As we started planning for our year-long trip, two items of business kept coming up: what do we do about mail and how do we handle health insurance. Of the two, figuring out what to do about mail was the easier one to solve.
The US Postal Service will only hold mail for 30 days, so the usual Vacation Hold Mail service wouldn’t work for a year-long jaunt. One potential solution was to have our mail forwarded to a trusted family member, but we didn’t want to burden them and what if we needed to look at a piece of mail? (An indefinite schedule with frequent moves precluded having anything sent to us.) We discovered a website called bootsnall.com which is set up to assist travelers planning one year around-the-world trips. An article on the site introduced us to the concept of virtual mail boxes. An online search for virtual mailboxes provides a lot of choices. These services provide a physical address to their clients to use as a mailing address. When mail arrives, the envelope is scanned. A website is provided for viewing the envelopes and instructing the service what to do with each piece of mail. The options are: open and scan each page, shred the piece of mail, or have it forwarded to a different location. (When choosing this third option, we have had the mail forwarded to a family member to open and describe the contents.) Researching our options, we looked at pricing, flexibility of the service, and reviews of other long-term travelers. Each service has a variety of plan levels which determine how many mail recipients can use that address, and how many envelopes can be scanned as well as how many pages of opened mail can be scanned per month before incurring extra charges. We were concerned about how much mail (especially junk) we were getting at our old address because it could end up costing us a small fortune.
We took the following steps:
- Switched all of our bills over to electronic only
- Requested that we be removed from direct mail lists at directmail.com
- Entered a temporary (6 months) forwarding address with the post office rather than a permanent one since that way the NCOA (National Change of Address, in this case not National Council on Aging) system wouldn’t notify the sender about our address change, and the NCOA database wouldn’t get updated with the virtual mail box address.
Something we did worked because happily we get very little junk mail at the virtual mailbox.
In the end even though it wasn’t the cheapest, we selected Travelling Mailbox because for $2 extra per month, they provided us with a San Diego mailing address. This simplified a lot of potential problems (drivers license, state income taxes, etc.) since we plan to return to San Diego once the trip is over.
Over the course of our three-month road trip, we have had mail scanned, had mail forwarded, and had mail shredded, and it’s worked flawlessly! So leaving the country (tomorrow – yikes!), we are comfortable with how mail is getting handled in our absence. Our only mistake was that we should have gotten everything set up a month before we left the house as there were some hiccups initially with the post office.
Next up: how we solved the health insurance issues.
Ian & Ann