How exciting that you are thinking of a change! I have a favorite quote: "Growth is painful and stagnation is death!"
I love Agency. I have only worked per diem but am also looking into a Travel Contract. I currently travel out of state to work in Denver. A contract would allow me more benefits that are tax exempt. Ther is a website .gov that gives per diem compensation figures.
A reasonable rule of thumb is $ 30-35 hourly compensation. There is no free ride so when a travel company provides housing, it is deducted from your hourly wage. Many companies will allow you a base figure (usually based on the .gov per diem) for housing, mileage/car reimbursement, and additional travel expenses. A generalization for daily per diem is $ 85.00, so with 12 shifts a month, you can do the math.
Think contract and verbage when you sign; Check with colleages for feedback before you sign. I have heard that you can often get double time for the 4th shift in a week and those types of requests. Again, delphi is a good website as a resource for travelers.
I agree with Wild; Get the packets and start your leg work because it all takes time. Honestly, I put me name in at delphi for an interest in travel and I was overwhelmed with travel agency callers; They initially look the same but I go with personal recomendations for the subtle but important differences.
Your specialty is VERY much in demand too Rick! Good luck to you and have fun with it! I hear California pays big money... but watch your costs.... the cost of living is killer....
Just my opinion..... but California in winter sounds a lot better then Wyoming (or Ohio)! lol....