How to Receive Mail When You’re on a Camping Road Trip?
You’re taking a three-month trip across America for the summer, but you want to continue to receive your mail as you travel. What do you do?
Today we’ll look at a few options for receiving letters and packages while traveling.
Let’s dig in!
How to Receive Mail When Traveling and Camping
There isn’t always an easy solution for receiving mail when you’re traveling. Below, we’ll talk about USPS General Delivery, Amazon Lockers, and renting a P.O. Box as three possible options.
You can also consider using a mail forwarding service or having a family member receive and forward your mail.
USPS General Delivery
Most people in America receive mail at their homes. But for people who don’t want mail delivered to their residence or don’t have a permanent address, another option is USPS General Delivery.
Note: Always call. This option isn’t available everywhere.
Through USPS General Delivery, the mail goes to a post office where you can pick it up. This is different from a P.O. Box where you use a specific mailing address. With USPS General Delivery, all you need is the zip code of the post office where you’ll receive your mail.
When you do pick up your mail, you must show proper ID every time, so don’t forget.
Pros of General Delivery
It’s especially easy for those who travel full-time to pick up their mail this way. You’ll need to tell the sender to address your mail as General Delivery and give the zip code for the post office location, otherwise, it’s just like receiving any other mail.
There are no forms to fill out. Unlike renting a P.O. Box where you have to prove residence, you simply start receiving mail through General Delivery without filling out an application.
You should go to the location where you want to pick up your mail and talk to the postmaster.
Cons of General Delivery
The postmaster determines how long you can receive mail through General Delivery. Perhaps there won’t be any time limit set. But the postmaster could give you a smaller window of time than you need.
This service isn’t available everywhere. Call the location where you want to receive mail to verify that General Delivery is available. Mail is only held for a certain amount of time before the addressee must pick it up. For locations that offer letter-carrier services, you have 10 days to pick up your mail.
For locations that don’t offer letter-carrier services, you have 15 days. You must pick up your mail during business hours, and it’s not convenient if you’re traveling a lot.
Keep in Mind: Your mailing address can impact your voting abilities. Read more to discover Can Full-Time RVers Vote?
An Amazon Locker is a kiosk where you can pick up packages. Once your package arrives at an Amazon Locker, you’ll receive an email with a code to unlock the specific locker that has your delivery. It’s a pretty simple process.
Pros of Amazon Lockers
They’re convenient. Being able to pick up packages at night and on weekends makes the Amazon Locker definitely worth considering. You’ll find them in more than 900 cities, so if you’re camping near a city, you’re likely to come across one. And if you need to return an item, you can just drop it off at an Amazon Locker whether or not you originally picked it up there.
The service is free if you’re a Prime member. Prime members also get same-day, one-day, and two-day shipping options just like they would if they were shipping to a residence. Instead of choosing a home address, Prime members select an Amazon Locker when they check out.
These lockers offer peace of mind because your package isn’t sitting out in the open on a front porch or in a lobby. Packages remain securely locked until you use your six-digit code to open the locker.
Cons of Amazon Lockers
Of course, this doesn’t help you receive mail when you’re traveling.
There are some restrictions. Check out product eligibility if you need to ship heavy or bulky items. If you plan on having a mattress or a generator delivered, you’ll need to choose another delivery option.
If you’re not a Prime member, you have to pay for an Amazon Locker. It’s not a huge fee — whatever the standard rate for shipping is — but it’s not a free delivery option.
If you’re receiving packages through Amazon, but from another country or a third-party seller, you can’t use an Amazon Locker. This also applies to Subscribe & Save items. Amazon won’t deliver those types of items to an Amazon Locker.
Even though there are more than 900 locations, you’re probably going to be in a town that won’t be near an Amazon Locker at some point, especially if you’re camping off-grid. If you’re in Los Angeles, you have plenty of options. But if you’re visiting the Badlands in South Dakota, you’ll have to drive about an hour to Rapid City to find an Amazon Locker location.
Keep in Mind: Establishing a mailing address is crucial to full time RVing. Not having one can be disastrous. Here are 3 Frustrating Ways RVers Are Penalized By The Government.
Renting a P.O. Box
There’s another option to pick up mail at a post office location if General Delivery isn’t right for you while you’re traveling. Renting a P.O. Box isn’t free, however. And you have to fill out an application and prove residency. After getting approval, you’ll get keys and a P.O. Box where you can start receiving mail.
Note: Private companies like UPS don’t require proof of residence to rent a box at one of their locations.
Pros of P.O. Box Rental
There are five different size options. This is helpful if all you need is a small box to receive bills or a magazine or two. You can pay a cheaper rate to get what you need. On the other hand, if you plan to receive packages several times a month and want those packages to fit securely inside your P.O. Box, you also have the option of renting a larger box.
Your mail isn’t sitting out on a porch or in a lobby where it’s easy to steal. Like an Amazon Locker, having a P.O. Box offers peace of mind that your mail is protected.
Unlike an Amazon Locker, you’ll receive a notice in your P.O. Box that tells you to pick up a large package from the counter. So you can still order heavy or bulky items and know that they will be delivered.
You can receive mail that needs a signature. If you waive the signature, the post office will leave the envelope or package in your P.O. Box.
Cons of P.O. Box Rental
It can be expensive depending on how large of a P.O. Box you need. The price is around $13 for three months for the smallest size and goes as high as $250 for three months for the largest size. Most of you who are traveling won’t need the larger size for your mail, though, especially if you use Amazon locker or General Delivery for the occasional packages.
Hours vary from location to location. If you’re expecting a package, you’ll have to make sure you check the hours because you’ll need to pick it up at the counter during business hours.
Sometimes the box size you prefer isn’t available, and sometimes there may not be any boxes available. You don’t want to pay twice as much for a larger box that you don’t need, and if you need a larger box, a smaller one just won’t meet your needs.
You must bring in two forms of ID to rent a P.O. Box. One of these must confirm your physical address. If you don’t have a physical address, you can’t rent a P.O. Box from the USPS. However, as mentioned before, private companies like UPS offer similar services and don’t require a physical address.
How to Get Your Mail Sent to You While You’re Traveling
Another completely different option is sending your mail to a mail forwarding service or a family member. MyRVmail, Escapees, Good Sam, and Traveling Mailbox are a few companies that offer mail forwarding services. Rates vary, but you pay a monthly fee to have your mail go to their location and then get it forwarded to you wherever you’re in America. Some of them, such as Traveling Mailbox, will scan your mail so you can see what it is before you have it forwarded.
A free option is to send your mail to a family member who then forwards you whatever pieces of mail you want to receive. Sometimes you may even just have a family member open the mail and read a bill or letter instead of forwarding the actual mail to you.
So what will work best for you? Depending on how long and where you’re camping, your options may be limited. But explore all of the options to discover what fits your needs. Do your research. Make the phone calls. Look at your budget. And then, after doing all of that, what will you choose?
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You forgot to mention Mail Boxes of America and services like UPS, who we use, since they offer PO Box rental and mail forwarding. There are also some smaller companies that offer that service as well.