Moving every 13 weeks can be stressful for mail delivery. For my first few years as a traveling therapist, I was frustrated with missing mail. Using the mail forwarding system from USPS was a nightmare. The forward would come into effect late and I’d miss my mail, and I can’t even count the number of times my mail went missing. I even had a bill sent to a collections agency, since I never received it and was unaware that I had to pay it. Then, I discovered a solution to my problems: the virtual mailbox.
A virtual mailbox is a physical address where your mail can be sent and stored like a real mailbox. Although, you never have to physically go there and collect it. It gets sent to a commercial mail receiving agency, which values your privacy and collects and stores your mail.
When the virtual mailbox receives your mail, they will send an email to alert you. The virtual mailbox scans the front of the envelope or package that you received and uploads the scan into your account. You then have the choice of:
- Having the virtual mailbox open your mail, scan and send the scan to you over email
- Have them forward the mail physically to you (at the cost of shipping)
- Shred the mail altogether
- You can also choose to shred or send a letter after it has been scanned
Where Can I Get A Virtual Mailbox?
There are many companies that offer virtual mailboxes at different prices. Many companies have more business-based plans. I have found that Traveling Mailbox and Mailbox Forwarding both offer competitive prices and excellent service for individual plans. They cater to the nomadic, traveling souls out there!
For Traveling Mailbox, plans range from $15-$55/month. For Mailbox Forwarding, basic plans start at around $15/month and go to $50/month for premium plans. They each include a certain number of letters that you can receive per month (at that price) and a specific number of page scans. Premium addresses (an address from a prestigious street or city) and forwarding mail is always an additional cost.
Isn’t It Illegal To Open Somebody Else’s Mail? How Does This Work?
It is TOTALLY LEGAL for these services to open your mail, as long as you fill out and notarize a USPS form 1583. This form gives consent for a commercial mail receiving agency to open and scan your mail. You can download the form once you sign up for an account.
My Pro Tip: Reduce Your Paper Mail
I have been using a virtual mailbox since 2015 and it has been a LIFESAVER! For once, I don’t have a lot of advice to give on how to do something, because the virtual mailbox makes everything so easy to do! My one piece of advice would be this: reduce your paper mail.
Sign up for as many e-payments and e-statements as possible. Go to your banks, loans, utilities websites, and choose email communication and paperless statements. If you are still getting mail (catalogs, etc) call the companies and request to be taken off their mailing list. Reducing your paper mail will reduce the amount of mail sent to your virtual mailbox, thus lowering your plan fee. And bonus: it’s also a healthy move for the environment.
Does all of my mail HAVE to go to the Virtual Mailbox?
No! A virtual mailbox is just like a real mailbox, you can decide what gets send there and what does not. If you want to put a forward on your home address or a temporary address and have everything sent to your virtual address, you could. If you are signing up for a utility in a new place and don’t want to miss any final bills when you move out (like I did), then you can put the utility mailing address as your virtual mailbox. You can pick and choose the pieces of mail that get sent there.
If you are considering traveling full time in the future, definitely consider getting a virtual mailbox. I wish I had known about virtual mailboxes sooner in my career – having one could have saved me a lot of headaches!
Here are virtual mailboxes that come highly recommended by me and my traveling friends! Next time you hit the road, your mail with be in hands here: