We are so lucky to live in a digital world that makes full-time RVing easier. But even traveling full-time RVers get mail and packages on the road. We just can’t escape hard copy snail mail. In my 15 years on the road, I’ve learned there’s an easy way to do it, and a hard way. Let’s discuss both so you don’t make the same mistakes we did in our early days.
Why Do You Need to Get Mail When RVing Full Time?
Becoming a nomad is a process. It requires thinking things through to enjoy full time RVing. Figuring out how to get mail on the road is one of those unpleasant, but necessary tasks. Get the “life admin” details ironed out before you hit the road and you have one less thing to worry about.
In your early days learning how to live full time in an RV, the last thing you want is to think about is mail. Think you can go completely digital for it? Think again. Let’s talk about why you need to address this task (pun intended!).
First, understand the difference between a residence (domicile) and a mailing address
Everyone needs an address. Even if you don’t expect to receive paper mail, nomads occasionally get paper mail for things like vehicle registration, jury duty and voting. And Mom might want a place to send you a holiday gift!
When you live full time in an RV, your mailing address and your residence address will be different.
- A mailing address changes as you travel. It can be anything from a post office to an RV park.
- Your residence address never changes, even if you do not actually live there.
Getting a mailing address for nomads is the easy part. Thousands of places can give you one. UPS stores, a post office, and other mail services for traveling RVers provide places to get mail and packages. They ship your mail to you, for a price. Their services like mail scanning and forwarding are essential when you travel.
The legal term for your residence address is known as a “domicile.” The place you call your domicile can get tricky. Keep reading for details. Figure out your domicile before you hit the road. It makes life easier.
A mailing address is not the same as a domicile.
The fact is, a post office box is not a place you can call home. You need a domicile. A domicile is the physical location of where you call home. Who cares about your domicile? Institutions. The IRS. Banks. Department of Motor Vehicles. Census Bureau. Health insurance companies. You need to tell them the physical place where you live in order to be considered as a person, and to receive their documents. For most of these institutions, a PO box does not qualify.
PO boxes for Full-time RVers do not count as a residence.
- One way RVs might be counted as a home is if your RV is officially parked somewhere. For example, buying an RV lot is one way to call your RV home. The address at the RV park can probably qualify with many institutions. You can keep full time RVing, but the bigger question is: will that park receive and send your mail when you are not there? That’s the tricky part.
- Or, you can join Escapees RV Club. Do it, and you can establish yourself as a resident in their Texas, Florida, or South Dakota RV park locations. I’ve been a member since 2009 and their domicile set-up works.
- Just keep in mind that acceptance of any domicile address really depends on what the institution thinks about it. Not all of them consider RV parks as real residences.
In short, your RV does not qualify as a residence. To live in any established society, you must secure a mailing address and a physical address to use while you travel full time in an RV. Sometimes they can be the same, most of the times they cannot.
The topic of domicile for full-time RVing is complicated. And I’m not a lawyer. We can discuss full time RVer domicile in another article. Let’s continue.
The Wrong Way to Handle Mail and Packages Full-time RVing
Here’s where we went wrong getting mail on the road. Before we started full-time RVing, a kind family member offered to handle our mail. We changed our address to hers for our banking needs, motor vehicle registration, health insurance, and other bureaucratic institutions.
But when our one year on the road turned into two, we knew we wanted to full-time RV indefinitely. She was getting tired of sending our mail. We couldn’t blame her. Then we discovered that in some instances, using someone else’s property address as your domicile can set you up for fraud and lawsuits. For example:
- Insurance companies base your premiums on where you live. If one of yours discovers that you don’t actually live at your stated domicile, they can void your policy on the grounds of fraud.
- Or, if you decide to use someone’s address in a state without income tax liability, the IRS might want to dig into your file too. It gets quite complicated and beyond the scope of this article.
In other words, don’t think you can outsmart the system when it comes to domicile. The system and its lawyers always win. Do the right thing before you hit the road and you won’t run into full-time RV hassles.
The Right Way Full-time RVers Get Mail and Packages
As I mentioned above, joining Escapees RV club and paying for their mail service was key to our success getting mail on the road. Once we were set up as Texas residents of their Livingston park called Rainbow’s End, things got easy. We’ve never had an institution declare our Livingston address invalid. Escapees isn’t the only mail service for RVers. But they’ve been taking care of mail for nomads since the 1980s. They know their stuff.
Our process to get mail on the road
- Every so often the mail service tells us what is in our mail box.
- When we want to get that mail on the road, we ask the team to send it to us. But we only do this once we know that we are staying somewhere long enough to get that mail.
- For USPS mail, we allow two weeks to receive mail from Texas.
- But for overnight packages, we allow one week for it to arrive, staying until it does.
Other Good Ways to Get Mail on the Road
Sometimes we chase down mail on the road by using mailing address locations like:
USPS General Delivery
If you need a package, you can sometimes use a post office system known as “General Delivery” to get it. For example, if our latest RV park or campground doesn’t receive mail for guests, we use a USPS General Delivery address that looks like this:
Niland, CA 92257-9999
This General Delivery method works for us most times, with some exceptions:
- Not all post offices handle general delivery. Check the USPS website for specific general delivery locations before having mail sent there. Choose small town post offices with less volume so your packages won’t get lost.
- General delivery mail can be slow. Have patience.
UPS / FedEx Print & Ship / Business Services
This is what these businesses are set up to do. They are generally reliable. But always call first to verify the address they want you to us. And knowing how much they charge to receive and store your package is also helpful. You might pay anything from $5 to $10 per package depending on the location.
A Friend or Relative’s House
Headed to see friends and family? Use their address to get mail. Just make sure you are visiting long enough to receive it. Sometimes deliveries go wrong. If your mail doesn’t arrive by the time you want to leave, give your friend or family member a few bucks to cover the cost of forwarding mail to your next long-term location.
Full-time RVing Logistics Don’t Have to Be Hard
Figure out how to get mail on the road before departure day and you’ve got one of the biggest full-time RVing logistics nailed. It’s a relief, and gives you the chance to fully enjoy the freedom of the lifestyle.
Watch this space for more full time RVing logistics tips and tricks!