If you’re travelling you probably want to spend most of your time enjoying your trip, whether that means taking in the city sights, shopping and local cuisine, or enjoying peace and unspoiled natural beauty by heading into the great outdoors

But even when you’re on the holiday of a lifetime, the everyday details of life go on. It’s a hassle taking care of chores like arranging mail forwarding while you travel – particularly if you don’t know where you’re going to be next week or next month – but it is possible to simplify things.

Read on for some ideas on how to manage your mail while travelling.


What are the options?

Having an overflowing letterbox is not only untidy, it’s a security risk since it’s a clear sign your house is empty.

If you’re only travelling for a period of up to three months, and you’re not expecting anything urgent, you could ask the post office to put your mail on hold: take a look at the information provided by NZ Post.

If you’re going away for longer, you could also ask friends or relatives to collect your mail, and then forward it to you.

It’s very important to time this right, however, or you might find that your mail travels ahead of you, or behind you, meaning you miss receiving your letters or parcels.

Other travellers choose to redirect their mail (if possible) to a friend or neighbour’s address, and simply wait until they get back to check their mail.

But, if you want to stay connected as you travel, without a lot of hassle, a virtual mailbox might be the best option for you.

With a virtual mailbox, you’re not reliant on anyone else, and you can literally check your mail at any time. It’s particularly handy if you’re expecting some important correspondence while you’re away, or you’ve got a good friend or relative who loves sending snail mail.


What is a virtual mailbox?

A virtual mailbox is a real address (usually in a city) where people can send you letters. It can be a PO Box, or a street address, or both.

Virtual mailboxes usually have a scan-to-email option. To see your mail, you just need to go online and log into your mailbox with your username and password, and you’ll be able to see all of your recently scanned letters.

At Private Box, our clients can receive mail at any of our addresses, including PO Boxes and street addresses.

We also provide physical mail forwarding. This can be particularly useful if you want to get your mail in paper form, or if you are expecting something important such as a credit card or an official letter.

Our clients can also use our global parcel forwarding service at our Wellington and Auckland locations.


Why choose a virtual mailbox?

Put simply, it frees you up and gives you more flexibility as you travel. It’s cost-effective and convenient, and it means there’s one less administrative chore to take care of while you’re away.
Scan to email is quick and secure, meaning that important documents won’t get lost in the post or fall into the wrong hands.

You can check it every day, either in the morning before you head out on your adventures, or in the evening as you unwind after a busy day of sightseeing.


Features and costs

Generally virtual mailboxes will charge you per document that you want sent to you, but you don’t need to have every single piece of correspondence you receive scanned.

Private Box lets you look through your envelopes, and then select the documents you’re interested in.

OCR (optical character recognition) software can also read and transcribe handwriting and turn it into digital text, saving you the trouble of having to decipher messy writing!

You can opt for secure destruction, whereby your documents will be destroyed seven days after being scanned and sent to you. Private Box also offers you secure electronic storage for the items you’d like to keep.

Costs start at $19 a month, or $190 a year. If you are travelling for a long period of time and you have your own business, then you might also be interested in our business or virtual office plans.
Take a look at our website for more details.


How to make the process run smoothly as you travel

  • Make sure you’ve got your charger! And bring a spare in case you lose it. Virtual mailboxes work wherever you are in the world, but they do rely on you having an internet connection and your device being powered up.
  • Virtual mailboxes are sometimes paid for on a month-by-month basis, so you also need to ensure you have enough money in your account to keep your subscription going before you head out on a long holiday.
  • Tell people and businesses (and government agencies) about your mail arrangements well in advance. There’s no point in setting a mailbox up unless people know where mail needs to be sent.
  • Take note of how much data you’re using while overseas. You don’t want to be hit with a cellphone bill for thousands of dollars when you arrive home.
    Remember to give people other options to get in contact with you if they need you urgently. Such as your email address, or your social media or cellphone number.


Keeping your information secure as you travel

Many websites suggest that you avoid public wifi networks, as much as you can, as people may be able to hack into them and acquire your personal information.

They recommend taking a portable wifi travel router which you can set up, for instance when you need to check your email or mail in a hotel room that only has public wifi.

It’s also always good to protect your phone or other device with a password, passcode or fingerprint identification.

Another tip is to keep both paper and digital copies of your important documents. It’s a particularly good idea to both photocopy and scan and save a copy of your passport, in case it goes missing or gets stolen.

When you’re overseas, it’s always tempting to post pictures of your experiences online. But, you should be aware that when you do this publicly it makes it easier for thieves to figure out where you are. It also tells people that your house is probably empty.

It’s best to share your photos with friends and family only, for instance via email or messenger – and don’t share your current location publicly.


Safety tips

Although a cell phone or other device is invaluable while travelling (and can help with translation, as well as staying connected), you should also be prepared for situations in which you might not be able to use them, e.g. if they’re stolen or broken.

If you’re in a non-English-speaking country, it’s good to have the basic language skills required to ask for help from locals or have a written note handy that you can show people.

If you’re travelling to somewhere that’s high risk, know where to go to seek help and make sure you have the contact details for your country’s embassy somewhere.

If your country does not have an embassy in the region you’re travelling to, note down the details of a friendly country’s embassy (for instance Australia or the UK).  Alongside this, keeping a note of the police stations and hospitals in the regions you travel to is recommended.

Before you leave, you should research your destination using your country’s relevant government website to determine whether you need to take any extra precautions (in New Zealand, the site is Travel Advisories by Destination | SafeTravel). Different countries have different safety risks and societal differences that it’s important to watch out for and be aware of.

Finally, although you shouldn’t advertise where you are, it’s also good to let at least one or two people at home know your itinerary, whether or not you want to receive snail mail from them.
Making a plan whereby you agree to keep in touch somehow (for instance once a week or once a fortnight) means the alarm can be raised more quickly if something goes wrong.

It’s also good to have someone you trust to check in on your house while you’re away to ensure everything is okay.


Next steps

If you want more information on setting up a virtual mailbox while you travel, don’t hesitate – get in touch with Private Box today. Bon voyage!