How To Receive Mail & Packages While Traveling

Online Mail Forwarding

Mail & Package Forwarding for Travelers

Forwarding mail overseas has always been tough for long-term travelers. Shipping stuff to foreign countries can be a major pain. But I’ve found a solution…

When I picked up and left the United States back in November 2010 to travel the world, I didn’t leave much behind. No apartment, no storage unit, nada. I sent a few things back home to my family and sold or gave away everything else. It was all very liberating.

But I didn’t want to burden friends & family with taking care of my mail. I own a small online based business, and still need the ability to receive checks and other important correspondence via snail-mail. I was worried about how I would manage it all from the road.

Online Mail Forwarding

I finally found the perfect solution. It’s an online mail forwarding service called Earth Class Mail. They act as my own personal mailroom.

With Earth Class Mail, I get an actual street address from a choice of several different major US cities. All my mail & packages are sent to this “address”, then forwarded to the company’s headquarters in New York.

Next they scan the outside of all my letters & packages. I receive an email update when new physical mail arrives with the ability to view the scanned images in my online account.

From there I can choose to do several things with my mail:

  • Open and scan the contents to view online
  • Forward mail or packages to another address
  • Shred or recycle junk mail
  • Deposit physical checks into my bank account
  • Hold mail at the facility until further notice

The whole process is super slick and easy to use. It’s made my life much simpler while working as a digital nomad and living out of my backpack.

Online Mail Forwarding

Screenshot of My Online Account

Shipping Stuff Overseas

For an example, while I was traveling through Costa Rica I ordered some camera & camping equipment online from the United States. Many online retailers now require you to ship to a physical street address.

That requirement was not a problem for me with my virtual street address in Miami.

I began receiving email notifications when my products arrived at the Earth Class Mail warehouse. The scanned images in my online account showed me what arrived.

When everything is accounted for, I then select all the packages I want to ship to Panama (so they are waiting for me when I arrive). The company groups the shipment into as few packages as possible saving me money on shipping fees.

They even give you an estimate of shipping charges based on size, weight, and destination of your shipment. It’s pretty accurate too.

Where To Send Packages?

The next problem is finding a place to ship everything. I usually pick a major city that I plan to visit, shipping it about 2 weeks in advance (depending on the country). While it’s often possible to ship your things to a foreign city’s post office or a hotel, I prefer to do something different…

Post offices are large, confusing places. In the past I’ve had packages arrive only to get lost. One post office in the US told me they had received my package, but because I didn’t pick it up in time (no one told me about a deadline), it was sent back to Mexico!

I got a call a few days later saying that they made a mistake and it actually hadn’t been sent back, they just lost it…

While it was eventually found, that’s too much uncertainty & incompetence for me. That’s an example from an American post office. Foreign post offices can sometimes be much worse!

Shipping to a hotel is an option, but I rarely stay in hotels. Backpacking hostels will occasionally hold packages for you too, but in my experience you never really know how professional and competent a hostel is going to be until you see it for yourself.

Mailboxes ETC

This is my new favorite method. I’ve had good luck shipping to Mailboxes ETC. They have locations in major cities around the world. They’re a lot smaller than a major post office (and privately owned which is always a plus). Just find a location online and call in advance to let them know you’re sending something to get picked up.

FedEx, UPS, DHL

It’s also possible to send packages to the local office of these popular shipping companies, where you can then pick it up when you arrive. You’ll need to ship it via their particular service though. I’d call ahead to let them know what you want to do, and ask how long they’ll hold your package for you.

CouchSurfing

Another option is to find someone living in your destination city who is part of the Couchsurfing Community. I have nothing but great things to say about the people I’ve met via this website. You can try asking a few of them if they mind receiving & holding a package until you arrive in town.

Your success with this method may vary, but I’ve done it in the past with no problems. It certainly helps if you’re an active member of the community with many positive references to prove that you’re not an international drug/baby/exotic animal smuggler. ★

More Information

Company: Earth Class Mail
Cost: $50 – $100 per month
Useful Notes: Part of the setup process requires a notarized form, which if you currently live outside the US can be done at a local US embassy.

READ NEXT: Best Travel Tips After 4 Years Traveling

Have any tips for receiving mail on the road?

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

28 Comments

  1. I am currently living in Nicaragua, Esteli to be more specific. I am physically disabled and require on going prescription medication from The U.S. I have been returning to pick up my medicines every three months. Last time checking into a hotel in Texas where my mother had sent my meds. Traveling hurts and this method of procurement can not continue. Some of my medicines are what is considered contraband in central america. I can not afford on my disability income to live in the U.S. The idea that I can not have my doctor prescribed medicines mailed safely to me is resulting in well homelessness if I have to return to receive. I have heard over and over from doctors here, in Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras, everywhere, that it is impossible, or not safe to have medicines mailed to central america, because someone at customs will steal them. Do any of the above ideas offer me hope, or is my dream of living efficiently in CA destroyed as a result of a mailing disorder? someone, please help. I am 44, full soc security is a ways away.

  2. I use mailboxforwarding.com (a little cheaper)- I have had things sent from stores to a hotel room, and if you are in Asia- do it in Singapore bc you generally won’t have to pay tax, in my case even with the shipping cost from say Nordstrom, I paid less than I would have in the US (by a tiny bit) – I stayed at a 4 star hotel and they tracked every package and held for me- I would like to find a mailbox etc type service, but it showed nothing nearby…any other options?

  3. Does anyone know if there is a service similar to Earth Class Mail or Travelling Mailbox that provides a Canadian address?

  4. This is perfect. I have been looking for a solution to this because I have a rental property business and often receive rent checks in the mail but was not sure how to handle it from the road. I will check them out now. You covered quite a few different ways to handle things, especially forwarding packages. Huh. I gotta give you kudos for this article.

  5. I guess Amazon Lockers may come in handy too for some things – they have those in the USA, UK and perhaps a few other countries. The UK also has Collect+, used by Amazon and some other merchants to send packages to places like corner shops where you can sign for and collect them.

  6. How much would it cost (rule of thumb) to pick up a package in, say Thailand, or somewhere else in Asia at a Mailbox Etc location? I called them and the answer was “it depends”. I’m not looking for exact pricing but a range to understand whether it’s worth it or not.

  7. Within the US, you can ship things via the Greyhound Bus system. This is great for large or heavy things. It’s far cheaper and faster than UPS or USPS in most cases. They put your item in the bay with the traveler’s luggage. They also give you the bus number so you can follow it online or by calling the station.

    It’s best to meet the bus when it pulls up because sometimes bus stations have limited storage or manpower to hold your package for you.
    Also, you can ship things that you can’t send via mail. (Liquids, batteries, fireworks, coffins, etc.)

  8. The US Embassies and Consulates USED TO hold mail for travelers PRIOR TO Sept 11, 2001. Due to security concerns they will not longer hold your mail for anyone. It is not done anymore. New government policy s and security measures post 9/11.

    You can’t even get into an embassy or consulate without an appointment anymore. No more walk-ons allowed. This is the new policy at most Western embassies and consulates in the wake of US embassy bombings in Africa 1988 and Afghanistan 2013. Let’s not forget the US embassy hostage situation in Tehran, Iran 1979.

    I did successfully walk onto the US Consulate in Chennai, India, but security there is manned by Indians and they are lax. It isn’t their government, so they do not care. This was prior to the terrorist attack in Mumbai 2008, so the policy may have changed in India as well.

    Perhaps other countries will hold the mail of their own citizens? This practice has mostly become obsolete in the wake of terrorism and concerns about bombs in packages, letter bombs, anthrax packages, cyanide packages, ricin packages, etc. (See the US and Japan in particular for biological attacks through the mail and on the subways)

    Whether is a biological or mechanical (bomb) threat it is still a threat to the embassy and consulate staff they are not prepared to take that risk for anyone. Embassy staffers are poorly paid and not about to risk their lives for a stranger.

    Terrorism has changed everything. The good old days are over.

  9. Hi! Friends of mine in the UK have started this exact type of business in the UK called Paperworkfactory.com

    The idea is exactly the same… a safe “local” address in the UK so that travelers are never out of touch with their important mail and packages. Documents can be scanned, emailed to you and kept or shredded.

  10. Great stuff. Never thought about that much, but as a business owner, it’s always tough to be away from the office because of this kind of thing. Thanks for the info…

  11. If you meet the box size specs, you can also send USPS Express Mail International insured (3-5 day non-guaranteed delivery) and have it held at the station or sent to the Mailboxes Etc. for a reasonable price. I sent 29 lbs. for about $200. Best to send to a capital city and more developed country like Peru rather than Bolivia because they use more developed electronic methods and you have better tracking ability.

  12. Wow that website is brilliant! Thanks so much for sharing. I also like the idea of using Mailboxes Etc, great tips! Cheers!

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