One of the first questions folks ask when they learn we live full time is “how do you get your mail?”
After being on the road for many years, it just seems so natural to receive mail the way we do, but when we think back to when we first met people who lived full time on the road we remember asking the mail question to them too.
When we first started on our journey we decided to simply forward our mail to a family member in the area we moved away from. We would give them gift cards as a thank you for the inconvenience of sorting our email out from their own. We had been doing as much as possible with banking online for years, to reduce the amount of mail we receive, but we still did receive mail that we didn't want like advertisements etc. This solution worked out pretty well for us for a few months, and we have met other folks on the road that have had family members managing their mail for years. But, a few months into our new lifestyle, we knew we wanted to make this a long term lifestyle change and therefore made some longer term decisions and solutions.
Mail Forwarding Services
Mail forwarding services exist in many states across the country, to help people manage their mail. There are especially good mail forwarding services that can offer additional services, especially in top 3 states for full time RVers which are Texas, South Dakota and Florida. The reason those states are popular are because they are good choices for domicile. We will talk about domicile in more detail in a separate section, but basically, your domicile is where you consider home.
We chose to set up our mail forwarding with an organization called Escapees. They provide many services separate from mail forwarding, and also have very advanced mail forwarding options, and can actually provide you with a domicile address in Texas, Florida or South Dakota even though the main mail forwarding operations are all in Texas.
Our mail is sent to the mail forwarding location in Texas and is sorted and stored at their facility. One of our favorite things about having our mail handled by a mail forwarding company is that sorting process. When we had a regular stick and brick home and mailbox, we would receive junk mail and other mail that was not of interest to us nearly every day, and needed to find a way to recycle it. With our mail forwarding company, we set up rules and parameters around what mail is kept, which dramatically reduces the amount of mail cluttering our mail box. They automatically split out the advertisements and recycle them without us needing to give it a second thought. We call in every couple weeks to see if there is anything interesting that has arrived, and if there is, we simply provide them with an address in our current location and they send it out to us via priority mail. This of course causes a small delay in receiving mail in person because it needs to be mailed twice, but it is rare that we have anything that is extremely time sensitive in regular mail. It is worth noting that the mail is sent to us via priority mail, and not regular mail, because priority mail envelopes are treated more like a package, and are more likely to be accepted at a campground. Don't try sending regular mail to campgrounds, as most don't accept regular mail. Regular mail usually needs to be sent to general delivery at a local post office where it is usually held for up to two weeks for you to pick it up.
If some mail arrives that seems very important and time sensitive, we can ask the employees of the mail forwarding company to open the mail for us to provide extra detail. They also offered the option to automatically scan all of our mail so that we can review it digitally at any time on our own. There will be important mail besides regular bills. For example, there were a few times that we had driven through an area that had toll roads, and we didn't realize that the only way to pay the toll was via an automated system that requires a transponder or getting billed via mail. When we drove through the toll booth, we knew that we would soon be receiving a bill in the mail that we will need to watch for and pay.
The service costs vary, but we find it very affordable. In fact, it costs us much less than we were paying our family members in gift cards. We love our mail forwarding so much, that we actually think we would keep the service even if we decide to live in a stick and brick location again.
What about packages?
Most campgrounds we stay in allow us to receive packages at the campground, but it is always a good idea to check with them before having something shipped. We do a lot of online shopping with amazon because it is often less expensive and very efficient, especially if you are staying in smaller towns because store selection is limited, and we are usually looking for very specific items when shopping. We use amazon prime which offers free 2-day shipping which helps get packages in a more timely manner. We also often check with a campground before we arrive and arrange shipping to arrive right when we arrive, or even before we arrive if they are ok with it. If you are boondocking, you can usually have packages sent to a post office in the area, and ship it to 'general delivery', but the package must be shipped via USPS and not any other carriers for the package or mail to be accepted at a post office. Having worked in fulfillment centers, I know that many shipping software programs will default the ship method to USPS if the words PO Box are included in the address, but it is not a sure thing. It is a good idea to check with the company that is shipping the item to ensure that the package will be shipped via the right carrier for where you are staying.
It is very easy to handle your mail and packages, but as we mentioned above, one of the best first steps is to try to get your most important information received digitally by email or logins instead of via regular mail. That will increase the speed of receiving it, and reduce the load on whichever other solution you find for the rest of your mail.
Here are a few links for mail forwarding service providers if interested: