If you’re a full time van lifer (or RV, bus, boat, whatever lifer), one of the challenges of not having a permanent residence is that you need to have a physical address. Getting mail is one thing – there are tons of solutions for sending packages to your current location (don’t worry, I’ll talk about them!), but what about things like your car registration? Where do bills get sent? For a lot of things, you need an address – one that doesn’t change, and that’s where being a nomad can get tricky! What do you do if you need a legal address, but you live in a vehicle and your location is always changing?
This guide will talk about how to get mail on the road, and how to establish residency so that you have a legal, permanent address.
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Establishing Residency - Getting a Legal Address
A physical address is a requirement for being alive (in the US at least, I can’t speak for other countries) – you need an address on your driver’s license, you need an address to register your van, you need an address for health insurance, bills, all that fun stuff. But I live in my van full time – I don’t have an address, and I’m always moving around!
The solution that a lot of van lifers use is to use their parents or family homes as their “permanent residence,” and to use that for all the legal stuff. But this wasn’t going to work for me – my family lives in New Jersey, and when I moved into my van, I had been living in Washington state for over 3 years. Legally, my life was in Washington – my business, my driver’s license, my van registration, everything. Now I could have transferred this stuff to New Jersey, but it would’ve been super inconvenient because
- I’m in NJ for one week per year – if you live nearby or at least visit your family often, this would probably be the best option, but there’s no way I could go in person to update my driver’s license and car registration, and it would be a problem for future legal stuff like that
- Sometimes I do need to get my mail in person (and don’t have the option of sending it somewhere that isn’t my “home address”), and of course I can’t go to New Jersey to pick it up
Another option is to use a friend’s address – but my friends all live in city apartments and move every year, so this would be inconvenient for me as I’d have to keep changing my address, plus providing proof of address when required could get messy.
So, how do I get a home address without having a stationary home? Anytime Mailbox!
Anytime Mailbox is basically a virtual mailbox – but because all of their locations have a real street address, I’m able to use it as my physical residence for everything – car registration, my business license, bank accounts, everything!
how to get a Physical Address with Anytime Mailbox
One of the best things about Anytime Mailbox is that they have locations all over the country – and even a few in other countries! This means that you can choose one in the state you currently have established residency or have a domicile in, or you can choose a different state if you want to change your legal state of residence. Keep in mind that you’ll need to change your driver’s license and car registration to the new state, which most likely will require you to go in person.
I chose one in Washington, because this is where I spend most of my time, and I wanted to be able to keep my legal residency here. Anytime Mailbox gives you the option of picking up your mail in person, so I picked a location that I knew would be convenient for me to go to when I need to.
How to Get regular mail on the road with Anytime Mailbox
Along with establishing residency and getting a physical address with Anytime Mailbox, you can also get mail there! If I know I won’t be in town to pick it up, I send one time things like packages to wherever I am – but all my bills, legal stuff, and anything that goes to a “home address” gets mailed here.
Anytime Mailbox has tons of different locations that offer different services, and the monthly plans start at just $4.99! I pay $9.99 for a Seattle address, and here’s what my plan includes:
- a physical address that I can use as my domicile and permanent address
- pick up mail in person
- open & scan mail (so I don’t have to pick it up!)
- recycle or shred mail that I don’t need
- forward mail to any address for me (for me this costs $5 plus shipping costs)
All of this is done through the Anytime Mailbox app, so I can put in requests quickly and easily! When I get mail, they scan the envelope/box and upload it to the app – then I can request that they open and scan it, or that they forward it to me or just recycle it.
Needless to say, I’m a big fan of my virtual mailbox – it’s easy and convenient, and super affordable! I have a legal address, have established residency in Washington, and have a way to receive all my mail.
How to Get Mail on the Road
So establishing residency and a physical address is important for van life, but so is mail! Moving into your van doesn’t have to mean giving up online shopping and the convenience of delivery. If I’m in town to pick it up, I just have mail sent to my Anytime Mailbox address. But I’m often not in town, so I need another solution for when I’m on the road!
Here’s how to get mail on the road when you travel, or when your location changes often.
how to get mail on the road with a mail forwarding service
Of course, one way to get mail on the road is to get a virtual mailbox with mail forwarding service – like Anytime Mailbox. There are other services too, but I liked Anytime Mailbox the most because each location has a physical address that I can use as my legal permanent residence, and I can pick up my mail myself if I’m in town.
With a virtual mailbox, you can have them open and scan your mail, or forward it to you, so you don’t need to be there in person. But you also need somewhere to forward it to – you can use a friend or family member’s address if you’re close to someone, or keep reading for more options of how to get mail on the road!
how to get mail on the road with General Delivery
With USPS, you can send mail to “General Delivery,” which means it will be held at the post office for you! Not every post office, but there is one main office in every town that holds General Delivery letters and packages. You can call the USPS to find out which office in the town you’re in is the right one, or just Google “general delivery ____” and put in whatever city you want. You’ll know it’s the right address if the zip code ends in -9999.
Then, when you have packages mailed to you, this is how you address them:
City, State xxxxx-9999
You don’t need the post office address or anything, just make sure you have the city, state, and zip code right and it will be sent to the correct USPS! Then you can pick it up within 30 days – all you need is your ID, and General Delivery is completely free!
One drawback of General Delivery for getting mail on the road is that whatever is getting sent has to be mailed with USPS. Of course, if you’re ordering online you may not know what carrier they’ll use. One good thing about getting mail forwarded with Anytime Mailbox is that they allow me to choose which carrier they use, so if I’m using general delivery I just make sure to select USPS.
how to get mail on the road with The UPS Store
You can also have packages sent to any UPS store! Just address them with your name and the address of the store, and they’l hold it for you for up to 7 days. Getting mail sent to the UPS store does cost $5 when you go pick it up, and packages have to be mailed with UPS.
how to get mail on the road with Amazon Locker
Some Amazon packages can be sent to an Amazon locker – which is the easiest option! This of course only works for Amazon purchases, but if the option is there, this is better than General Delivery or UPS because with a locker you don’t have to worry about which carrier your package is shipped with. In rural areas, there aren’t very many Amazon lockers – but whenever you’re checking out, you can edit your shipping address and find a locker near you, if there is one.
Ship to Store
A lot of places will offer the option to ship your package to a physical store location – so this is what I do most of the time to get mail on the road! It’s easier than dealing with figuring out which carrier to use or what address to put down, and you just go to the store and pick it up in person once it arrives.