An “out-of-office” message handles your work e-mail while you’re traveling. But what about the physical mail that piles up in the mailbox while you’re on a business trip or vacation? With a little advance notice, the U.S. Postal Service can help by temporarily putting a hold on mail delivery so packages and letters are securely stashed, and travelers don’t return home to overstuffed mailboxes.
How to Request Hold Mail Service
Before you request “hold mail” service, first check to make sure it’s available in your area. Check online at the U.S. Postal Service’s website to see if the service is available in your zip code. The postal service will hold all mail for the address, rather than just one individual’s mail.
An address can only have one “hold mail” service scheduled at a time.
To request a mail hold, call 1-800-ASK-USPS or complete a “hold mail” form at the post office. You can make the request up to 30 days in advance or as early as the next-scheduled delivery day.
The postal service will hold mail from three to 30 days. You can either pick up your mail from the post office or have it delivered to your home upon your return.
When to Forward Mail
The postal service only holds mail for 30 days, so if you’re going to be away for longer, have your mail forwarded to your temporary location. A “Premium Forwarding” service is offered that forwards all mail from a permanent address to a temporary address. The mail is forwarded on a weekly basis for a minimum of two weeks and a maximum of one year.
The post office charges for the Premium Forwarding service. As of 2018, the enrollment fee is $20.10 (or $18.45 if you do it online) and $20.10 for each week of service. The postal office holds mail, packages it, and then ships it each week via Priority Mail Service. This service can help snowbirds, college students and individuals with an extended family care situation.
Monitor Mail With Informed Delivery
If you’re traveling for a short period of time, keep track of your mail with the postal service’s “Informed Delivery” program. The free program allows subscribers to preview the mail and packages that are scheduled to arrive, which is helpful if you’re tracking a package or waiting for a specific piece of mail. Informed Delivery gives you a greyscale image of the exterior, address side of letters, and it also tracks packages. To sign up for the program, visit the U.S. Postal Service online to make sure it’s available in your zip code.