Managing mail when you are constantly on the move

Whether you are on the move on an OE (overseas experience), abroad for work, or as a Digital Nomad, or around NZ as a grey nomad. Private Box is a great way to have one address where you can receive mail.
But how do you manage mail once it’s in your Private Box account?

Regularly moving around makes it difficult to forward mail, particularly in the age of slowing mail services & disruptions. Here are my tips after using Private Box for the last 9 years while tripping around overseas & in New Zealand.

3-step method for managing mail on the go

  1. Automatic scanning
  2. Regularly destroying paper mail
  3. Courier for important items

1. Automatic scanning

Automatic scanning has recently become more accessible with Private Box including 5 free auto-scans per month in all plans.

I used to try to guess what the mail arriving in my Private Box account was based on the sender information, and try to guess how important/urgent the item was. Turning on automatic-scanning for all my incoming mail took out the guesswork of managing my mail.

Here’s a video on how to setup automatic scanning rules on your Private Box account:

Here’s where to find automatic scanning rules on your Private Box account: secure.privatebox.co.nz/mailbox/rules

2. Regularly destroying paper mail

It took me a while to have the confidence to destroy my physical mail, I’d usually wait until a pile of letters were in my Private Box account and then have them forwarded to myself. But most of them were unneeded. Student loan & bank statements, rates & IRD notices, all of which a scan or digital copy suffice.

The alternative was to leave the letters in my Private Box account until I came back to Wellington on an annual Christmas trip, and collect it from Private Box. But the storage fees added up. So I built up the courage to delete items, and have never looked back.

3. Courier for important items

For me important items are new credit cards, drivers licence, degree transcripts, and the occasional personal letter!

I learnt the hard way that International Airmail doesn’t cut it.
While in France for a month I had carefully calculated that Airmail *should* make it to me in time, before I moved on to the UK. However, that didn’t happen. No worries I thought, I’ll leave a forwarding address with my friends in France.
They forwarded my mail, but somewhere along the line it got chewed up in a machine, and returned looking like a dog had eaten it.
So they forwarded it again, this time it arrived in one [albeit tattered] piece, and just in time before I left the country.

My lesson was – if it’s important just get it couriered.

Mail services for International parcels

Private Box provides 3 levels of service for international mail. Here’s a little bit of background on each.

1. AirMail

This is the cheapest option, it is also untracked & uninsured mail.

2. International Courier

Carried through the EMS network. EMS is a cooperative under the Universal Postal Union which 180 countries are a part of. My personal take is if the country has a good postal system, then EMS could operate well. If the postal service is corrupt, then it’s better to pay extra for the next level up in courier service.

For example, when I was living in Vietnam, I was a little bit worried about my parcel being held at customs for a bribe. I decided to pay a little bit extra for peace of mind, and received my items without a hitch.

3. International Express Courier

International Express Courier is handed over to DHL in Auckland. It’s the most expensive international courier option available, but has the benefit of being carried by one carrier from NZ to its destination.

DHL has extraordinary coverage around the world, just missing some remote islands (which I assume lack public airports), and parts of Western Sahara.

Mail services for NZ Domestic parcels

Domestic nomads using Private Box have more options for getting their physical mail, including:

  • Mail forwarding (to your own or friends address)
  • Counter Delivery
  • Poste Restante
  • Parcel collect

The parcel collect service is my favourite – it combines the next business day courier service, with a local collection point in 260-odd collection locations around NZ, and email notifications confirming when it is ready to be collected.

Charles DManaging mail when you are constantly on the move

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