How to get mail on the road

Yes, it’s 2021, but you still need to worry about your mail. Let’s face it, you’ll never stop getting paper mail from the IRS — and that aunt in Florida. With that in mind, it’s better to plan your mail situation before hitting that open road. 

Choosing a mail solution is not as easy as it might seem. One must consider their lifestyle (e.g. full time vs seasonal), in addition to whether they need a residential address or simply a mailing address. As you may already know, there are some aspects of modern life that are not nomad-friendly, and this is one of them. This post will walk you through some high-level considerations to help you choose what’s right for you.

Lifestyle: Full-time vs Seasonal Travel

If you travel seasonally, then you probably have a home residence that you maintain while you’re gone, which means you might only need a mail solution. However, if you’re a full-timer who sold the house and everything in it — then you may need both a mailing address and a domicile address.

A seasonal RVer may want to consider options like putting a ‘hold’ on their mail with the Post Office, or requesting periodic forwarding. The USPS has beefed up its mail offerings in recent years, and now offers “informed delivery” which scans envelopes, as well.

A full-time RVer likely needs a year-round mailing address and a residential/domicile address for identification and other documents or services that don’t accept mailing addresses (more on that later).

So which are you — a full-timer or seasonal? Make that decision first, if you haven’t already, before choosing your mail solution.

Addresses: Residential vs “Street” vs Mailing

Let’s talk about the differences between residential, domicile, street, and mailing addresses.

As mentioned above, there are some important documents that require a residential address. For example, Texas requires a residential address on driver’s licenses. Other important things in your life may also require a residential address, such as your insurance, tax returns, and much more.

This is where you probably start to hear about ‘domicile’ addresses that are essentially used as a permanent place of residence. There are some important differences between a residence and a domicile because while you can have a residence in more than one state, only one of them can be your domicile.

On your Google journey, you’ve probably also read about “street” addresses with services like UPS where you’ll have a suite number (e.g. 123 Main street, Suite 555-456). These are excellent for online businesses that can use street addresses for important paperwork like LLC formation, invoices, etc. However, for anything requiring a residential address, you’ll need to do your research. Similar to the difference between residential and mailing, you should make sure you’re abiding by the rules.

Bottom line: Make a list of all the important documents and services in your life, and go through the list to determine if you’ll need to update them with a residential or mailing address and it may just save you a huge headache (or legal troubles) down the road.  Your list should include everything from the simple stuff like streaming subscriptions — to serious things like firearms permits. After that, you should have a good idea of what to expect from your situation and be ready to decide whether you’ll need a domicile address.

Mail Box Options

Some folks will prefer to have a residential or domicile address for everything — their documents and their mail. Others will prefer to mix solutions, where maybe they ‘move in with’ a family member on paper in order to use their residential address, but still opt for a mail service so they don’t bombard their loved one with heaps of Las Vegas casino mailers.

Here are some quick thoughts on family/friends vs paid mail management services:

  1. Family/FriendsIf you have a friend or family member managing your mail, you may want to think about making it as easy as possible for them. One idea would be to give them pre-paid USPS envelopes where they can just toss all your mail into one envelope, seal it, and drop it in a mail bin. If they’re really cool about it, they might even text you a photo of the tracking number so you can set up tracking alerts.
  2. Paid Mail Services — The good news: There are tons of mail services out there! The bad news: You’ll need to sift through them to find one that’s right for you. Here are some things to consider when choosing a mail service.
    1. UPS Store — UPS mailboxes are generally “street” addresses. That means you can have all kinds of packages (e.g. FedEx) and mail delivered there, and there is someone on staff to receive them. When you want your mail forwarded to you, just call the UPS store, ask them to box up your mail and packages, and ship them to you. Keep in mind, you will be paying fees every time the staff boxes your stuff and ships it to you in addition to the mailbox rental fee itself.
    2. RV Mail services — There are so many out there, including My RV Mail, Escapees, America’s Mailbox, and others. There are slight differences between them, such as mail scanning, or applicable membership fees.  Review all the mail services out there and compare it to your budget to help you make a selection.

OK, but… how do I actually GET my mail?

Good question. If you already have your mail sorted, but you haven’t actually received it on the road yet, here are some options on how to do that:

  • RV Park Office: Most RV parks are accustomed to getting questions about mail, and often include instructions in their guest packets. If you’re allowed to receive mail at the RV park office, be sure to include your space number so that they know you’re a current guest.  However, never assume that you’re allowed to get mail at the park. Although you may rarely be told ‘No’, you should always, always, always check with the office first.
  • General Delivery (USPS Office): This service literally says it serves “transients (people who travel extensively) and those without a permanent address.” That’s us, right? Yes, but keep in mind that there are requirements to getting your mail delivered this way, such as addressing it in a very specific way and more. Carefully consider all the guidelines before choosing this option.
  • Rent a local mailbox: Yes, this is counter-intuitive and probably only an option for folks who are staying in one place (or state) for a significant amount of time. That said, you can always consider renting a mailbox with a local mail business for a few months so that you can confidently receive mail and packages at that location.
  • Amazon Boxes: No, you cannot receive your mail at an Amazon box, but we are listing this option here because RVers use Amazon so often. If you didn’t already know, you can have your Amazon purchases shipped to the nearest Amazon locker, where you can pick it up. This is handy for situations where you don’t want to bombard the RV Park office (and its work campers!) with your impulse buying.

Another important consideration is that mail and packages are quite different. For example, while an RV park may allow you to receive Amazon packages or USPS Priority packages, they might not accept forwarded mail or regular envelopes. Regardless of which option you choose, you should always confirm that they can/will accept the type of mail/packages you need to be able to receive.

 

One last thing

If you’re reading this and have not hit the road yet — then start thinking about your mail now. You’ll be glad you took care of it before driving off into the sunset!