an app called “Stylebook” on my iPad. This allowed me to gather all of my clothing and accessories into one app. Instead of having to go through my closet with tons of clothes, I could easily navigate my closet through this app. The first time using it is a bit tedious because you have to take pictures of all your clothes. It is definitely worth it though!

In Miami, Florida we only really have one season which is summer. The majority of my clothes are for warm temperature. Looking at the forecast in Washington, it seemed like some days were hot and other days cold. Therefore, I made sure to pack clothes for all types of weather. I ended up initially bringing 30 days worth of clothing and accessories. Between my large suitcase and my carry-on, my wrists were practically unusable by the time I made it to Washington. Both suitcases were as full as they could be, meaning they were also very heavy.

I did not think about it until I was lugging my carry-on throughout several airports and having to fit it into small overhead compartments. Then I had to carry both suitcases up and down stairs between the two different hotels I was staying in that first weekend. I knew I had done the rookie mistake, which was over pack! Of course my checked-in luggage was overweight by 4 lbs, but the kind airline attendant let it slip since I apparently was already emotional over leaving home.

I had to return home one month later for a bridal shower. I decided to leave essentials in my carry-on such as shampoo, conditioner, body wash, silver ware and dishware etc. (all of these I purchased when I arrived in Washington). I left my carry-on at the hotel since I would be returning after a few days. I left my laptop in my office at work. Somehow when I checked in, my luggage managed to weigh 60 lbs!

I hadn’t bought anything for myself while in Washington, but I suppose the bath and body items I purchased had taken too much space in the carry-on and I accommodated the original items in my large suitcase. At that point, I did not have many options because there was no way I was going to remove 10 lbs worth of items from my suitcase. The extra charge was going to be $100 for the overweight baggage. However, I noticed earlier that I had an option to upgrade to first class for $150 (first class baggage allowance is 70 lbs per luggage up to 2-3 pieces). Since my total time of flying was 8 hours, I chose to upgrade. It was definitely worth it, but I certainly learned my lesson about over packing.

What to pack (for a 1-3 month assignment):

  • 2 weeks worth of  work clothing
  • 2 weeks worth of undergarments (hotels usually have laundry service)
  • 2 weekends worth of nice casual attire
  • 1 set of pajamas
  • 1 sweater or something you can layer
  • 3-4 pairs of shoes at the most
  • Electronics and cords
  • Light jewelry
  • 1-2 purses if you are a woman

The key thing to remember is to pack clothes you can easily layer for all types of weather. You can buy bath and body necessities and kitchenware once you arrive. Walmart sells light silverware and dishware for only $1 for a set. Hotels have TV and internet, towels and sheets, bar soap, iron, and hair dryer. So you won’t need to bring these.

On my return, I chose to bring a medium size suitcase instead. I brought back only half of the items I originally returned with. This time my suitcase only weighed 30 lbs –HALF of what it weighed last time. It was much easier to lug around as well. There is obviously more flexibility as far as packing, when you are driving your own car to the site.

Some tips I learned on the way:

  • I am switching my laptop to a Mac book air. I never usually travel with my laptop but being gone from home for so long, I brought it with me to my assignment. It is pretty heavy to constantly carry around.
  • My iPad air is a life saver- I can download movies to watch while I am on a long flight. Or I can watch Netflix while I am off on the weekends. I can also read books using the kindle app.

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