One of the most common questions travelers (including us) get asked is “how do you get mail?” And, while we are in the day and age where paper snail mail is not all that important, packages (particularly Amazon Prime packages) are. Here we will talk about how we get mail, and all the different ways we have tried (both successfully and unsuccessfully) to get packages while traveling on the road.
Getting Mail on the Road
This is an easy one for us. We send all of our mail to Nick’s mom. Her house also happens to be our permanent address and domicile. There are great mail services out there that will sort and send pictures of your mail and then forward you whatever you need. Nick’s mom does this for free and even goes to the bank and deposits checks into our accounts for us (Thanks Pat!). So far, after about 4 months on the road we have not needed her to mail us anything.
Now this is the tricky part. We don’t want our packages to go to Nick’s mom, we want them to go to us wherever we are on the road. There are a few problems with that – we often don’t know where we are going to be in a few days, and often times we stay in the middle of a forest with no address. That being said here are some of the ways we have gotten packages on the road.
The Easy Ways:
Send them to a friend’s house
If you have friends in the area you are visiting, ask if you can fill their porch like its Christmas morning. This is by far the easiest method because all you need is their address and to make sure all your packages arrive before you leave the area. We just sent more than 20 packages to our friend in Seattle. It was great because we had a list of things that didn’t have two day prime delivery (shocking we bought things that were not on Amazon) and we could send them all to her and she could collect and hold on to them all until we got there. Unfortunately, this solution does not work if you don’t know people in the area you are going to, which if you are like us is more often than not.
Send them to an Amazon Locker
Amazon Lockers are little storage boxes that are usually located at Whole Foods and sometimes 7-11 where you can have Amazon packages shipped to. When you go to check out on Amazon there should be your saved shipping address and then underneath it will say “or pick up from an Amazon Locker.” From here you can click to find Amazon Locker locations by typing in a city name or zip code. This is where it gets tricky, you have to know where you will be when the package will arrive in order to pick a location – or, if you really need a package you have to figure out where it can be shipped to and then plan to be in that location when it arrives. We usually search ahead of what cities have the Amazon Lockers and then plan our orders for when we will either be in or driving through those areas. With our Amazon Prime membership we get free 2 day shipping on all packages. Once a package arrives at its Amazon Locker location you have 3 days to pick it up before it gets shipped back to Amazon. This gives you a 2-5 day window to get to where your package is. We usually try to plan it so that the package arrives the day before we will get to town so that it will for sure be there when we are. Picking up the packages is easy as can be – you just go to the Amazon Locker location, scan the code they send you by email at the kiosk and then the locker opens and you take your package. If you are like us you also pick up something delicious to eat at Whole Foods at the same time – have you tried Jeni’s Ice Cream? If not you should! Here’s a Vicariquickie on the process of picking up Amazon Locker packages:
There are a few downsides and drawbacks to the Amazon Lockers. The first problem is they are not everywhere and certainly are not in the middle of nowhere which are some of our favorite places to be. Also there is a size limit to what fits in the lockers, so if you are ordering larger items, Amazon Lockers will not be a delivery choice. Another problem is that sometimes the lockers are full and then that location is not available for you to send packages to – at which point you either need to pick a new location or wait for them to not be full. Lastly, and maybe obviously, Amazon Lockers only work for packages ordered from Amazon.
The Hard Way:
Send them to a Campground
If you are one of those people that reserves your campgrounds in advance this may be a viable option for you. This mostly works for RV Parks and places with a physical address and office. There is rumor that it may work at campgrounds that just have a camp host, but we have yet to try to confirm that. If you know where you are staying you can call and ask if they will accept packages on your behalf. If they say yes then ask what address of information they would like on the shipping label (some like for you to include your reservation or site number). Despite always calling first and always following the exact directions given, this has never gone well for us. We spent a few days tracking down a package in Page, AZ – after going back and forth from the resort and the post office numerous times I still don’t know where it was found, but it magically appeared minutes after I contacted the company to send me another package because mine was clearly lost and we were leaving town and wouldn’t be there if they ever found it. We had a similar problem in Zion where we had notification that the package was delivered but the campground said they didn’t have it and it was probably at the post office, had to wait until the next day to check the post office just to find out it was at the campground all along. Both of these problems occurred in small towns that don’t have mail delivery service – so everyone has a PO Box. Despite this both campgrounds told us to ship to their physical address and not the PO Box which led to delivery issues. We haven’t tried this a lot because most of the time we do not stay in RV Parks and when we do we tend to only stay one night (to do laundry, take long showers, and fill and dump our tanks) and not book until maybe one day in advance – which does not allow us time to send packages.
The Complicated Way:
These methods are only complicated in the planning stages, the delivery and pick up itself it actually quite easy. To do either of these methods you need to know which carrier you package is being shipped by – whether its USPS, UPS, FedEx or something else. If you are ordering something from a small company you can often find this in their frequently asked questions- or contact them and ask. I always contact them and ask, because a lot of times they will also send me a discount code in our correspondence. This does not work for Amazon packages because Amazon will ship with whichever carrier is cheapest which is will not determine until after you complete your check out.
Send them to the Post Office General Delivery
This may actually be my favorite option. If you know your package is being sent USPS you can have it sent to any post office to be picked up in person. I love this option for three reasons: one, there are post offices EVERYWHERE, two, it is a completely free service, and three, they will hold packages for you for up to 30 days. This is how we receive most of our small business purchases. Usually it is things like dog bow ties or cute tshirts or other objects that aren’t urgent to receive. I can talk to the owners, figure out what the shipping time usually is and pick a city that will be in after that time frame to send them too. If we find somewhere we want to stay longer on the way its no big deal because they will hold our package for so long. To send a package General Delivery all you need to know is the zipcode of the post office you would like to send it to. If you are in large city and there are multiple post offices call to check which one accepts General Delivery packages first so that you do not go to the wrong one to pick up. To send a package General Delivery you will address it like so:
City, State 5 digit zip-9999
Springdale, UT 84767-9999
The 9999 at the end of the zipcode also flags it for general delivery so make sure not to miss that step! The one downside to this option is Post Office hours, they tend to close early, close for lunch and be closed on weekends. I suggest checking opening hours when calling to confirm General Delivery location.
Send them to a UPS/FedEx Store
If your package is being shipped by UPS or FedEx you can also have your package shipped directly to their storefront for pick up. Unfortunately, unlike the post office, they usually charge a fee – UPS often charges $5 per package. Also, not all locations will accept packages and they will only hold them for a few days. Always call the location you would like to use first, confirm that they will accept packages, see what the fee is, what the pick up window is and how they would like you to address the package. We have called a few different places and gotten different answers all over – this is because the locations are often individually owned and operated and can make their own rules. We have not actually shipped a package this way yet because they timing never seems to work out. It also seems that most places that know their carrier ship USPS.
Possible Amazon Hack
We haven’t officially tried this one yet, but we have heard there is a way to always get your amazon packages to send USPS so that you can set them up for General Delivery. The trick is to put “P.O. Box General Delivery” in the address line and then following the directions above for city and zipcode. Putting P.O. Box triggers amazon to use USPS for the shipping. You may get weird looks at the post office for it for having it say P.O. Box when it isn’t, but apparently it doesn’t stop them from accepting, holding and giving you your package. We will test this out soon and update you to our success (or failure).
Are there any other options you have tried that work? Or do you have shipping horror stories to share?
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