Full-time campers are used to getting asked a number of questions, including “How do you make a living?” and “How do you live in such a small place?” Another common question is, “How do you get your mail?”
For this article, let’s tackle the easiest of the three: how to get mail on the road. Whether you’re thinking of hitting the road full-time, part-time, or are just heading out on an extended trip; mail management is a task you’ll need to tackle.
The good news is that there are several ways you can snag your mail when you’re traveling, so long as you have a thoughtful plan to make it happen. Let’s dig in.
1. Mail Forwarding vs. A Permanent Address Change
If you are traveling for anywhere from 15 days to up to a year, the United States Post Office can forward your mail from your address to another of your choosing. This is the ideal route to take if you will be on the road for less than a year, as it doesn’t require you to permanently update your mailing address with friends, family, and businesses.
If you are traveling for more than a year, you’ll need to make a more permanent change. Options here include using a mail forwarding service, who will provide you with a new mailing address, or changing your address to that of a friend or family member who can collect your mail for you.
2. Hire a Mail Forwarding Service
Whether you’re a full-time traveler or a snowbird, getting a forwarding service is a good option. Many services, like Escapees, Traveling Mailbox, and even some UPS Stores, will receive, package, and send your mail in regular intervals or on-demand. There is a fee to utilize these services, but also the peace of mind of having an outside party handling this for you.
For paper mail, Escapees and Traveling Mailbox are popular services. These services will provide you with an address to share with your friends, families, and businesses. When you receive mail at that address, the service will email you and let you know. From there, you have a few choices. You can get your mail opened and scanned, packaged and sent to a different address (see below for tips), shredded, or held for a later date. Some mail services will even deposit checks into your bank account for you.
Traveler Tip: Whenever possible, go paperless. This not only saves you from having to get a forwarding service, but it also saves some paper along the way. Not all services will advertise paperless options, so ask. More often than not, they have them, and they’re easy to use.
3. Ask a Friend or Family Member
Another way to get your mail when you’re on the road is to have it sent to a relative or a friend who is willing to collect it for you. This works well if you have a family member or close friend in your life who doesn’t mind receiving a bit of extra mail and then forwarding it when you know you’ll be in one place long enough to receive it.
Whether you’re using your family’s address as your permanent address or having your mail forwarded to them, be sure that they alert their mail carrier or post office that they will be getting mail in your name. There are instances when delays may occur when mail gets sent to an address that doesn’t usually receive mail for the addressee. To get around that temporarily, you can add a C/O (Care Of) to the address. Using a C/O is easy and ensures that there will not be a delay.
Here’s an example of how to use a C/O on an address:
C/O Family or Friend Name
City State Zip
Now that your mail is safe with a mail forwarding service or with a friend or family member, how do you get your hands on it?
4. Use USPS General Delivery
USPS General Delivery is a popular way to receive packages of mail from a mail forwarding service or whoever is collecting it for you. With USPS General Delivery, a post office will receive and hold your envelope of bundled mail behind the counter. They will keep it for anywhere from 10-30 days (this depends on the office, call ahead to confirm), and you can pick it up over-the-counter.
A couple of important things to note about General Delivery:
- Not all post office locations participate in the service. To find a post office that will receive General Delivery, search locations on the Post Office Locator, and then look under “Services at this Location” for “General Delivery.” It pays to call the post office directly, too, to confirm. It’s been known to happen that a Post Office is listed as receiving General Delivery on the website, only to find when you go to pick up your mail that they don’t actually offer the service.
- A picture ID, like a license or a passport, is required to pick up General Delivery mail from a post office.
- Do not send packages via UPS, Fed-Ex, or other non-USPS delivery services because these will more than likely be undeliverable.
How to address General Deliveries:
City State Zip of Post Office
5. Receive Mail at a Campground
If you know that you will be at a specific campground, RV resort, or lodge on a specific date, call ahead and see if they will receive mail for you. Some businesses, especially campgrounds that offer long-term or seasonal stays, will accept mail for campers. Be sure to check with the business to ensure that they are willing to receive guest mail and ask exactly how that mail should be addressed.
If your campground does not accept mail for guests, ask if they know of a local private mailbox service nearby. For example, in many popular snowbird areas like Quartzsite and Lake Havasu, private mailbox services will, for a fee, receive and distribute mail and packages for long-term campers and travelers just passing through.
6. How to Get Packages
Getting your mail figured out is one thing, but what about package deliveries from stores and online retailers? There are a couple of ways to receive packages on the road. They all require a bit of advanced planning, so it’s best to order early if there’s something you really need by a certain date.
One of the easiest ways to do this is with in-store pickup if it’s an option. Most large chains (i.e., Walmart, Target, etc.) offer in-store pickup options, and you can choose the location closest to you. Then all you need to do is pop inside, grab your item, and hit the road.
If you’re ordering from Amazon, search for an Amazon locker near you. These are located in most major cities and are easy to choose during checkout on Amazon. There are no additional fees for lockers, they have great hours, and they will notify you when your package is ready for pickup.
Lastly, it is possible to receive packages to store locations at providers like UPS or FedEx. This service is done for a fee, and you should call ahead to make sure they accept general deliveries, as not all locations do. Be sure that you know exactly how the package is being shipped before picking your receiving store location, as you’re unlikely to have great luck receiving a package delivered by UPS at a FedEx store.
And there you have it! While getting mail and packages on the road takes a bit of planning, it’s not so tricky once you get the hang of it. Do you have any mail delivery tips that we’ve missed? Please leave them in the comments below!