When you get the call of the road, it’s very difficult to resist.
For many of us, life on the road offers a new perspective on the world and what it’s made of. That’s why, although living in your van full time is a big decision, it’s also sometimes the path that leads to the most genuine happiness. However, in order to fully enjoy the nomadic life, it’s important to be well prepared. Indeed, choosing to live without a permanent address comes with its share of administrative formalities. What about mail and packages? How do we obtain official documents without a fixed address? Are we still entitled to RAMQ coverage? Here are the answers to all these questions!
Getting your mail
When considering full-time vanlife, one of the first questions that emerge is about mail and receiving packages. It’s true that this is a challenge when you’re always on the road and live without a permanent address. But rest assured: it’s far from insurmountable. The truth is, getting your mail, no matter where you are, is fairly easy. Despite your frequent travels, it’s possible to receive your mail in a reasonable amount of time, and near your location. Here’s how.
1. The post offices
Whether you are cruising the roads of Quebec, Canada or even the United States, you can receive packages and mail for free at almost any post office. This is generally the most common method used by full-time vanlifers, as post offices can be found in most cities (including smaller, more rural areas).
You will first need to find a post office that accepts general delivery. In Canada, Canada Post offers the FlexiDelivery option. All you have to do is sign up and select the location you want your package delivered to. Navigation is easily done via the Canada Post mobile app.
In the United States, the idea remains the same, but you will need to deal with USPS (United State Postal Service). You will be able to find post offices near you from the USPS mobile app, or online.
*Tip: Always make sure your package/mail is sent via USPS (or, in Canada, that the retailer offers the option of delivery to a P.O. Box) since third-party services like UPS and FEDEX don’t usually deliver to post offices. Pay special attention when ordering online, as some retailers cannot ship USPS. You can find all the details on how to get your packages to Canada Post and USPS on their websites.
Finally, we advised you to be proactive and call post offices to ask how long they will hold your mail. Many post offices will hold mail for 30 days, but some places will only hold it for 5 to 14 days… This will certainly help you avoid unpleasant surprises.
2. Virtual mailbox services (for mail)
One of the benefits of our digital age is certainly the access to online services that make daily life easier. This is the case for mail management. There are now services such as AnytimeMailbox which offers to receive your mail, scan it and send it to you by email. It’s a web-based mail management solution that has the serious potential to ease your worries about receiving your mail!
3. For the delivery of Amazon packages
Sometimes Amazon is the only place to quickly get an item you need. However, while the speed of delivery is advantageous for vanlifers, it is rather difficult to get Amazon packages delivered to post offices. That’s why, in order to simplify the process, Amazon has set up a network of Amazon Lockers in Canada and the United States. These are lockers where you can send your packages to be picked up. It’s convenient and very easy to use!
4. Other options for your mail
Please note that it’s usually possible to have your mail delivered to the campgrounds where you are staying. However, you will need to confirm that the campground in question offers this service, and make sure to plan ahead for the delivery of your package. Then, of course, there is always the option of having your mail delivered to the homes of friends, family or acquaintances who are near the place you are visiting. All you have to do is ask their permission, and then you’re done!
Invoices and official documents
Full-time vanlife and the choice to live without a permanent address can sometimes complicate matters when it comes to bills and official documents. Some files, such as driver’s licenses and tax documents, require a fixed address. It’s very important to be vigilant and to make sure that all your documents are in order.
The most effective option when it comes to invoices is simply to get them via email or online. Today, nearly all companies offer this option. It makes it so much easier to manage from the comfort of your van. This is perfect for full-time vanlifers!
There is also the option of renting a P.O. Box with UPS (United Parcel Service). Unlike other P.O. Boxes, UPS provides a street address, not just a P.O. Box number. The latter is not sufficient for official documents, which require a street address. What’s interesting about the UPS P.O. Box system is that in addition to having a street address and secure 24-hour access, there is the option of forwarding and redirecting mail no matter where you are. This can be a real game changer when you’re on the road and need access to important mail quickly!
If you are considering the option of using a relative’s address, take the time to confirm the legitimacy of this option with the appropriate services (RAMQ, SAAQ, etc.). After all, prevention is better than cure!
In order to maintain RAMQ (Quebec Health Insurance Plan) coverage even when living full-time in your van, it’s important to have a mailing address – a basic piece of information required in administrative documents. To do this, you could choose the UPS P.O. Box option (see above) or, depending on your situation, share an address with a relative.
You should also know that in Quebec, there is an attendance rule to be eligible for RAMQ: you must spend at least 183 days per calendar year within the province’s borders (with some exceptions). *However, once every 7 years, it’s possible to be absent from Quebec for more than 183 days in the same calendar year (this is called the septennial year).
This is information that you will have to study more seriously if you consider leaving Canada for more than 6 months with your van.
All in all, the choice to live without a permanent address and enjoy full-time vanlife is a very realistic alternative, you just have to be well prepared. We hope this information has answered your questions and will allow you to travel with a clear head – and a happy heart!