One of the first questions that arises when someone considers living on the road or even traveling for extended periods of time is how they’ll be able to get their mail and packages.
It’s a great question, and the process may initially feel intimidating if you’ve always resided at a permanent address.
Luckily, there are many ways to accommodate sending and receiving mail from nearly any location, and modern conveniences like 2-day shipping make the whole process even easier.
How full-time RVers mail while traveling or living on the road depends on factors such as the type of mail, where you are traveling, and how long you plan to stay. A P.O. box or mail forwarding are great for those who stay in each location for some time, while online services can let you virtually keep up with bills and payments.
So how do Rvers get their mail when they’re constantly on the move? It requires some planning, but there are several ways to make it happen.
In this article, we will discuss the available options for getting mail and packages while living on the road, as well as how to choose the method that works best for you.
Domicile vs. Mailing Address
Before deciding the best way to receive your mail while traveling, it’s important to understand the difference between a domicile and a mailing address.
Although a domicile and mailing address are commonly the same, each serves a different purpose and may not be the same when you’re traveling.
A domicile is often equated with your permanent residence, regardless of how much of the year you actually spend living there.
Keeping a domicile is important because it gives you an address to use for official purposes, such as obtaining a license or other form of I.D., registering a vehicle, and filing taxes.
Those who live at their permanent residence will have a mailing address that is the same as their domicile, but this doesn’t have to be the case.
For example, a domicile could also be the address of a friend or family member who is willing to let you use their address.
Keep in mind that state laws vary, and where you choose for your domicile can affect factors such as how much you pay in taxes or how frequently your car registration needs to be renewed.
While having a domicile is necessary for official business, you can also have a separate mailing address to receive mail.
A mailing address simply directs your mail to your preferred location, and it can be changed as needed.
9 Ways to Get Mail and Packages on the Road While Full-time RV’ing
Whether you’re on an extended trip or living on the road full-time, it’s still necessary to keep up with things like bills and business transactions, as well as with friends and family.
There are several ways for RVers and other travelers to get mail while traveling, and the best option for you will depend on your specific circumstances.
Options for receiving mail range in cost and convenience, but there are ways to accommodate nearly any situation.
Some methods take a bit of planning, but this guide will give you everything you need to know to streamline the process so that you can spend more time focusing on your travels.
Let’s dive into some of the most common methods of getting mail while traveling in an RV.
1. Get a Mail Scanning Service
Regardless of whether or not you need physical access to your mail while traveling, a mail scanning service is a great tool for any traveler.
Mail scanning services scan all envelopes and report any packages that you receive, letting you see exactly what the contents of your daily mail delivery are.
This is especially useful if you’re awaiting something, but it can also give peace of mind by keeping you informed.
The United States Postal Service offers a free mail scanning service which they call Informed Delivery.
Informed Delivery uses USPS’ automated equipment to provide greyscale images of the exterior address side of letter-sized mail pieces, which you can then easily preview online.
You can also track and manage packages that are scheduled to arrive soon, though no scanned picture is provided for packages.
Singing up for Informed Delivery through USPS only takes a few minutes and can be done online, after which you’ll be able to easily view and manage your mail on a computer or mobile phone.
You can also sign up to receive their Daily Digest, which is a daily email with the scanned images of your mail.
Mail scanning services are also available through other virtual mail services, which we will cover in more depth later in the article.
2. Use a P.O. Box or Private Mailbox Rental
A P.O. box, or Post Office box, is a rented mailbox located at the post office of your choice, and is a great way for anyone who isn’t constantly on the move to receive mail.
You can get a P.O. box at any post office in the country for relatively cheap, and you can keep that P.O. Box address as long as you pay the renewal fees.
P.O. boxes are great because they are secure and reliable. They come with a key that allows only you and the mail carrier access to the box.
They can be rented on a monthly or annual basis, and they vary in sizes to accommodate the type and amount of mail you plan to receive.
P.O. boxes also have the added advantage of speed. Rather than having to wait for your mail to be delivered to your location, you can get it more quickly by picking it up directly from the post office.
Mail will be held in a P.O. box for up to 30 days, also making it a great option for those who don’t venture into town frequently.
Private mailbox rentals are similar to P.O. boxes, but they are owned and operated by a private company rather than the US Postal Service.
Private mailboxes can be convenient in areas that don’t have a post office close by, though they tend to be significantly more expensive than P.O. boxes.
Because they still receive the mail from the USPS, it also takes longer for mail to reach private mailboxes than it would to reach a designated P.O. box.
3. Have Your Mail Forwarded
If you’re traveling for an extended period of time, but don’t want to invest in renting a mailbox, you may want to consider having your mail forwarded instead.
Mail forwarding allows you to have all of your mail sent to one central location and then forwarded on to you.
Although having your mail forwarded saves you regular trips to the post office, this option is similar to renting a mailbox in that it is best for anyone staying at one location for some time rather than someone who is constantly traveling and changing locations frequently.
You can request to have your mail forwarded by through the USPS Change of Address Service online, or by visiting your local post office and requesting a Mover’s Guide.
You can request a Change of Address (COA) from as much as 30 days in the past or up to 90 days in the future from the request date.
Requesting a COA online costs a $1.10 security fee, while the service is free when done in person.
When requesting a change of address, you will have the option to choose whether it is a permanent or temporary move.
If you plan to return to your original mailing address within 6 months, choose “Temporary” to have your mail forwarded to a second address for that time.
However, if you do not plan on returning to your original address within 6 months, you will have to select a “Permanent” COA and repeat the process when your preferred address changes again.
4. Have Your Mail Delivered Directly to You
If you are staying at a campground, resort, or RV park with an address and you are sure you’ll be there long enough for your mail to reach you, then you can simply have your mail delivered to where you are staying.
This is a good option if you’re expecting packages or if you need to receive any important documents while on the road.
When receiving mail at a campground, notifying the front desk employees that you are expecting something can help them get it to you quickly and safely.
You can also choose to have packages with goods and supplies delivered directly to where you’re staying.
Speedy overnight or two-day delivery services, such as that fulfilled through Amazon Prime, are a particularly great way to get nearly anything you may need on the fly while traveling.
If you decide to change locations early, you can also have your orders delivered to a nearby Amazon locker, which are now located at many gas stations and retail stores across the country.
5. Have Your Mail Sent To a Friend or Relative’s House
If you have family or trusted friends that are willing to receive and handle your mail while you are traveling, then you could ask to use their mailing address.
Having your mail sent to a friend of relative’s house is a cheap and convenient option, and it can save anyone who’s regularly on the move the hassle of constantly redirecting and keeping up with their mail.
To have your mail sent to a friend or relative’s house, you will have to either request a COA or have your mail forwarded.
For this reason, it is important to have an approximate idea of how long you plan to have this arrangement.
While having a friend or relative receive your mail can be a great excuse for a regular visit, it may also not be an ideal long-term solution for everyone.
6. Sign Up with a Virtual Mailbox Service
Mail services are a fantastic option for full-time travelers because they are an all-in-one service that can take a lot of the stress out of keeping up with your mail.
Although they tend to be a slightly more expensive option, the convenience of a virtual mailbox services is often worth the cost.
Virtual mailbox services give you full access to your mail from a remote location.
These services are unique in that they don’t only provide a place for your mail to go, but they will also handle your mail per your request.
Common virtual mailbox services include the following:
Virtual mailbox services that offer physical mailing addresses allow you to set up a domicile without having a permanent residence.
Popular virtual mailbox services with physical addresses in the USA include Anytime Mailbox, iPostal1, Traveling Mailbox, though virtual mailbox services can be found internationally for world travelers.
Most virtual mailbox services charge a flat rate for basic services such as mail holding and forwarding, while optional services, such as check deposit, may come at an additional fee.
Using a virtual mailbox service makes it easy to not only manage your mail, but to receive it wherever you are.
Virtual mailbox forwarding services can send mail to places such as:
Some virtual mailbox services are also geared towards small businesses by incorporating useful tools such as QuickBooks, Dropbox, and Google Drive.
To have your mail forwarded to an address attained through a virtual mailbox service, you’ll have to put in an official request with the post office by filling up an Application for Delivery of Mail Through Agent USPS Form 1583.
While some virtual mailbox services such as Earth Class Mail come complete with a notary service, others will require you to get the form notarized in person.
7. Use General Delivery Mail Service
General deliver mail service, also known as “Poste Restante”, allows you to have mail sent directly to the post office of your choice.
This option works well for receiving occasional parcels rather than as a way to receive all regular mail.
In order to have your mail sent as general delivery, it should include your name, the words “General Delivery”, and the city, state, and zip code of the post office you’d like the mail delivered to, such as in the following example:
General delivery mail service is free in the US, and mail will be held at your chosen post office for up to 30 days after it was received.
8. Request to Hold Your Mail at Your Local Post Office
Requesting to hold your mail at the post office is the easiest and most secure option for anyone who is only traveling for short stints and does not need physical access to their mail during that time.
Post offices will hold all mail going to the given address for no less than 3 and up to 30 days.
The service is free, and the request can either be scheduled up to 30 days in advance or as early as by 3 am on the next scheduled delivery day.
You will have a 10-day window at the end of a USPS Hold Mail service request to pick up your mail, after which any unclaimed mail will be returned to sender.
9. Get Your Mail Via a Worldwide Courier
Getting your mail via a worldwide courier such as UPS or FedEx is an alternative to picking your mail up at a post office.
While you can have your mail delivered to the address you are staying at if you know you will be there to receive it, you can also pick up your mail directly from a UPS or FedEx store.
One of the main advantages of using a courier is that they are often open later than the post office and sometimes operate on weekends as well.
This makes it easy for you to pick up your mail when it’s most convenient for you.
If you’re interested in getting your mail via a courier while traveling, here are a few things you need to know:
Additionally, these companies offer a variety of shipping options that allow you to choose the service that best suits your needs.
Whether you need to send or receive a package quickly, or you’re looking for a more economical option, these companies have you covered.
Getting Ready to Receive Mail While Traveling
Receiving mail while traveling doesn’t have to be difficult once you understand the available options, but it does require a bit of planning.
You’ll have to consider factors such as:
Going paperless as much as possible helps to take a lot of the hassle out of receiving mail while traveling.
Automated payments are extremely useful, especially if you enjoy camping without wi-fi and would rather focus on the adventure rather than your responsibilities.
Things like bills and subscriptions can also usually be handled online via a website or mobile app, though you may have to go through the steps of setting this up for each individual item.
Automating your bills virtually takes some time to set up, as does changing your address
A COA requires you to not only request the change with the post office, but also to manually change your address with whomever it may concern.
Be sure to change your address with every establishment that may be sending you mail, including:
Changing your address can be a lot of work and is not generally ideal for frequent movers.
Although there is a notable price difference, paying for a virtual mailbox service and using a provided address through them may be worth the cost by saving you a lot of time and hassle in the long run.
Figuring out how to get your mail while traveling is a common dilemma, but there are many options to choose from.
Travelers who enjoy short trips could have the post office hold their mail, or they may ask a relative to receive it for them.
Those who stay in each destination for some time may prefer to rent a P.O. or other mailbox, while full-time RVers will likely enjoy an all-in-one virtual mailbox service.
Regardless of how you travel, with a little planning, there is always a way to get your mail.