Updated: May 4, 2019
Once you identify why you're traveling or if you're cut out for it, it's time to select an travel agency. Travel Agencies are strictly for "dating" purposes. So keep that in mind when you make your selection. I'm not going to elaborate on the agencies because they all come with good and bad. You just have to find what works for you. Here's the thought process:
1) If you are traveling for freedom or adventure start by selecting a location you wish to visit. Some places are known for exclusive relationships with certain agencies. Like HCA hospital are with Parallon agency and most Atlanta contracts are best through Premier healthcare professionals. So research agencies known in the location you pick before you pick the agency.
2) If you are in a financial hardship and really want to get bigger bucks. Search for rapid response critical rates or EMR conversion rates. They will pay you high rates, you will get OT and the company will pay upfront for travel cost and give you "free" housing. That's the most stress free route for someone already stressed out over money and debt. But if the location happens to be a place where you know people, stay with them and pocket more money. Or if you can't find a rapid response contract ... get a regular contract that will offer you OT and will offer you an extension ( you can get a feel for this during your interview). Then you can find your own housing with Airbnb, VRBO, Craigslist, or take a year lease for unfurnished place.
3) Understand the structure of the agency you select: It's okay to have more than one recruiter to shop for contracts. Most experienced travelers have at least 2 that they can call on to get booked quickly. Be sure to understand how your agency operates for your contract. Do you have to pay for compliance expenses? Will they pay upfront Or will they reimburse you. Some agencies will pay for your labs/and or vaccines, license, certifications. You have to ask to be sure. Is the pay weekly or biweekly? Most are weekly but ask. Some companies offer 401k and PTO. All companies offer medical insurance, however it can be very expensive so do an individual plan and don't take it. Try ehealthinsurance.com
4) Understand your pay packages. If you are going to do a 36 hour contract it's best to go with the blended style package not the rapid response or EMR style. Blended rates are usually confusing to new travelers. Blended packages will increase your overall contract take home pay because they include tax free meals & incidentals, housing stipend, medical, travel stipend and other bonuses. If you need the company to provide you housing on a regular contract expect to lose A LOT of money. Always clarify if the rate the recruiter gives you is taxable or blended! Also for blended packages pay attention to your OT rate. Because if you're taxable rate is $20/hr your overtime will only be $30/hr ... Use paycheck city to get an ideal paycheck estimate.
5) Trust your gut. Speak up. Remember you are in demand and no one can make you take anything you don't want. There's a million agencies and recruiters out here but there is only ONE you!