If you’re headed out of town and there’s no one who can collect your mail for you, the USPS (United States Postal Service) offers services that can help ensure safe, timely delivery of your mail without making it obvious that no one’s home to collect it. The next time you’re away from home for a number of days, head to your local post office or visit the USPS website and sign up for one of the following services:
Hold Mail Service
The USPS can hold mail for you and not deliver it free of charge for a minimum of 3 days and a maximum of 30 days. Upon your return, you can pick up all of your held mail at your nearest post office. Even if you’re headed out of town at the last minute, you can still sign up for this service at the post office the day before you want it to begin or online as late as 3 a.m. (Eastern Standard Time) the day you want the service to begin. However, online sign up is not available for all ZIP codes, so be aware that you may not get the request in on time if you’re counting on being able to sign up online.
Normal mail delivery will resume on the last day you specify when you sign up, so don’t expect that day’s mail to be with the rest of the mail at the post office and don’t forget to pick it up yourself at home. Should you find your trip cut short, you can cancel the service at any time by heading to your local post office and asking to stop the service or by canceling the service online (assuming your ZIP code is serviced by the online sign up). You can also extend the days online or by calling your post office, so long as the total number of days does not exceed thirty.
Forwarding Mail Service
If you’ll be gone for more than 30 days or you want to continue receiving your mail while you’re away-particularly if you’re expecting bills, checks or anything else important-you can sign up for the USPS forwarding mail service. For the cost of $13.95 per week plus a one-time $15 enrollment fee, the post office will send all mail addressed to your home address to your temporary address (a hotel, friend’s place, or wherever you’re staying).
The forwarding mail service is available for a minimum of 2 weeks and a maximum of 1 year. The mail is sent via Priority Mail, so it’s sent quickly, but it will still take an additional 2 to 3 days to reach you at your temporary address. While this can be a very convenient and typically reliable service, just be aware that the more time your mail spends in transit, the slightly greater chance there is of the mail becoming lost or damaged.
If you’re worried about bad neighbors or burglars rifling through your mail or apartment while you’re away, just head to the nearest branch of the USPS or go online and arrange to have your mail held or forwarded. Making sure your mail doesn’t pile up while you’re away keeps your mail out of nosy neighbor’s hands while also making it appear that you’re home, so your apartment is less likely to be a target for burglary.