Nothing says "no one's home" like an overflowing mailbox. Delay your mail delivery while you're on vacation to hide the fact that your home is empty and to keep sensitive documents from falling into the wrong hands. If your mailbox empties into your home, you may have no reason to stop mail delivery. But if your box is positioned in a way that makes it accessible to others, putting your mail on hold is the safest choice. It's also convenient because, otherwise, you'll have to pick up any excess mail at the post office if your mailbox gets full while you're away. Setting up a mail hold is as simple as contacting the U.S. Postal Service.

How Do I Put a Hold on My Mail?

For most people, the easiest way to stop mail delivery is to use the Postal Service website. Find the "Hold Mail" option under the "Track & Manage" heading on the site's homepage. Enter your address and the site will tell you whether mail holding is available there. It's available for most home addresses, whether you live in a single-family home or in an apartment building.

Once the site confirms that your address is eligible for mail holding, enter the dates of your travel and specify whether you want your mail delivered when you return home or whether you prefer to pick it up at the post office. You'll receive a confirmation email, including a confirmation number, once you submit your request. If you want to edit your travel dates or cancel your hold, you'll need that confirmation number.

The Postal Service also takes hold requests in person at its branches or over the phone. At the post office, fill out form 8076, Authorization to Hold Mail. It simply asks for your name, address, the beginning and ending dates for your hold and your preferred way to receive your accumulated mail. To schedule a hold by phone, call the Postal Service main customer service number, 1-800-ASK-USPS.

What Else Should I Know?

Forgot to submit your request until the last minute? No problem. The post office can start your hold the day after you request it. It will hold your mail for anywhere from three to 30 days. If you plan to be away for more than 30 days, the Postal Service will forward your mail to a temporary address. Even if you're taking a trip shorter than 30 days, you may opt to have your mail forwarded to you at your location for a fee.

Once you're home, your mail carrier will deliver all of your accumulated mail to your address unless you specified that you would pick it up. If it doesn't all fit in your mailbox, he will leave a notice asking you to come pick up the excess mail at the post office. Anyone picking up mail at the post office must present photo ID matching the address on the mail.

If you have a post office box and plan to be gone for 30 days or less, you don't need to file a mail hold request. Your mail will all be kept in your box until you pick it up.