Making the Most of the Holidays as a Travel Nurse

The holiday season can be extra challenging for nurses who find themselves far from family while on travel assignments. You might feel homesick and overworked, which can dampen anyone’s holiday spirit. But with some planning and shifting your mindset, you can still make the most of this time of year as a travel nurse.

Coping with Holiday Blues

It’s completely normal to feel a little sad or lonely around the holidays when you’re a travel nurse. Missing big gatherings back home or traditions with loved ones can be hard. Strategies like frequent video calls and communicating openly with friends and family members can ease some of that heartache. Getting out in your new location and volunteering to see the local holiday sights might lift your spirits too.

Working the Holidays

As a travel nurse, you can expect to be scheduled to work major holidays like Christmas, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s. This is quite common for a few reasons:
  • Holiday pay- Many facilities offer incentive pay to employees who pick up holiday shifts, making them desirable for travel nurses. For example, working Christmas Day could earn you double your usual hourly rate.
  • Staffing shortages- Hospitals experience more staffing issues around holidays, with fixed staff requesting time off to be with their families. As a traveler without local family commitments, you help fill these gaps in the schedule.
  • Less crowded units- Anecdotal reports from travel nurses indicate that major holiday shifts tend to be less hectic patient-wise. Many scheduled surgeries and procedures are avoided, and inpatient censuses decline.
  • Team bonding- Those nurses and other staff who do work holidays often report increased camaraderie and an “all in this together” mindset. You may build strong relationships through sharing the experience.
To make working holidays more enjoyable:
  • Bring festive food to share during breaks. This could be Christmas cookies or a Thanksgiving casserole. Ask in advance if celebrations like potlucks are already planned.
  • Volunteer for holiday shifts rather than being forced into them whenever possible. This allows you to prepare both logistically and mentally.
  • Create a playlist of your favorite holiday tunes to play during your shift. Make sure to follow unit guidelines on background music.
  • It’s vital to reduce extra stress around the holidays by keeping up self-care routines like exercise, contacting loved ones often, and getting enough sleep.
  • Be mindful of using alcohol or overeating to cope with loneliness, which will leave you more depleted.
  • Consider joining online communities of nurses for support.

Planning Around Your Assignment

As a travel nurse working over the holidays, you may not always expect to have the holidays off, but you can still do some planning to make the experience go smoothly:
  • Get the full holiday schedule details from your unit manager as far in advance as possible so you can plan accordingly.
  • Find out if your facility offers holiday meal vouchers or other perks for those working the holiday shifts.
  • Ask if your unit organizes any potlucks, cookie exchanges, or other holiday events for the staff scheduled to work.
  • See if there is flexibility in the schedule to swap shifts with other nurses to align with your preferences.
  • Inquire about overtime shift opportunities on the holiday if you want to pick up extra hours.
  • Discuss holiday transportation options for getting to/from the facility with other members of the travel nurse housing
  • Learn which local restaurants or stores may have special holiday hours so you can plan outings accordingly
The key is being proactive in seeking out information from both your manager and veteran staff on the unit. This allows you to know what to expect for those holiday work days and do what you can to make them more enjoyable.

Benefits of Holiday Travel Nursing

While being on assignment over the holidays certainly poses logistical and emotional challenges, there are some unique advantages to consider as well:
Experience a new location’s festivities:
  • Get exposure to entirely different regional and cultural holiday traditions
  • Check out local holiday markets, tours, performances, etc.
  • Sample specialty holiday dishes and beverages that the destination is known for
Opportunity to focus on service & community:
Overall, maintaining perspective on these advantages can provide motivation and enhance well-being. By focusing less on the difficulties of being away that the holidays may represent, and more on the chance to immerse in a brand new holiday experience and meaning, travel nurses can shift their mindset to one of opportunity.


The holiday season might not feel picture-perfect when you’re a travel nurse. But being proactive, keeping perspective, and finding small joys along the way can lead to personal growth. Appreciating your role and taking care of yourself allows you to spread more holiday cheer.

For over 35 years, Total Nurses Network has helped Nurses shine brightly each holiday season by custom-matching the most suitable placements across the Midwest. Let our family’s dedication to personalized support ensure you focus on delivering compassionate care, wherever it’s needed the most.

Discover holiday positions that align with your nursing passions by connecting with Total Nurses Network today.