With the end of summer comes a sense of change and transition. For some, this can be a hard fact to endure, but embracing the shift can open new doors and adventures—particularly for the traveling rehab therapist.
I spent eight years as a travel physical therapist, and in doing so, I was able to see many parts of the country in all four seasons. As a travel PT, I was always ready for change, flexibility, and independence—so, taking advantage of fall and winter locations that may be overcrowded or too expensive in the summer yielded unforgettable experiences only a pseudo-local could have. With that in mind, we here at WebPT have gathered together a list of destinations travel therapists should consider for their upcoming fall and/or winter rotations.
For Leaf Peeping, Lobsters, and Coastal Vistas
Maine hosts a bevy of outdoor enthusiast adventures that include hiking mountains and coasts, camping, and boating, as well as some small towns with good eats perched on rocky coastlines that house oysters, lobsters, clams, and more. Plus, it’s the perfect escape for folks who live for crisp weather and fall colors.
Want to stay past the fall season and into winter? No problem! Maine also has an abundance of ski options available locally and in its neighboring states, New Hampshire and Vermont—both of which are just a short drive away.
Best yet, Maine is one of the easier states to get a rehab license in the country. And many contracts in Maine offer sign-on perks for longer stays in their more remote locations. For the outdoor enthusiast, these locations yield high pay and high adventure.
A little further south rests the de facto capital of New England, and within it, maybe the best city for US history buffs: Boston. Playing host to a more suburban offering of Maine’s finer features like hiking, skiing, seafood (clam chowder), and boating, the region also affords a bustling city with four professional sports teams, island hopping to Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket, and—most importantly for our audience—lots of travel contracts and high per diem rates.
Of all the states I visited, Massachusetts was the best steal in terms of housing, too. With some savvy vacation listing searches, Cape Cod and surrounding areas have attractive offerings in the fall and winter for off-season pricing.
Whether it's catching a Red Sox game from atop the Green Monster, or sampling the many festivals within Cape Cod, Massachusetts has something to offer any travel therapist looking for fall or winter adventure. (A secret about the cape, it tends to be warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer relative to the mainland.)
For Fresh Powder and Hot Toddies
For anyone who enjoys alpine skiing or snowboarding, one state stands above the rest: Colorado. Luckily for today’s travel therapists, many travel companies have postings available in the mountains of Colorado and even some closer to Denver.
In recent years, Denver’s populace has boomed, with many folks from other parts of the country flocking to this cultural hub. The proximity to ski resorts is, of course, a huge get, but Denver is a city where fun and adventure can be found in the many sporting events, festivals, and nightlife available.
With its growing population, securing affordable housing in Colorado (and more specifically, Denver) can be a bit problematic. However, with a well-negotiated contract, you can buffer the higher cost with a completion bonus, gas stipend, or proper allotment of housing stipends. Additionally, Colorado is the first state on this list that is part of the PT compact, which makes licensing and regulatory matters much easier.
For Warm Weather, Prickly Pear Margaritas, and Canyon Hikes
The brisk air of the north may not be for everyone, so let’s set our sights on somewhere a bit warmer. Specifically, to the southwest states of Arizona and Texas, which are both in the top 12 low-tax states, making them a literal gold rush for travel contracts waiting to be prospected.
Not only does (most of) Arizona offer a reprieve from the snow, but it also plays host to a multitude of wellness retreats, providing a low-stress respite for the weary traveler. In fact, a colleague of mine loved Arizona so much that he arranged continuous contracts between two outpatient clinics to alternate between Arizona and his home state so that he could spend half of the year in each. While in Arizona, he frequented locations like Sedona and its holistic healing centers, Bisbee for its quaint scenery, and Flagstaff to take in its surrounding mountains and skiing.
For travel therapists who love to be outside, I would be remiss to not mention the many natural wonders in the region—starting with the granddaddy of them all (pun intended), the Grand Canyon. Outdoor enthusiasts can also head up the state to visit lesser known wonders like Monument Valley, Havasu Falls, Antelope Canyon, and neighboring Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks in Utah.
These are all attractive bonuses to a region that has near unlimited travel contracts. Arizona is also another state in the PT compact and offers high per diems, too, making the monetary benefits of travel therapy that much more pronounced.
Also part of the PT compact is the Lonestar State, which is one of the top travel therapy job markets in the country and offers very affordable housing options. And with many border towns willing to pay top dollar for sorely needed healthcare relief, fluency in Spanish is a huge boon to netting higher salaries.
Given its massive size, Texas provides ample opportunities to sample numerous cultures among its many notable cities. San Antonio has the Alamo and riverwalk, Austin is all about the music and nightlife, Houston has the ocean and offers a host of professional sporting events, and Dallas/Fort Worth has even more nightlife and sports teams to keep you entertained.
Getting outdoors is easy in Texas as well, where sites like Big Bend National Park, Padre Island National Seashore, and Corpus Christi’s beaches offer some breathtaking scenery (and even swimming) in the fall and winter months.
For Woodlands and Local Brew Pubs
The average rainfall may be a daunting prospect for some, but Seattle and its surrounding areas have a lot to offer. Another PT compact state, Washington has numerous travel contracts available to therapists as well as low-tax incentives. Seattle stands close to Olympic National Park, ski resorts, and fresh seafood. Endless forests abound as you move out of Seattle and into neighboring regions, providing ample opportunity to catch peak fall colors and hike to your heart’s content.
Oregon often finds itself in the top three of best beer states, making it a great place to enjoy one of our favorite fall festivities: Oktoberfest. Combine that with the many outdoor and foodie-inspired venues this state has to offer, there is little doubt Oregon is high on the list of desirable travel therapy locations this fall.
Many of these attractions are centralized around the capitol, Portland; however, other locations along Interstate 5, like Eugene and Medford, have a lot to offer for those looking for more of a small-town feel. You can check out this blog post from Jackson Therapy Partners for more information on the region.
Logistically, Oregon does have a higher tax than some of the other states on this list, but the abundance of well-paying contracts coupled with membership in the PT compact (and a good recruiter) will make for an unforgettable experience.
For Good Hospitality and Freshwater Lakes
8. Michigan’s Peninsulas
Experiencing fall foliage in Michigan is seriously undervalued, especially considering many of the views are set to the backdrop of the pristinely blue Great Lakes. Yet another top-three beer state, the “Mitten” provides an autumn paradise with local favorites like cider mills, hay rides, pumpkin patches, and more. Take for example Route M119, or as we native-Michiganders call it, the “Tunnel of Trees.” Every October, fall color enthusiasts flock to this scenic highway to view the stunning changing of the leaves situated on the coastal bluffs of Lake Michigan. Even better, locations similar to the Tunnel of Trees are all over the state, and often close to some hoppin’ cities like Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Traverse City, and Ann Arbor.
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (UP) is another fall and winter wonderland. With scenic vistas like Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and countless snowmobile trails, there is something for everyone in both seasons.
Although not yet a part of the compact, Michigan has legislation pending to join, which will make licensing even more of a breeze. Many travel contracts are listed for regions in the upper lower peninsula and the UP where housing costs can be more favorable to travelers. Another boost for your pocket book—Michigan is a top 10 state in terms of cost of living applied to dwelling, groceries, and utilities.
Although I am partial to Michigan’s fall colors and open-air offerings, I would be remiss to leave out Wisconsin. Similar to Michigan, this state also has many travel contracts to offer with affordable small towns throughout the state, and is also looking to join the compact
Neighboring the UP of Michigan, outdoor attractions in this region continue with the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and the numerous lakes and waterfalls along Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. Travelers looking for family friendly activities can visit the Wisconsin Dells—an adventure-laden destination for swimming, hiking, eating, shopping, and more. For the travel therapist looking to cross off a bucket list sports venue, Green Bay is home to the iconic Lambeau Field with Madison and Milwaukee nearby for additional athletic amusements.
For Sun, Surf, and National Parks
In many ways, the reasons for a travel therapist to visit California can be summarized in the above sections. The state has something to offer in pretty much every season as it has maybe the most diverse landscape in the country. But working here as a travel therapist also comes with its own challenges—the biggest of which is time and money. The states listed above have licensure waits of roughly six weeks—even less if you are part of the PT compact—but California’s average wait time to be licensed is eight to 10 weeks. And that’s if you have all the required documents, tests, and verifications in order. To further complicate matters, California sits squarely in the middle of a housing crisis making an already expensive state even more difficult to manage for the average travel therapist.
But do not let me dissuade you. Although I never made it to the Golden State, I have a number of close colleagues who have spent years traveling California. They have enjoyed the vineyards of Sonoma, the views of Yosemite National Park, the seafood in San Francisco, the mammoth trees of Redwood National Park, and many more attractions this huge state has to offer. And despite its roadblocks, California has lots and lots of high-paying contracts and some of the highest per diem rates for travel therapists.
Whenever students ask me about my time spent traveling, I tell them it was the best career decision I ever made (with the caveat that anyone considering this path should plan accordingly). I could have practiced my craft in one spot, but instead I paid off my loans, saw the country, learned from different industry leaders, and explored the many cultures that make up our nation.
But don’t just take my word for it—there are many reasons to consider travel therapy and many companies that have created resources to make this transition easier on rehab therapists. These include:
Have any other destinations you think would make for the perfect end-of-year rotation? Drop ‘em below—we’d love to hear from you!