When your location is constantly changing acquiring needed things can often be difficult. Sometimes we find ourselves in places where grocery stores are hard to come by let alone more elusive items. Covid-19 has made this challenge even more difficult as a lot of stores have closed their doors. Like most people, we often need to turn to the internet for our shopping. However, when you are a full-time traveler getting packages and mail delivered to your latest location can have an added challenge. Let’s take a look at several ways to receive mail and packages while traveling to anywhere in the USA and Canada.
When first choosing to become a full-time traveler I recommend turning everything paperless. In general, I recommend this to everyone as this is 2020 and there is no need to have tons of paper sent to you in the mail. This isn’t just for environmental reasons but why would you want bank statements and other personal items floating around. Do yourself a favor and declutter your life by taking the step of setting up paperless on everything you can (which is nearly everything). This can also save you money when becoming a full-timer as receiving mail while traveling can be expensive.
The best way to receive mail while traveling is to have a family member that you trust to collect your mail for you. This is what we do and our loved one sorts through and throws the junk mail away which is 99% of it. The occasional piece of mail that we actually need is forwarded to us a few times a year. However, if you do not have a family member willing to do that for you there are several companies that will.
We have friends who really like Traveling Mailbox and we know people who love Escapees Mail Service as well. Traveling Mailbox seems to us to be the best. They scan the mail (outside/exterior) that comes in and then upload it to you. You can then let them know if you prefer for them to open the mail and scan the contents inside, trash the mail, or forward it on to you at your current location. They will even deposit checks for you. The service prices with Traveling Mailbox are pretty affordable and this is the next best thing to having a family member be your mail intermediator.
What about packages and where can I physically receive mail while traveling? Well, you could have your packages sent to your Traveling Mailbox or similar mail service address but you will then have to have the package reshipped to your transient location. This is unnecessary as there are ways to have packages delivered to any place in the USA and it also works in Canada. In fact, there are several free options: the United States Postal Service’s general delivery, Amazon Pickup Location, & Walmart pickup.
One of the most obvious choices to receive packages while traveling is to have them sent to your current or future campground. You should call ahead and make sure the intended campground will receive packages for you. Also, know that this service will most likely have a fee associated with it. Hotels will also typically receive packages for guests but fees almost always apply.
Receive Mail While Traveling Using General Delivery
The United States Postal Service’s general delivery option is the most universal free way of receiving a package anywhere in the USA. It can work with mail forwarding services and it also works equally well in Canada (via Canada Post). I’m going to start this off with a bit of a disclaimer. We have used this method many times to get packages we’ve ordered online and we’ve also used it to receive mail redirected to us from our family. Ninety-five percent of the time it has worked without issue. On two separate occasions, the packages have been immediately returned to the sender with no explanation. Both occasions were during Covid.
Not a Post Office Box
Most people don’t realize this but originally the entirety of the postal service in the USA was based on the general delivery concept. The idea being that packages would be sent to the local post office and individuals would pick them up there. This actually predates post office buildings when mail was sent to local inns and taverns for collection. Many people might think I’m referring to a post office box but it isn’t necessary to have a post office box to receive mail. You can have packages sent to the local post office via general delivery and they are supposed to hold on to them for a while (up to 30 days) before returning them to the sender.
In order to receive a general delivery package, you will need to follow a few relatively easy steps. First, find a post office near the location you will be when the package is due to arrive. The easiest way to do this is to search in google maps for a post office near the location you will be at. If you already know the zip code you can use the post office’s website to find locations.
Second, make sure the post office in question offers the general delivery service. Most post offices do but not all. We’ve actually only ever come across one that we wanted to use that didn’t have this service. Go to usps.com and use their find a USPS location tool. Once you locate the post office you are wanting to use, click on it, and scroll down to the Services at this Location section. If “General Delivery” is listed you are good to proceed. If it isn’t you should look somewhere else. In Canada we went to the post office we wanted to use and asked them directly if they received general delivery packages (they did).
Once, you know the post office is a general delivery post office you need only list their address on your order with your name + General Delivery. I usually also put it in the notes that the delivery address is a Post Office. This often helps because USPS often won’t accept deliveries from FedEx and UPS unless they have a local agreement (split the revenue). By listing it in the notes it tells the seller to send the package USPS to prevent complications. One of the two times I’ve had a packaged returned it was because the seller missed the note. Another suggested way to communicate this to the shipper is to list P.O. Box but have no P.O. Box number. We haven’t tried this yet.
- John Doe
- General Delivery
- 3 Teton Park Rd
- Moose, WY 83012
The last step is to of course go and retrieve the package when it is delivered. Take a form of identification with you. When you get to the counter let the person behind the desk know your name and that you are picking up a general delivery package. It is very simple. Although post offices are supposed to hold packages up to 30 days, we recommend retrieving the package within a few days of delivery as there is no minimum requirement for them to hold it (30 days is the max).
Call the post office location ahead of time and let them know that a general delivery package will be coming in your name. If you use Google Maps to find the phone number it will most likely be the USPS national phone number. Instead, you can find the location’s number while you are on the USPS website looking to see if the post office provides the general delivery service. The hours of operation are also listed on that page as well.
While you are on the phone get them to confirm the general delivery status at the location as a few locations do centralize their general deliveries. This means they send them to a larger central post office in the city. This can be a hassle for pickup and it is nice to know ahead of time if it is the case. This has only happened to us on one occasion.
Receive Mail While Traveling Using Amazon Pickup
Let’s be honest, most online shopping is done through Amazon. (Disclaimer: We are an affiliate marketer so we receive a small percentage of the normal sale price if you use the links on our site to buy things.) That being said we buy a lot of our products through Amazon as well. They make it easy for nomads to get what they need while traveling by specifying an Amazon Pickup Location on checkout.
Amazon Delivery Options
The most famous of these pickup locations are the Amazon lockers but the company has many partnerships with national businesses for holding packages. You simply put in a zip code in the Amazon Pickup search window when checking out and Amazon generates a list of locations as well as a map showing where your packages can be delivered to. Choose a location and your packages will be held there for three days for you to pick up.
Amazon Package Retrieval
We prefer the locker system as a code is generated that you put into the system. You put the code in at the location and the locker pops open allowing you to retrieve your package. It is very easy and convenient. Other locations without lockers simply require letting a clerk know you are there to pick up an Amazon package. They will scan the Amazon bar code and retrieve your package for you. You don’t even need identification.
General Delivery from Amazon
If there are no Amazon locations in the vicinity of your planned location then you can always use the general delivery system with the post office. Follow the system we laid out above and create a new shipment location in Amazon when checking out.
Amazon App is Handy
Regardless of how your packages will be delivered we suggest downloading the Amazon App when ordering from Amazon. The app allows you to easily get notifications about your shipped items including when they are ready for pickup or if they encounter an issue with delivery. Turn on shipment notifications inside the app’s settings menu to get these notifications.
Receive Mail While Traveling via Walmart
Walmart is in the game of easy online delivery for full-time travelers as well. You can order many products that are not often found in the traditional stores and have them delivered to the store of your choosing. This is convenient for nomads as Walmart also sells groceries and most stores allow for overnight parking in their lots. This allows us to roll into a store, get our package, groceries, and a free night’s stay before moving on. We don’t feel rushed to shop and then find a site elsewhere for the night.
Walmart Pickup works similarly to the Amazon system except that the lockers are located inside the stores. Typically you need only walk in and scan the code generated by the Walmart app at the Pickup kiosk and either the locker will pop open or your package will be retrieved inside the giant vending machine-like kiosk. It is actually very cool. Retrieve your package and walkout or keep shopping. It is very simple.
Receive Mail While Traveling Full-Time
Just because you have no set residence does not mean that you cannot receive mail while traveling full-time. We always try to buy locally to support the communities we are visiting but certain items just can’t be found in remote areas of the country. Using the above methods we have been able to acquire everything from supplies needed for truck repairs to some of our favorite backpacking gear.