The challenge of Vanlife mail and package delivery
Getting mail while living on the road is a challenge. If you’re a constant wanderer like I am, it can be particularly difficult.
Fortunately there are many solutions to this common vanlife problem so receiving mail doesn’t have to be a frustration.
This post will help you set up your particular system for receiving mail no matter where you are.
Regular postal service
Many post offices accept General Delivery, which means you can send mail to a post office and they will hold it for you to pick up.
Always call the post office beforehand to ensure they accept General Delivery, or you may not get your package.
This solution is great for friends or family to send you mail if you know where you’ll be a week or so ahead of time.
PO box with forwarding
If you have some sort of “home base” where you’ll return regularly, a PO box can be a great option.
The post office can also forward your mail to another address for a fee, so if you are away for a while but have an address to send it to, you can receive mail that way.
A PO box can be great for maintaining the most control and privacy with your mail, but there are many limiting factors too.
PO boxes cost money and must be factored into your monthly budget. Forwarding your mail is also an additional cost.
If you don’t have a spot you return to regularly, a PO box probably isn’t your best option.
Virtual mail services
There are many virtual mail services that offer a wide range of services and prices.
Most of these companies provide you with an “address” and will receive your mail for you.
You’ll be notified when you receive mail and can either have it physically forwarded to you or scanned and sent digitally.
Many of these companies will also shred or discard unwanted mail upon request.
This virtual mail service can range anywhere from about $10/month and up, with plans that vary depending on how much mail you get and added fees for forwarding.
It can be great if you don’t get a lot of mail because typically the price depends on mail volume.
Another advantage to this service is that you can view your mail the day it arrives if you opt to have your mail scanned and sent digitally.
The downsides to a virtual mailbox though are price and privacy.
This service is another monthly expense, and if you’re running a business from the road and receive a lot of mail, it can add up quickly.
If you need to see your mail right away, you are trusting the company to scan and email your documents to you.
There are many companies that have a great reputation and added security measures, but if privacy is a concern for you then this might not be your best option.
Some vanlifers use a virtual mail service but have very sensitive mail sent to a close family member or friend.
Relying on friends and family for mail and packages
If you’re lucky enough to have supportive friends or family that are willing to collect your mail for you, this is a great way to receive mail.
It should be someone that you trust completely, who is mostly home, and who doesn’t move often.
If you find someone willing to do this for you, first do everything you can to go digital and reduce the amount of mail sent to their house.
Your designated friend or family member can open the mail for you and send you photos of whatever you’ve received if you trust them to do so.
Then if it’s something you physically need, you can determine how to get it to your current location.
The advantage of this method is that it’s free. If you have someone willing to be your postal service, this is certainly the most cost-effective solution.
The disadvantage is that you’ve got to have the right person and you’re handing over a lot of responsibility to them.
It can also be a lot to ask, so make sure you’ve got someone who is willing to help take this on for you!
Where and how to receive packages
While I’ll occasionally need to get mail on the road, more commonly I need to receive a package.
Amazon has made this incredibly convenient for nomads by creating Amazon Hub Locker.
Now you can ship anything from Amazon to an Amazon Hub Locker, which can be found at gas stations, grocery stores, and Whole Foods across over 900 cities in the US.
When you check out online, find a locker location in the city you’ll be picking up from, and you’ll receive a notification and code when it arrives.
Then when you show up, you’ll enter the code and a door will open with your package inside.
The only difficult part of this method is that you’ve got to know where you’ll be in advance and they’ll only hold your package for 3 days.
If it’s not picked up within that timeframe, they’ll return the package and you’ll get a refund.
You can also return packages directly through Amazon Hub Locker.
If you’re not receiving a package from Amazon, there are a few other easy ways to get your package while on the road.
Both FedEx and UPS have options for holding your packages or mail at their locations.
It’s best to contact the specific FedEx or UPS store ahead of time to ensure that they are able to hold packages at their location.
Most locations will hold mail for a week, but always call and verify before shipping anything.
State resident requirements
In this digital age, it’s almost like you don’t need an actual address to get your mail, but there are still several reasons you’ll need a “home address”.
Your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and voting documents will require a permanent address.
The easiest way to navigate your state residency is to use a friend or family member’s address if possible.
Be aware that this will impact you each year for state income taxes and vehicle registration. Some states are better than others if you have multiple options.
Several states require yearly vehicle emissions or safety testing which will require an in-person visit each year.
If you’re using a virtual mail service, you won’t be able to use that address for your driver’s license.
There are a few “nomad friendly” states that make it easier to go about these things without a physical address
- Florida DMV licensing requirements
- Nevada DMV licensing requirements
- South Dakota DMV licensing requirements
- Texas DMV licencing requirements
State residency laws change and we recommend that you do your own research by state and depending on your needs.
Resources on the subject of residency
- From Jalopnik, How To Get Residency In A State When You Live In Your Vehicle
- UPS Store link, where they claim that you can use their stores for residential addresses.
You’ll find that any combination of these mail systems can help make navigating deliveries on the road a little less complicated.
Whether it’s snail mail from a friend, bills, or your online shopping addiction, there are plenty of ways to receive mail while living the vanlife.
From Vansage.com writer Jenny Leveille
Jenny has been traveling on the road full-time with her dog, Dakota, since September 2018.
She lives in her self-converted 2006 Dodge Sprinter and spends her days hiking, camping, mountain biking, and writing about her adventures.
She’s attempting to visit all 50 states and see all the National Parks.
You can read about her adventures on her site, here.