I left Seattle at the beginning of February and I’m not planning to return until the end June — about 5 months of travel.
One of the challenges of traveling for extended periods of time is managing mail (the kind the carrier in the blue uniform delivers six days a week). With all of the options for receiving bills by email and paying them online, postal mail isn’t nearly as important as it once was, but let’s be real, there’s still stuff that arrives that needs to be open, read, and dealt with, like car registration notices, property tax assessments, etc. Perhaps not fun, but still important.
I briefly considered my options: have a friend check my mailbox or ignore it and hope nothing important arrives, but neither of these were practical.
First, I rented out my condo and needed a solution that would allow the renter to receive his mail while not having to deal with mine. Second, while I sold the IT services company that I founded in 2002 late last year, I knew I’d continue to receive and need to deal with mail related to the LLC. And lastly, I wanted a solution that I could use on an ongoing basis during future trips.
A year or so ago, a company named Earth Class Mail set up shop next to the post office near my old office in Pioneer Square (Seattle’s old historic neighborhood). They were advertising a service that allows you to receive mail online. I had no need for it at the time, but filed it away in the back of my brain.
As I was preparing for my latest trip, I thought I’d take a look at Earth Class Mail, and ultimately decided to give them a try. Here’s how their service works:
- I set up an account and selected a new mailing address. There were a few options to choose from including PO Boxes and so-called “premium” street addresses. I chose the Seattle-based PO Box, which cost me a little extra — $2.95/month.
- I forwarded all of my mailing using the standard USPS change of address process and then began updating my address with all of the companies I do business with.
- As mail is arrives, Earth Class Mail scans and uploads an image of the envelope to their online portal.
- From the portal I can request the envelope be opened and the contents scanned, shredded or recycled, or forwarded to another address. It takes them about a day to open, scan, and upload a letter, which is then available online as a PDF.
The setup process itself was rather straightforward, but did involve returning a notarized USPS authorization form requiring a bit of legwork.
The base monthly cost is $19.95, and then there are a few extras you have to factor in: actual mail scanning ($1.50/item) and their optional shredding service ($4.95/month, or you can have your mail recycled, but I don’t think it’s wise to recycle letters that contain personal or financial information). Here’s a breakdown of what I paid in the past 30-days:
|Address Fee (for Seattle PO Box)||$2.95|
|Unlimited Shredding Option||$4.95|
This may seem like a lot — another monthly expensive — but it’s given me the freedom to travel for months on end (which is a huge cost savings compared to living in the US) while continuing to manage all of my personal and business affairs.
I’ve been using the service for just over 2 months and have been quite happy. Every few days I log in to the online portal to review any new mail that has arrived, decide what I want scanned/shredded/recycled, and then download the mail that was scanned since my last log in.
How have you managed postal mail during long trips?