how to get mail while traveling

How to Get Mail While Traveling in an RV

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive compensation if you make a purchase using the links. All opinions are my own.

After the question about how we can afford this lifestyle, we most often get asked how we get our mail while traveling. People always want to know what our mailing address is and how to send things to us.

The answer to this question is easy or complicated, depending on what you want. There are several mail forwarding services out there. It seems like more pop up every day. They all start out the same way, though–at least in the United States.

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Signing up for a mail service

After you pick your service, you have to fill out a mail forwarding form with the U.S. Postal Service. You change your address to the address the service gives you. Please keep in mind that it can take a few weeks to a month for the post office to start forwarding, and then a few weeks more for mail to arrive to your forwarding service.  So if you’re expecting something important from someone, let them know your new address right away.

Also, keep in mind that the post office will not forward your mail indefinitely. First class mail and packages forwards for 12 months, but magazines and newspapers only for 60 days. So try to let everyone know that you’ve changed your address so you don’t miss out on anything.

Choose your options

Some services are very basic. They receive your mail and then send it to you when you have a place to receive it. Sometimes there is an option to have mail read to you over the phone if you want to know what something says right away.

I’m a big fan of technology and having as few papers as possible. It’s less to carry around, less to get lost, and less to destroy later. That’s why I chose Traveling Mailbox
how to get mail while traveling

My favorite Traveling Mailbox options

  1. Addresses in many cities and states. Since we’re still California residents and I’m an employee of a California company, I was able to choose a mailing address in San Francisco. This is very convenient because while my boss is completely on board with me working remotely, she gave the impression that it might not be fully endorsed by everyone in the company (or might create animosity for those who don’t qualify to work remotely). So by having a San Francisco address, it prevents questions from coming up about where I live.
  2. A street address, not a P.O. box. Some mail won’t deliver to a P.O. box (for example, some packages). This is an actual address with a unit number after it that includes your box number, but it doesn’t read like a P.O. box.
  3. Fast service. When mail comes in, I get an email. I can view a scan of the front of the mail so I can see the return address. Then I have a few options for what I want next.
  4. Open and scan, shred or express scan. The USPS requires you sign and notarize a form to allow another party to open your mail for you. The form (USPS 1583) is free, the notarization costs whatever it does in your area (I think we paid $10/person). Scanning at regular speed often happens the same day. There’s an extra charge for express scanning, but I’ve never needed it to use it. You can also have items shredded and deleted if they are junk mail, either before or after you view the scan.
  5. Keep the mail paperless. You can download a pdf of all the scanned pages. If you don’t need the original, you never need to have anything sent to you.
  6. Getting your mail sent to you. Forwarding is via postal mail or UPS and the charge is for postage. If it’s regular mail, they will send as many items as will fit into an envelope before adding another one (if necessary). The basic cost is $2.49 for USPS or $12.00 for UPS Ground. If you want tracking or faster shipment then the price goes up, of course. I’ve had 10 pieces of mail sent in an envelope for about $5.00 without tracking.
  7. Customer support 7 days per week. They respond to emails quickly and they have an online chat feature as well, if you don’t want to call them. Everyone I’ve talked to is both friendly and professional.
  8. No contract. Billing occurs monthly. You can stop it at any time, and you can likely also put it on hold without canceling completely if need be.

Cool features that I haven’t tried

  1. Sending scanned PDFs directly to EverNote
  2. Apps on Android and iOS
  3. Bulk scanning–they send you a prepaid envelope. Fill it with as much as you can and send it back, and they will turn all your documents into searchable PDFs then shred them for you.
  4. Check depositing
  5. Your own fax number

Disadvantages

As with any mail forwarding service, there may be a delay. Even with things that are sent directly to my mailing address, they are being re-routed. This is because the company does not actually process the mail in San Francisco. I confirmed this through a chat, when I asked what happens to mail that is sent to San Francisco during an online chat with Seth from Traveling Mailbox:

Mail is collected at the SF address and forwarded on to the NC address for processing, that is sent every day via 2nd day air UPS. Unfortunately that is how our system is set up to process, if you would need anything sooner we do offer a NC address that would not have the two day delay.”

So the good news is that you can have an address practically anywhere you want. The bad news is that choosing that address may mean your mail comes slower. Also, there is an extra $5 per month fee for certain addresses (San Francisco is one of them).

But to me it’s worth it (for now) to maintain a California address. It helps for documents related to driver’s licenses and registration as well. If we chose another state as our domicile state, we might have to do even more paperwork and possibly file taxes for two states.

Really in my case, being an employee is what’s holding me back. But this may not be an issue for everyone. Also, I don’t really expect urgent information to come through the mail. I have as many bills, statements and notifications sent electronically as possible. The mailbox is mostly for people who really like to send paper items to us, such as holiday cards, and the ones who I don’t have a way to tell me NOT to send things (like a bill for a copay from a lab that I’ve never been to before and will never go to again).

I think as we expand our business, we may also upgrade our services as needed. It’s kind of like having a virtual personal assistant to manage our paperwork. If I was busy enough and living in one place, I might still use this service just to keep things organized electronically for me.

Anyway, here is the pricing for Traveling Mailbox. They have 3 tiers. The prices do not have any add-ons like special addresses included.

how to get mail while traveling

Check out Traveling Mailbox’s website to learn more about features and sign up!

And before you go….