How to Get Mail When Traveling
Say you plan on traveling for a year - what should you do with your mail? Yes, a lot of it will be junk that won’t matter. But, most of us still have some important documents that come the old fashioned way. As such, it’s important to understand how to get mail when traveling, and we’ll explain some options here:
In addition to writing about his and Jenna’s travel and work adventures, Chipp is a CPA and founder of Walutes Capital, a real estate development and accounting firm. Wearing this “other hat,” Chipp offers real estate investment and development consulting services to clients. If you’d like help with your own real estate investing journey, contact Chipp here to set up an appointment!
Use a Virtual Mailbox When Traveling
Virtual mailboxes are an incredible solution for anyone who doesn’t want to deal with the hassle of regular trips to the post office. But, this option is particularly useful for travelers, people who need access to their “snail mail” but either A) don’t have a permanent home address, or B) will be away from their home for an extended period of time.
So What is a Virtual Mailbox?
A virtual mailbox service provides customers with a remote - but true, brick-and-mortar - mailing address. Rather than mail arriving at your home, it goes directly to this other address. Once it arrives, the virtual mailbox service scans the outside of the envelopes (typically after first filtering out obvious spam).
Next, through an online portal or app, you’re able to review images of these scanned envelopes. You then select the mail that’s important, and the company will open, scan, and provide electronic copies of the mail. This lets you read important correspondence, wherever you’re traveling in the world.
What Do Virtual Mailboxes Do With Packages and Mail I Need Sent to Me?
What happens when a package, check, or other important documents comes in, and you need it physically sent to you? Most virtual mailbox companies offer a service to forward hard-copy mail if you need it immediately. Alternatively, if it’s something you need but don’t need now, companies will typically store your mail and forward it whenever you’re back home (or have a reliable forwarding address).
Best Virtual Mailbox Service
After a year traveling the world - quite happily - using its services, we firmly believe that Traveling Mailbox is the best virtual mailbox option. The company has available addresses in multiple states. As we live in Richmond, Virginia, we went with a Virginia mailbox address. Once confirmed, we simply changed our mailing address with USPS, and all of our mail forwarded to this new address.
The company’s “How a Traveling Mailbox Works” page offers a great overview of the company’s services:
“With a virtual mailbox solution, you can manage your mail from anywhere in the world without ever stepping foot inside a post office! A Traveling Mailbox is affordable, simple, and flexible. Let us help you make yourself more productive and efficient with an online mailbox. With our easy to use client interface, you can now receive your mail at home online, the coffee shop, a hotel across the country, or your vacation home anywhere in the world!”
In particular, three features jumped out as particularly useful:
Ease of set-up: With a quick online registration, we had our new address. Traveling Mailbox then walked us through the exact steps we needed to take with USPS to begin forwarding our mail to this new address.
Simple-to-use interface: Traveling Mailbox’s online interface was extremely straightforward, allowing us to quickly and conveniently get into a routine of checking our incoming mail to see what mattered and what didn’t.
Mail storage and forwarding services: During our travels around the world, we received a fair amount of mail we wanted to save but didn’t need until returning home. Anything we wanted to save, we simply flagged, and Traveling Mailbox forwarded to us in a bundle when we got back to the States.
Affordable, a la carte pricing: Can’t beat the price! Traveling Mailboxes prices were extremely reasonable, and it wasn’t an all-or-nothing subscription. If you want extra services, the company applies a pay-as-you-go model, meaning you can pick and choose what you want to use (much better than a cable bundle!).
Bottom line, if you’re considering a virtual mailbox service for getting mail while you travel, you can’t beat Traveling Mailbox.
Checking mail with a virtual mailbox when traveling
Ask Friends or Family to Accept Your Mail
While a virtual mailbox is the most effective way to receive mail on the road, it’s not the only way. As another option, travelers can lean on friends and family. That is, rather than change your address to a virtual mailbox service, you just need to have someone you know let you forward mail to their home.
Is this convenient for them? Nope, not really. But, if you have someone you know and trust who’s willing to help out, you can change your address with USPS to theirs, and they can sort and hold your mail for you. If something’s particularly important, they can open it, take a picture, and send it your way. Then, when you get home, you can pick up your big box of mail!
Pay Someone to Pick Up Your Mail When Traveling
Alternatively, you can not change your mailing address and pay someone to regularly pick up your mail (we recommend a minimum of one pick-up per week so your mailbox doesn’t start to overflow). Broadly speaking, this approach has two different variants:
Option 1 - Vacant House: If you’re traveling and simply locked up your house, you can pay a friend or random local to swing by on a weekly basis to pick up your mail. You’ll just need to provide clear guidance on what does and doesn’t not need to be scanned and forwarded to you.
Option 2 - You Rented Out Your Home: On the other hand, say you rented your home while traveling (which we did). You can let your mail continue going to your home address and provide your tenants a rent credit every month to receive and process your mail. This runs some privacy risks, but if you trust your tenants, it’s a potential option that saves you the trouble of changing your mailing address.
We’re definitely not fans of either of these latter two options for getting mail when traveling - just prefer the efficiency and professionalism of an official virtual mailbox service. But, in the right scenario, these other options can work.
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