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I will be going on a 6 month business trip out of the country (I currently live in the US), and will not have a residence while I am away, as my current lease will expire shortly after I leave. However, I get bank statements and other similar items delivered to my current address, and I want to update my mailing address so that the next tenant does not get my mail. I don't generally care about being able to read the mail while I am away, as the information is generally available online.

My question is: What should a long-term traveler do with their mail if they do not have a permanent address in their home country?

  • 6
    One thing: change many of your mailed statements to be emailed or sent online (i.e. go paperless as much as you can) – gparyani Apr 20 '18 at 16:11
  • As the infor what? – Azor Ahai Apr 20 '18 at 18:19
  • @AzorAhai Should read: "information is generally available online". Not sure how that got cut off. – A Very Large Bear Apr 20 '18 at 19:22
  • Possible duplicate of travel.stackexchange.com/questions/8992/… – JonathanReez Supports Monica Apr 20 '18 at 20:16
  • I realize your question is primarily about the physical handling but I don't have rep to leave this as a comment: USPS has Informed Delivery informeddelivery.usps.com A free service that sends you a daily email with an image of each envelope or you can use the mobile app. Could be useful to keep an eye out for anything unexpected or urgent. . – byte wrangler Apr 21 '18 at 3:22
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You need someone to check your mail for you, so the most convenient option might simply be to use the mailing address of a close friend or family member whom you trust, ideally in the same province/state/region as where you lived before, in case it matters for certain things like driver's licenses and such.

Alternatively, it might make sense to get a post office box from your country's postal service, although you will need to arrange someone to check your mail for you.

Finally, there are commercial services that will accept mail deliveries for a fee - as DJClayworth points out, often called "virtual mailboxes". Some even will open your mail with your permission, and scan it and send the contents of documents to you.

  • 2
    The last are usually called 'virtual mailbox'. – DJClayworth Apr 20 '18 at 16:38
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    +1 for the "forward to someone you trust". I had such a setup when I travelled a year, and my forwarded mail included things such as replacement credit cards, jury duty summons, voters registration documents, tax documents, etc. There's a number of sensitive (and time-sensitive) documents that can and will potentially be mailed to you without any notice via other channels, and you'll want someone to keep an eye on your mail for them. – Roddy of the Frozen Peas Apr 20 '18 at 18:10
  • @RoddyoftheFrozenPeas Yes, exactly. Some pieces of mail may require fairly urgent attention. I even run into this issue with my US PO box (I live in Canada) - I only get my mail about once a month. Luckily, since I'm not a US resident, things like jury duty summons aren't a problem :) – Jim MacKenzie Apr 20 '18 at 19:07
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It's called a Private Mail Box (PMB)

They are run by private companies. The number one player in the field is The UPS Store,* however many smaller businesses also exist. Your address becomes

 Your Name
 Their Storefront address #123**   (your unit number)
 Their town, ZC 12345

These differ from a Post Office mailbox in several ways:

  • They are more expensive, but allow month-by-month billing
  • You can call them up and have them bundle up your mail and ship it to you UPS, DHL, FedEx, Priority or Express Mail, after sorting out what you want and holding or discarding everything else as you direct
  • Outfits which insist on a street address (no PO boxes please) will accept them
  • Unlike PO boxes, all shipping companies can ship to them.
  • They can accept large (truck) packages, certified mail and other things that need signing for. I once got gym mats.
  • Can usually give 24-hour access. The store is designed with the postboxes in the very front, and rolldown doors or gates to separate the mailbox area from the rest of the store. You are issued a key to the retail store's front door. No kidding.
  • Some can open your mail and scan it
  • They can help you package and mail almost anything via any carrier
  • Some have limited copy and print ability, like a Kinkos (FedEx Office)

The upshot is that having a PMB makes your problem rather easy to solve.

And when you return, it's all just handled. No spending a day contacting 40 different vendors and government agencies about your new address, having a few rarely used ones slip through the cracks like IRS or DMV. Having moved every 6 months for a chunk of my life, I found the PMB absolutely indispensable. I carefully chose a location at a transit hub, for easy access. As a bonus I also don't have ten "past addresses" on my credit report.


* UPS bought out Mailboxes Etc. for this purpose and to quickly establish a nationwide retail presence, similar to how FedEx bought out Kinko's.

** The Postal Service has regulations on this, lightly enforced. #123 is allowed. PMB 123 is allowed. APT 123 is not allowed. STE 123 is not allowed. Essentially you're not allowed to fob it off as your domicile or office. I have never had a problem with anyone being willing to deliver mail there. A very few are savvy to this being a PMB and want a real street address also, but they happily send all my mail to the PMB.

7

A P.O. Box is the best option. You can set one up at your local post office, and set up online payment so you don't have to visit the post office to pay rental fees.

Also, I'd recommend you set up mail forwarding so that mail to your residential address goes to your P.O. Box instead of your house, and won't be returned undeliverable when your lease expires.

  • 1
    This is a better link for the USPS site: usps.com/manage/forward.htm. I've used their premium service before when I travelled a year -- every week, usually on wednesday, they'd box up all the mail I'd received into a flat rate envelope/box and forward it to the specified address. There was significantly more mail collected in that time than would be feasible for a PO box. – Roddy of the Frozen Peas Apr 20 '18 at 18:08
  • @Roddy Feel free to edit. – gparyani Apr 20 '18 at 18:11

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