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Pay is seemingly an elusive aspect of travel nursing. With lots of conflicting information online, it can easily overwhelm and discourage potential travellers for fear of losing money. This, of course, should not limit the desire to go out and pursue the caregiving travel trail.

By knowing and understanding the basic concepts related to salary, stipend, and tax, you can learn to maximize earning from caregiving travel! With the help of your trusted caregiving travel agency and friendly local co-caregivers, you can be guided towards making informed and sound financial steps.

A successful travel assignment entails both personal and professional growth. While it’s not all about the  money, competitive pay is surely one of the top items in every caregiver’s list of motivations. This should be talked about because the more you know about how it works, the more you can plan to maximize your earnings.

So, how much does a caregiving traveller earn? How do you know if you’re being paid fairly? How does tax play around these numbers? Will you really end up losing money? Here are some insights on the financial side of caregiving travel.

Caregiving Travel Salary

The most important thing to realize about caregiving travel is that your salary will vary from that of staff nurses’ and staff nursing attendants’. Recognizing this distinction guides you towards making a more realistic expectation as far as pay is involved. Whether it can be higher or lower depends on the choices you make.

As of May 2019, U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics states that a registered nurse earns $73,300 per year or about $35.24 per hour. According to Indeed, one of the top job sites in the world, a travel nurse in Hawaii earns an average of $38.75 per hour and this is even 9% lower than the national average. As you can see, the pay is competitive and it does really explain the recent boom of travel nurses and CNAs. Realize that this numbers will fluctuate as you will be moving around and assuming different positions.

Also, take note that this is just the base pay. Your stipend, which is non-taxable, is yet to be accounted for. As you read on, we will talk about this aspect and how it can be a disadvantage to some extent. In essence, your real pay is a combination of your hourly pay (which is taxed) and your stipend as well as other reimbursements.  

What are the things I can do to possibly increase this base pay?

There are things you can do to influence your pay positively but the actual amount will vary from state to state. If you have a particular travel assignment in mind, you may search on the in-demand specialties there. Consider having trainings to earn credentials related to that specialty if your resources allow. Some agencies may also look for travel caregivers to fill in urgent assignments and this will pay relatively more. Most caregiving travellers work a minimum of 40 hours per week with additional 2-3 shifts of overtime. Just show up, fill in those time cards, and do your job to the best of your ability and for the most parts, you will do just fine.

Should I settle for a lower pay?

It is true that some areas pay lower as the nature of this job roots from demands. Remote areas with low applicants may be willing to pay higher. Top destinations like Hawaii would pay lower because it knows it pays you with a priceless island charm on top of the average pay. But the major compensation factor that you have to consider is that being a caregiving traveller comes with bonuses (e.g. sign-up, referral, etc.), insurances (e.g. health, disability, etc.), and even reimbursements (e.g. license, uniforms, etc.)

The Caregiving Travel Stipend

This is the more exciting part of caregiving travel. Stipends come in a non-taxable form of compensation and in some instances, can spell the difference between a caregiving traveller and staff healthcare workers. Usually, stipends are provided for housing, meals, transportation, and incidental expenses. Here in Travel Care Hawaii, we pay a good amount of weekly housing and meal stipends on top of a one-way flight stipend.

Depending on the amount and location, some caregiving travellers, particularly those with previous experiences and are travelling with other people, may opt to arrange their own housing and transportation with the goal of adding these stipends to their compensation. However, this is an option that should be carefully thread on as if it is not carefully planned, it may be a source of disastrous losses.

This seems like a sweet deal. Any chance it would not play on my side?

Of course, stipends come with responsibilities. Technically, stipends are for non-permanent workers and you should abide by this rule which varies from state to state. Violations may incur greater losses. To be able to collect this stipend, you have to have a good record of your rent and mileage log, among others. Keep a close communication with your travel agency regarding the rules on this matter to ensure a smooth travel experience.

While it adds real value to your work, it does not much so in papers. Stipends are not reflected as income and in terms of loans and mortgage, this will not help. Consider discussing the possibility of receiving lesser stipend in exchange of a higher income with your agency if you find yourself in situations in need of loans, disability payments, and mortgage in the future. Essentially, the lesser your income, the lesser is the loan amount that you will be accommodated into. This is of particular importance to caregiving travellers nearing the age to collect Social Security as well as those with circumstances mentioned previously. It also pays to consult with a professional who is knowledgeable in taxation and pay structure of the industry.

The Caregiving Traveller Tax

This is the part where the excitement quite dies down as the tax situation is complicated for caregiving travellers and can be overwhelming. However, there are things you can do to handle tax time smoothly.

Familiarize yourself with how tax is filed and processed in all states you travel to. The first thing you have to do to avoid being taxed for reimbursements and stipends is to apply and maintain a tax home to the IRS. Tax home means the area where you are employed. This does not necessarily reflect your family home. Make sure you have a permanent residence and have not abandoned it for the last year. One way you can facilitate this is to apply for jobs once in a while in your family home.

Travellers should keep a neat file of their expenses down to the smallest receipts of their littlest expenses. This will come in handy when facing an audit.

Worth a Try!

Pay in caregiving travel is a blend of stipends, reimbursements, and the taxable hourly pay. With good organizational skills, professional tax advice, and reasonable spending, going into caregiving travel can assure competitive pay while having the luxury to travel at the same time. For inquiries regarding pay, stipend, and reimbursements, please communicate with out 24/7 traveller assistance.

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