How To Get Mail When Traveling: Tested Tips and Tricks
March 20, 2021
As nomads, we can’t walk to our mailbox and collect our mail. Figuring out how to get mail when traveling is one of the bigger headaches. To learn more about how we are able to travel full-time, check out the About Us page.
How to get mail when traveling?
When we tell people that we travel full-time, they often ask about the logistics. The most common questions are about how we handle health insurance, income taxes, and mail. We’re happy with our mail solution and hope our experiences will help others figure out how to get mail when traveling.
Friends and Family Assistance
If you have willing friends or family, they can receive your mail while you are traveling. They can either forward everything in batches or review the items individually before forwarding.
While living in London, we relied on Kevin’s mom to provide stateside mail service. She and our niece rented our house for the three years we lived overseas.
About once a month, Kevin’s mom would call and open our mail with us on the phone. If she saw anything important, she would immediately scan and email it to us. During our mail review calls, we would tell her which items to trash, scan, and save for us. This was a hassle for her but we appreciated her help.
Forwarding mail to the UK would have been prohibitively expensive and her assistance saved us a lot of money and trouble.
Mail Service Providers
Since going full time in our RV, we decided to utilize a professional provider to manage our mail. Escapees RV Club offers a mail service that helps us reduce the headache. Their facility in Texas receives our mail and holds it for us. We pay postage and they will send it to us whenever and where ever we want. In 2020, we spent $140 for our mail service including the annual service fee and all postage fees.
In 2018, we visited the Escapess Livingston Texas mail service facility. They provide mail service for thousands of nomadic households including RVers and boaters. Their daily mail volume is so large they are treated as a post office. They have their own zip code and receive daily deliveries from a USPS 18-wheeler truck.
While chatting with a Yellowstone camp host, he explained he was a full-time RVer domiciled in Texas. We smiled and said, “us too”. Without any further preamble, he told us his zip code, 77399. I laughed because it was like a secret code. 77399 is the Escapees zip code.
There are several other mail service providers that offer the same service. For additional fees, most will open and scan your mail. We met a nomadic small business owner than deposits scanned client checks without ever receiving the actual check. Scanning services vary in prices based on the provider.
We have gone paperless for everything possible and only request our mail about once every 4-8 weeks. Our mail usually includes a few important documents that we’ve already received via email. Occasionally, we get notices from government entities that do not offer email delivery such as jury summons or IRS notifications. We immediately act on these and let them know we’re traveling and have just received the notice. Thus far, we’ve not had any major issues with missed deadlines.
How to get mail when traveling: 6 Options for deliveries
Obviously, to receive mail we must be stationary long enough for it to arrive or plan ahead. As you may already know, we are minimalists and don’t buy a lot of consumer goods. However, our shopping list usually has at least one RV part that can’t easily be found at a brick-and-mortar store. There are several options to receive mail when you are not local.
General Delivery: #1 Way to get mail when traveling
We normally use the general delivery service offered by the USPS and they will hold mail for us at participating local branch post offices for up to 30 days. This is a bit of a hassle because not all locations offer the service and those that do have specific procedures. The specifics can only be determined by calling various locations.
What to know about General Delivery?
I have been successful with General Delivery by calling local post offices directly and asking the following questions:
Do you accept General Delivery?
Are there restrictions on the type of mail you will accept (Amazon packages, UPS or FedEx packages)?
Can mail be picked up during all business hours? (busier locations restrict General Delivery pickup to specific hours)
Where can I pick up my mail? (some larger cities have multiple locations and only offer General Delivery at one)
How should mail be addressed for General Delivery? (some locations want the street address included others do not)
How to get packages delivered
Standard mail (USPS letters) is one of the easier aspects of being nomadic. Online orders can be a lot more troublesome since most post offices offering general delivery will only accept packages mailed via USPS. You rarely have control or even knowledge of which carrier a vendor uses to ship your order.
Amazon Lockers: #2 Way to get mail when traveling
In Dallas, we used Amazon lockers regularly but have struggled to find locations in rural areas. So when we know we will be in a metropolitan area with delivery options for all types of packages, we take full advantage to place online orders. Amazon lockers are a great option in urban areas. Packages must be collected within 72 hours but the process is contactless and easy.
Mailbox Stores: #3 Way to get mail when traveling
Mailbox or UPS stores will accept and hold packages in most locations however some do charge nominal fees. We’ve paid $1 to $5 for packages usually based on size. Consider this when placing Amazon orders because they often times split items into multiple boxes and ship separately. My frugal soul screams inside when thinking about paying a $5 fee to receive an item from Amazon worth less than $10.
Campground: #4 Way to get mail when traveling
As a service to their guests, some campgrounds accept mail deliveries. If you have an upcoming campground stay, call ahead and ask about mail services. In popular snowbird areas, we’ve also found some campgrounds accept packages for non-guests for a small fee. This is ideal when boondocking.
Friend or Family: #5 Way to get mail when traveling
If planning to visit friends or family en-route, it is very convenient to ship packages to them. We did this when visiting Denver. Kevin’s brother, Ryan, was kind enough to accept delivery of a large RV filter and a new cellular phone. It’s common sense but always ask permission before shipping items to someone else’s address.
Ship to Store: #6 Way to get mail when traveling
Some large chains such as Walmart or REI, allow online orders to be shipped to their branch locations for free. Orders should be placed in advance to allow delivery to align with your visit. It can be a hassle to visit multiple stores to pick up orders but we’ve found it is easier than visiting multiple stores searching for specialty items such as bike parts.
In conclusion, getting mail when traveling can be a hassle but with some planning and preparation, it’s manageable. The most impactful trick is to go paperless for everything possible. Mail service companies can also simplify the process. We hope our tested tips and tricks save you some headaches.