The Definitive Packing and Buying Guide For Travel Nurses

The Definitive Packing and Buying Guide For Travel Nurses

The Definitive Packing and Buying Guide For Travel Nurses

This page aims to get you packing right for your next or perhaps your first gig. So let me get you ready to hit the road as a travel nurse. 

Here you'll learn to: 

  • pare down to the essentials, 
  • streamline the process,
  • don't under pack or overpack,
  • keep organized,
  • approach the packing process,
  • categorize,
  • plan,
  • discern needs versus wants, and
  • purchase what's best.

Your Travel Nursing job will require essentials to be packed.  Every Travel Nurse needs to know what to pack. You'll discover tips and tools throughout this page. What to bring on your Travel Nursing assignment is suggested, including must-have items. Whatever you decide to pack must be organized and light to save precious space. 

If you are traveling by car, there is more room to pack things in and better organize by considering the size of your vehicle and whether it can tow a trailer. If you travel by air, you need to decide how many bags you want to check. Be prepared to pay for each piece of luggage you wish to check, no matter how many. Of course, you will need to pack differently if you drive to your assignment or fly. 

 

Pre-Checklist 1-3

1) Determine The Duration

Assignments have varying lengths, most are 13 weeks, but 4, 6, 8, and 26-week assignments are also possible. Additionally, you may extend or go straight to your next assignment before returning home. For many travel nurses, different travel times require different packing strategies, so do your best to estimate how long you'll be away. 

2) Consider The Location, Climate, and Activities

Assignment locations have different climates and may offer various activities which could lead you to pack other items. For example, there is probably no need to pack your bikini for an assignment in Alaska in the winter. Therefore, consider the weather and potential activities when developing your packing list.

3) Consider What The Travel Nursing Agency Provides Or Find Your Own

You need to know what is provided in your travel nurse housing by connecting with your recruiter or housing specialist to determine what is furnished. If you take company-provided housing, it's important to remember that different agencies handle housing differently. 

Therefore, it's vital to inquire precisely what your housing accommodations will include. But, don't accept ambiguous statements like "fully furnished" or "turn-key housing" because you may find out that expected items are not included. For example, "fully-furnished" may or may not have a TV. Some questions to ask:

  1. What furniture and kitchen items are included? 
  2. Is a microwave included?
  3. Is there a TV or DVD player?
  4. What size is the bed (if you bring your bedding)?
  5. What about amenities such as pools, a fitness center, or tennis courts?

Knowing the answers to these questions can ensure you have what is needed yet can travel as light as possible. You can also decide to purchase some items once you arrive. Don't be afraid to ask your travel nursing company for more regarding the housing package they offer. 

Most housing includes basic furniture and appliances, but many do not have cooking utensils, pots, and pans. But you will likely be expected to bring things like linens, towels, and kitchenware.

If you opt for the housing stipend and plan to find your own accommodations instead, you can work directly with the property manager to verify what they do and do not furnish.

 

Making a List and Checking It Twice

Once you know what the agency provides and know the weather and activities you'll be engaged in during your assignment, you can begin to form a list of items to bring with you. Here's a general categorized list of things to consider.

Household items:

• Sheets and towels • Blankets, comforter/duvet • Shower curtain, if not provided • Laundry basket • Cooking utensils • Dishes and glassware • Pots and pans • Dishtowels • Coffeemaker/Tea kettle • Small vacuum • Flashlight • Batteries and chargers

Personal electronics:

• Cell phone/smartphone • Alarm clock • Camera • WiFi router, if not included • Laptop, tablet • Small stereo/radio or digital speakers

Rent or Bring (if not provided):

• TV • DVD player or streaming devices • Microwave

Clothing:

• Uniforms per facility • Dressy and casual clothes • Workout clothes and swimwear • Sleepwear, bathrobe • Shoes • Sweaters, coats, and other layers • Umbrella, other weather needs

Consider investing in double-duty clothing, like multi-use wraps, crushable hats, self-cooling and heating fabrics like merino wool layersbug-repellent clothing, wrinkle-resistant shirts, quick-drying activewear, and undergarments, casual sneakers, UPF-proof clothing, and compressible jackets. Popular athleisure brands to check out include LululemonprAna, and Athleta to travel in comfort.

Accessories: Bring along accessories like a money belt, scarf, or sarong (which can be used for an airplane blanket, coverup at the beach, or throw over your dress on a fantastic evening). In addition, a collapsible tote or day bag for any extra items you might acquire on your travels. Finally, if traveling to a city or destination prone to pickpocketing, pack some pickpocket-proof clothing and gear.


The Clothing Minimalist

This is a generic minimalist packing list for travel nurses, not taking personal preferences into consideration and assuming the travel nurse will be gone for longer than the course of 1 assignment (13 weeks).

– 2-3 tee-shirts 

– 2-3 dress or graphic tees 

– 2-4 casual/underlayer tank tops 

– 2 pairs of jeans 

– 1 casual pant 

– 3 pairs of leggings/bottom layer pants 

– 1 button-up shirt 

– 2 casual dresses/2 men's casual wear shirts 

– 2 pairs of shorts 

– 2 pairs of athletic bottoms/2 athletic tops 

– 1 pair of sneakers 

– Hiking shoes 

– Water shoes/sandals 

– 1 pair of dress shoes 

– 1 pair of flip flops 

– 1 pair of walking sandals 

– 15 pairs of underwear 

– 2-3 bras in neutral colors 

– 2 sports bras 

– 4 pairs of 'work socks' (e.g., compression stockings) 

– 7 pairs of wool/no show socks 

– 1-2 Sweatshirts/mid-layer 

– 1-2 Sweatpants/pajamas 

– 1 Warm sweater 

– 2 baseball caps/winter hats 

– Gloves/scarf/boots 

– 1 light jacket, 1 rain jacket, 1 heavy jacket 

– Bathing suit/swim trunks




What to Purchase & Pack In Each Category

CLOTHES TO PURCHASE & PACK 

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TOILETRIES TO PURCHASE & PACK

Shop Our Toiletries Packing List



HOUSEHOLD ITEMS TO PURCHASE & PACK

Personal Portable Oven  This is great for slow cooking and reheating leftovers without a microwave. The design is great for travel nurses because it's lighter, smaller, and cheaper than a microwave oven.

Mini Portable Oven 

This product acts as a miniature slow-cooking oven that heats your food gradually and efficiently from home or work. 

Travel Coffee Press    qir The travel coffee press lets you make your coffee in the same tumbler you'd take, saving you time and money! 

Portable Steamer  qir The portable clothes steamer eases the packing load by replacing the heavy iron and reduces your morning routine by quickly and effectively getting those wrinkles out of your scrubs.

Portable Mini Clothing Steamer   qir

Clear Garbage Bags   This is hands down the easiest way to transport your clothes by packing and stacking efficiently. Just tear a tiny hole at the bottom of the bag and place it over the hangers. 

3M Command Strips 14 pack qir A great way to add some decor and a personal touch to your new space without the risk of damaging walls with tacks or tape. 

Lysol Lemon Wipes Travel Pack  qir

2-pack Tide To Go Instant Stain Remover  

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Nurse Coffee Mugs Buy "Nurse Mugs" at Amazon 

An easy-to-use coffee machine is a great companion for a nurse who has long shifts and wants a boost of energy throughout the day. Buy "Coffee Makers" at Amazon

Small Vacuum One, you can seal all your clothes in the space bags. Second, sometimes a swifter won't cut it. 

Faucet Water Filter Sometimes, it has a funny taste, no matter how good the water is. A faucet water filter does not take a lot of room to pack but will improve any water flavor.



TECH TO PURCHASE & PACK

You'll also want to remember to pack electronic adapters and converters for those traveling abroad. Other tech-related items for photographers to pack are a sturdy camera bag, backup batteries, memory cards, and a lens cleaner. And don't forget smartphone essentials like a backup charger, a waterproof case if you're headed out on the water, and a phone stand or tripod for photos.

Multi-Wall Outlet Surge Protectorqir Some places you'll stay will have only one outlet sometimes. This little brick lets you charge 4 USB devices simultaneously and still leaves you with three wall sockets for whatever you need.

Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker 

The waterproof Shower speaker is thoroughly resistant to water, dust, and sand. So you can get it wet, muddy, covered in snow, and then hand washes it when you go in. 

Smartwatches and Activity Trackers
Smartwatches are a great way to keep up with your daily steps, heart rate, and so much more; not to mention, it allows you the chance to leave your phone in your work bag and not have to worry about it! The Apple Watch is durable, waterproof, and stays charged all day. It also comes with interchangeable bands. A few other popular smartwatches and fitness trackers are the Fitbit and Samsung Smartwatch.

Mini Projector  A mini projector is portable and projects an HD screen larger than any of your housing would provide. The small box packs easily in a supplied bag and comes with an HDMI cable. 

Fire Stick qir This gadget is your one-stop shop for all things streaming.  

Wi-Fi Routerqir You don't have to pay your internet company, plus no turning in their router when you move.

Extension Cords and Power Strips



Consider An Electronic Accessories Travel Organizer
An accessories travel bag designed for electronics saves space and offers better access.


Consolidate Electronics If Possible

Consider these consolidation tips.

  1. Leave The Camera Behind: Most mobile phones have excellent cameras these days. In addition, many of them come with all the bells and whistles that moderately priced cameras include. So unless you have a nice camera, it's probably just as good to use your mobile phone.
  2. Leave The eReader Behind: Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and Google Play all have apps for iPhones and Android devices. So you can download your books to your phone just as quickly as you can with an eReader.
  3. Leave The Desktop Behind: If you have a desktop and a laptop, there is no need to bring both. Opt for the laptop.

Consider A Wireless Speaker

Consider purchasing a wireless speaker that works with your mobile device. There are inexpensive options that work just fine. More expensive options also deliver high-quality sound, like from Bose




SLEEP-RELATED ITEMS TO PURCHASE & PACK

Blackout Sleep Mask  These masks block out 100% of all light, allowing you to sleep in broad daylight. In addition, the design specializes in reducing pressure on your eyes and nose, so it feels like you're not wearing anything. 

Portable Sleep Therapy This device emits a soothing noise that helps you relax and tune out any noise pollution to help you fall asleep faster and give you a whole night's rest. 

Memory Foam Mattress Topper  qir The last item to ensure a great sleep is a memory foam mattress topper. This is an automatic upgrade to your mattress wherever you are. Available in different sizes depending on your needs.

Inflatable Couch Pull-Out Mattress qir These are useful for when you have a guest over or need to sleep over somewhere.

Dodow Sleep Aid Device  qirThis metronome effect helps redirect your focus, reduces anxiety, and promotes truly restful nights of sleep.



MISCELLANEOUS TO PURCHASE & PACK 

There are also some items that you may not think to pack but should, like an electronic tracker, duct tape, toilet paper, a decoy wallet, or a whistle.

Hanging Laundry Bag

This simple hamper saves time and space, an asset that's rare in these temporary houses sometimes. Instead, they hang over your door.

Door-hanging Laundry Hamper  qir


Consider A Cosmetic and Grooming Travel Bag
Using a bag specifically designed to carry toiletries will save space and significantly improve accessibility.

Travel Makeup Bags 

Travel Cosmetic Bag  qir

A simple on-the-go bag for toiletries like makeup, hair products, and brushes. It has a flat bottom and stands up on any counter surface, so it's not only an easy packing tool but also doubles as a vanity organizer. 

Kitchen Multi-tool

Multi-use Kitchen Tool 

This compact tool acts as a knife, corer, peeler, zester, etc. 

Consider A Leatherman
Consider a Leatherman or similar device. These "multitool" products can replace 15 to 50 different tools and are tiny by comparison.

Portable Light Therapy Lamp qir The lamp mimics natural sunlight to help with fatigue, stress, or even weather blues.

Travel Journal  qir Keeping a travel journal is a great way to motivate you to get out and explore in your downtime or plan your next adventure. Plus, it's a keepsake of all the memories you created along the way. 

Amazon File Folder  Travel nursing comes with a lot of paperwork to manage. However, this is easy to manage all your licenses, certifications, vaccines, and lease agreements without lugging around an entire file cabinet. 

Postage Stamps Sending a sweet postcard or letter from your new city is fun to keep involved with friends and family. Also good to have on hand for general 'adulting.'


Foot Massager
After 12 hours on your feet, what could be a more fantastic luxury than a foot massager with deep kneading and Shiatsu massage functions? Use it while relaxing in front of the TV, reading a book, or even studying if you have to. Buy "Foot Massager" at Amazon

Infusion Water Bottle
Many people don't enjoy plain water, but with an infuser water bottle, you not only add a taste of fresh fruits, and possibly herbs and spices, to your water but also energize vitamins and minerals. Buy "Infusion Water Bottle" at Amazon

Consider Pack-Towels To Save Space
Consider Pack-Towels as a replacement alternative while traveling from place to place. Backpackers use these towels to save weight and space on long treks. They're highly absorbent and quick drying. These microfiber towels are another great option.

Other Miscellaneous Good Ideas
Waterproof phone pouches like this one from Amazon are perfect for hiking and other water adventures.



EXERCISE THINGS TO PURCHASE & PACK

Resistance Bands  qir These highly portable, lightweight rubber bands give you a great workout and save you money, while their design is a breeze to pack and move.




PROFESSIONAL GEAR TO PURCHASE & PACK

Digital Stethoscope

TIP: Consider making or buying a stethoscope name tag for it.

Buy "Littmann Stethoscope" at Amazon

Buy "3M Littmann Core Digital Stethoscope" at Amazon qir

Nursing Shoes
Not just ordinary shoes, but shoes designed explicitly for nurses! Buy "Nursing Shoes" at Amazon

Packing Shoes
To save space, stuff socks inside your shoes to prevent your shoes from getting mashed or damaged during the move. Also, pack them in shoe bags for added protection and organization. Finally, consider a shoe storage bag like this one to help save even more space.

Scrubs Buy "Nurse Scrubs" on Amazon

Nurse Compression Socks Nurses spend most of their shift standing up, and compression socks help boost circulation and support the veins by preventing blood pooling. Buy "Nurse Compression Socks" at Amazon

Nurse Bags and Stethoscope Cases
Fit your stethoscopes, mugs, scissors, and other paraphernalia inside! Nurses also love these nurse bags as they hold every tool they need. Buy "Nurse Bags" at Amazon

penlights




PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT TO PURCHASE & PACK

You need to consider COVID by:

  • keeping yourself healthy, 
  • packing appropriately,
  • researching your site,
  • stress management tools, and
  • having a good understanding of the facility's PPE capabilities, volume, and acuity. 
Buy "PPE for Nurses" at Amazon

Mask Extender/Clips
Give those nurse ears a break with these mask extenders. These are straps suitable for use on most face masks and prevent them from slipping below the nose. Buy "Mask Extenders" at Amazon



Car Emergencies Readiness

Be sure to pack roadside emergency kits, jumper cables, and battery packs in case of a car emergency — like a flat tire or having your battery die. So be prepared. 
  • Roadside Emergency Kit: Look for one with jumper cables, reflective triangles, ratchet straps, seatbelt cutter tool, etc.
  • Power Station: jump starter, air pressure, and USB ports.
  • First Aid Kit


Also recommended is traveling with a travel first-aid kit, including tweezers, first-aid ointment, bandages, travel-sized hand sanitizer, sunscreen, and insect repellent.

The Red Cross has a first aid kit list.

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Surviveware
This small First Aid Kit is for home or car, plus it attaches easily to backpacks and bikes. AT AMAZON


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North American Rescue M-FAK Mini First Aid Kit with Tourniquet This one's small (8.3 inches by 3 inches) and comes with the items most requested by first responders, including blood-clotting powder and a top-of-the-line CAT tourniquet. AT AMAZON



TO "FEEL AT HOME" THINGS TO PURCHASE & PACK 

Digital Photo Frame  qir

Missing family? Friends? Your dog? Pack this small digital photo frame and make any place feel like home. It can cycle through hundreds of hand-selected photos on its high-resolution screen. 

Other comfort items that are easy to transport are Yankee Candles, throws, pillow shams, framed photographs of those you love, wall art, refrigerator magnets of visited places, and baskets for display and/or storage.

Consider bringing luxury items and hobby stuff.



Having FUN

"50 States, 5,000 Ideas" Travel Book  qir

And lastly, make the most of every assignment by exploring the beautiful sites around you. This book by National Geographic illustrates must-see parks, beaches, museums, and other unique landmarks in all 50 states.



How to Get It All Organized & Save Space

First, explore USPS and UPS shipping options. Then, to help keep things organized, many Travel Nurses love using packing cubes and/or compression sacks. However, if you're looking to save some space when packing clothing and other cloth items, you might want to try compression bags. These bags are sometimes referred to as "stuff sacks." They let you stuff them full of clothing or related items and provide a mechanism for compressing them to save more space.  

This type is typically used by backpackers for their sleeping bags but works just as well for clothing.

This type is commonly used to save space when packing suitcases.

Vacuum Storage Bags 

These handy plastic bags help double your luggage space by sucking the air out of the bags with a bit of a hand pump (or vacuum if you have one). The airtight bags are waterproof, protecting your clothes and linens from travel mishaps. These come with plenty for the price and a lifetime warranty if they should get damaged.

Vacuum Storage Bags qir

If you tend to pack an embarrassing number of suitcases for traveling, look into these vacuum storage bags to fool the onlookers. By sucking the air from the bags, your clothes will shrink to half the size = double the packing!

Luggage Cubes Space Saver Travel Storage Bagsqir

The space bags cut the size by about half and protect it from dirt and spills while on the road. These ones don't even require a vacuum to seal.

Under the Bed Storage Bins  qir Often, you'll find yourself in a place with limited storage space. These bins are great to create an extra space to tuck things away. They also fit well in a car and easily transport clothes, accessories, and odd items. 

Try A Tackle Box
The compartments aren't flexible enough, and tackle boxes don't make the best use of space. However, if you're looking for something durable and convenient, a tackle box might be good.

The Packing Cubes made by eBags are wicked popular for keeping things organized and accessible. The bags have mesh tops that allow you to see the contents. They also come in different sizes and colors. The different colors will enable you to color-code the contents for even better organization. You can place items in the Packing Cubes and then place the packing cubes into a suitcase or a storage container. So you don't have to dig through all of your stuff to find what you're after. Instead, simply find the Packing Cube it's stored in, and you're done.

eBags Classic Packing Cubes 3pc Set (Black) Buy Now

Packing Cubes 

Whether you are loading your car for a road trip or packing for a flight to your next assignment, these packing cubes are super helpful for organization and making the most of whatever luggage space you have.

Consider Storage Containers Instead Of Luggage
They're more durable than standard packing boxes, and if you purchase clear containers, you'll have the advantage of seeing what's inside. These containers from Rubbermaid are an excellent option. Also, these containers come in all shapes and sizes, so be sure to shop around for the best alternative for your particular vehicle.

Consider Mini Containers To Save Space
Mini containers are an excellent way to save space. You can go to Amazon and search for "small containers." 

Utility Wagon You can move an entire apartment in fewer loads! Use it to bring in groceries—no more multiple trips from your car. 

Packing tricks 

  • Tightly roll your clothing. It takes up less space that way.
  • Place any heavy or misshapen items, such as shoes, on the bottom of your suitcase. That way, everything else can fill in the cracks.
  • Put your socks inside your shoes. The inside of your shoe is an empty space, so why not fill it?
  • Protect any fragile items by wrapping them in socks or heavy clothing and placing them in the center of your suitcase.
  • Place anything that might spill inside a plastic bag. If you don't want a mess, take preventative measures.
  • Pack tightly. When your things are packed tightly, it saves space, helps prevent wrinkling of clothes, and protects your fragile items.
  • Consider clear storage containers. If you are traveling by car, clear storage containers are a great option because you can see what is inside.

How to Pack a Car

When you pack your car, make sure to put anything you need in the front seat for easy accessibility. You don't want to have to dig around or move oversized items for access to toiletries, paperwork, chargers, and clothes you'll need during your transit.

Always pack your 'must-haves' first if everything doesn't fit to avoid unpacking the whole car if you need to re-prioritize. Try to distribute weight evenly on both sides of the car when packing to preserve your tires and reduce the wear and tear on your vehicle.



All About Pets

  • Keeping copies of medical records, vaccination records, or breed certifications handy may be necessary when you need to stop and stay at a hotel or quickly give them to your new landlord without digging for them.
  • Pet supplies: If you're bringing your cat or dog on assignment, you'll need to prepare accordingly.
  • Make sure your pet is microchipped, and take a couple of clear photos on your phone, so it will be easier for you to find him if he gets lost.
  • Attach current ID tags to his collar. Remember to include your full name and phone number if you don't want to update the address each time you move.
  • Have his medicines on hand and bring a file (either on paper or on your phone) that contains his health certificates and medical history, and the contact details of the vet that last treated him.
  • Bring his bedding and blanket, as well as his favorite toys. Having something that smells familiar to him will ease the anxiety pets often experience during travel.
  • Don't forget to pack clean-up bags or cat litter!
  1. Crate or carrier
  2. Microchips + paperwork
  3. ID tags with contact info
  4. Medications, health certificates
  5. Bedding, blankets, toys
  6. Food + food bowls

If traveling with a pet, you will also want to remember the following: food and treats; food and water bowls; bed; favorite toys, paperwork (for a microchip, health records, license, etc.); local vet information; clean-up bags, litter and box (if needed); collar with ID/contact tags and leash. Crates are recommended for road trips, and you can bring special travel water bottles for pets with an attached drinking cup that can later be used on hikes and other adventures. 

Supplies for Your Pet
Planning on bringing your fur baby? Like you, your pet will be adjusting to their new surroundings, so bringing along some items that will make them feel at home is wise. Consider bringing:

  • A bed or blanket from home
  • Toys that they love
  • Their food dish
  • Their leash
  • The food they usually eat; and
  • Some treats for the road
Your pet will feel displaced and possibly stressed from the flight or road trip, so whatever you can do to make them feel at home will benefit you.

If you are taking a flight to your destination, find out your specific airline's rules for traveling with pets on board.



Essential Documentation

  • Keep a binder, files, or Google folder with any documentation or records you may need easy access to throughout your trip when you arrive at your new assignment city or in case of an emergency.
  • Vehicle Documentation: When traveling across the country, you may need quick maintenance on your vehicle. Did you buy a battery at a nationwide auto store? Did you get tires with a warranty at a national store? Having those documents handy may mean free or discounted service.
  • Certifications: Scan your certifications and licensure information and save it to a Google folder. That way, you have it ready if your QA specialist needs something in a hurry so you can start your assignment on time.
  • Medical Records: If you have a condition that requires emergency responders to know about, it may be helpful to keep these handy and not buried under suitcases, or worse, at home.

You'll need your:

  • driver's license
  • social security card
  • car insurance
  • travel documents
  • insurance policy
  • roadside assistance agreement

Keep digital copies on your phone or laptop just in case you need to produce them for any reason.

Also, make sure to bring:

  • the contact information for your staffing company and recruiter
  • address and phone number of your new workplace
  • details of your temporary lodging
  • A state or federally issued identification card (usually a driver's license or passport)
  • Birth Certificate
  • Copies of nursing license (Certification for Certified Nursing Assistants)
  • Copy of your most recent physical
  • Copy of your most recent Tuberculosis screening
  • Copy of current Basic Life Support Certification (CPR card)
  • Debit and credit cards
  • Car registration and insurance information
  • Contact phone numbers (facility, recruiter, manager, doctor, family members)
  • Immunization records
  • Prescription information

Double-check that you have your debit and credit cards and any customer loyalty cards that can earn you points in nationwide stores. 

Immunization Records

As a nurse, you are around people all the time. Therefore, it is essential to always have an accurate immunization record.

You most likely have completed all compliance before boarding that plane, but you may have a need to present actual documentation. Double-check with your staffing firm or recruiter about the items you need to take with you on assignment.

Emergency Phone Numbers
Bring a list of emergency phone numbers with you and keep a hard copy version in your wallet and an e-list on your phone.

You should include the contact details of:

  • You're next of kin
  • your doctor
  • your dentist
  • your staffing agency
  • your insurance agent
Also, list the contact details of a doctor, dentist, ER, and vet at your destination if you need help immediately upon arrival.


 

Apps and Websites 

These apps and websites can help you develop, refine, save, and create lists.

PackPoint for iOS

PackPoint for Android

Packtor.com

Packpal.co


With all this knowledge, you are now all set to go. God speed to you.

Anthony Colón RN


Disclosure: This article includes affiliate links from Amazon, where a small commission is earned. Your purchase helps support this site's work. 

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