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You spent months planning the perfect vacation. The bags are packed, the car is loaded, and the dog is in the kennel.
But what about having days of mail stacking up in your mailbox where robbers and identity thieves might get their hands on it? No problem. Go online and have the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) hold your mail while you're gone.
The USPS's Hold Mail service offers postal customers the option of having their mail held for from three to 30 days quickly and easily.
Francia G. Smith, former USPS vice president and consumer advocate, assured customers when the program was introduced that their mail is one thing they don't need to worry about while enjoying their trip:
"When you go on vacation, the last thing you need is to be concerned about the safety of your mail while you're away. Our Hold Mail Service addresses this issue almost effortlessly. This service represents our continued commitment to increasing customer access-making it easier and more convenient for customers to use the Postal Service when and where they need to."
You can request USPS Hold Mail services up to 30 days in advance of the day you want it to start or as early as the next scheduled delivery day. You should request your mail holding start date by 3 a.m. EST (2 a.m. CT or 12 a.m. PST) on your requested day, Monday through Saturday.
However, to prevent an unauthorized person from requesting a hold on your mail, USPS now requires customer verification through the Informed Delivery program. If you have not already created an account, your request could take up to one extra week, so you should plan accordingly, the Post Office advises.
Once your identity has been created, you won't have to repeat the process the next time you want to hold your mail.
The Informed Delivery program also allows customers to digitally monitor their mail while it is on hold.
If you are going to be away from home for more than 30 days or if you are making a long-term move, you can also set up temporary or permanent USPS Mail and Package Forwarding Services.
If you are making a permanent move, you can also use the forwarding service to update your official address. If you are just moving temporarily, you can use the Postal Service's mail and package forwarding service for a period as short as 15 days or as long as one year.
After the first six months, you can extend it for another six months.
If you get your mail at a Post Office box it is not necessary to use the Hold Mail service since mail at P.O. boxes is allowed to accumulate for 30 days.
How to Do It
After you get online, just go to the Postal Service home page. In the menu under "Track & Manage" at the top of the page, click on the "Hold Mail" menu option.
You'll be asked to enter your delivery address information and the dates on which you want the Postal Service to start and stop holding your mail.
At the end of the mail holding request process, you'll be given a confirmation number so that you can modify the request if you come home early or decide you want to stay on vacation longer.
The online service electronically notifies your local Post Office, and all of your mail will be held for the time specified and delivery is resumed on the requested date. You can either pick up your mail at the Post Office or have it delivered to your home where it is typically sent.
You can have a third party pick up your Hold Mail if you provide written permission to the Post Office location where the mail will be retrieved. The person picking up the mail will have to provide proper identification.
You have 10 days from the end of the hold period to retrieve your mail or it will be marked "Return to Sender."
Request by Telephone
You can also request the USPS's mail holding service over the phone by calling toll-free 1-800-ASK-USPS and following the menu options.