The Many Ways to Get Mail While Traveling in an RV
Learn How To Get Mail While On the Road
Once they begin to expand past weekend and holiday RV trips, one of the first questions most RVers have is how do you get mail while traveling in an RV? Fortunately, there are many ways. Let’s explore a few.
Postal Service Hold and Forwarding Services
The US Postal Service is a big help, offering a couple of ways RVers on extended trips can get their mail. If the trip is 30 days or less, just ask your carrier or stop by a post office to pick up a yellow card that, when filled out and returned, will have the post office bundle and hold all your mail until you return. Then, on the date you specify, they’ll deliver all that accumulated mail right to your sticks and bricks mailbox.
Make sure that if you chose to avail yourself of this service you do not exceed those 30 days. They’re pretty strict about that. If you are going to be gone longer than that, the postal service has another program that will help. It’s temporary forwarding. This will forward your mail piece by piece to an address you specify, for up to 12 months. You can, by application, extend this for another 12 months.
First-Class mail and periodicals (newsletters and magazines) are forwarded for free, but you do have to pay the postage for Media Mail and USS Retail Ground mail from your post office to the temporary address you have provided.
There’s also something called Premium Forwarding Service (PFS) in which your mail is collected and packed up at your local post office and forwarded weekly by Priority Mail. But it’s fairly expensive. There’s an enrollment fee for PFS – $21.95 if you sign up online, $23.90 if you sign up in person at the post office – and then you have to pay $23.90 for each week of service whether you enrolled in person or online.
These post office services are good for RVers who know they will be staying at a particular park or campground for a season or set period of time. They’re not so good if you are a full-timer or traveling from place to place.
Mail Forwarding Services
For RVers who are on the road most of the time or for long stretches of time, the best solution is to utilize the services of a mail forwarding company. There are many to choose from.
Here are five to check out:
All of these services – and an ever-growing list of other similar businesses – generally work the same way.
You file a change of address form at your local post, listing the mail forwarding company’s address as yours. Then, once the change works its way through the post office (typically two weeks), your mail is automatically sent to that new address as it arrives at your post office.
Once at the forwarder, they scan the envelopes containing your mail, post images of them on a secure portal – usually called your digital, or virtual mailbox – that you access. After posting images of your mail in the digital mailbox, the forwarder awaits your instructions.
Most companies allow you to determine whether you want them to shred the mail (trash it), or send it along. And most will allow you to instruct them to open the contents, scan them, and send you a pdf image if it’s something you want to check out immediately.
Mail Forwarding Costs
First, you have to select a plan, usually payable through an annual fee. Depending on the level of service you choose, total costs can range from around $100 to $135 a year. Usually, you’re asked to make an initial deposit sufficient to cover the shipping and postage costs incurred by the forwarding service as they send your mail along. A $50 deposit is typical, automatically replenished as it is used up.
Typically, they charge from $7- $12 a month, on top of the shipping and postage fees. If you want more features like shredding, handling only selected letters, opening mail, accepting and forwarding UPS and FedEx packages, there may be additional fees. The various mail forwarding services are all pretty much the same. But different in the details.
Why Mail Forwarding Services are Perfect for RVers
- Because they provide you with a digital or virtual mailbox, you can check on your mail anytime from your laptop or smartphone. We all know how much junk mail we get. You can just ask them to trash it.
- For the mail you are uncertain about, most services will open it for you and let you determine whether it needs action.
- You can have the mail and packages you want to physically receive forwarded to wherever you are… a campground, a friend’s house, wherever you’ll be. All campgrounds are used to receiving packages like this and they take good care of them.
I know some RVers who, while not full-timers, use a mail forwarding service all the time because it is so convenient. When they’re home they have the forwarding company send it there. When on the road, they have it sent to the campground.
One Last Tip: Reduce the Amount of Mail you Receive
The real secret to easily dealing with your mail while RVing is to reduce the sheer volume of it you receive. That means doing everything possible to handle everything online. With every company you deal with, opt for electronic billing and electronic payments. Advise insurance companies, doctors, dentists, vets, banks, credit card companies, financial managers, investment firms, and utilities to stop sending paper bills and statements. Sign up for direct deposits. Go digital.
And then… go enjoy the RV Lifestyle!
Mike Wendland is a veteran journalist who, with his wife, Jennifer, travels North America in a small motorhome, blogging about the people, places, joys, and adventure of RV life on the road at RVLifestyle.com. He and Jennifer also host the weekly RV Podcast and do twice-weekly videos on the YouTube RV Lifestyle Channel. They have written 11 books on RV travel.