rural post office Poste restante: Avoid airport security hassles by mailing packages to your destination

Reader J writes in, with the excellent subject line “Sidestepping government buffoonery”:

So I was wondering if you know if it’s possible to get a temporary PO box or a similar thing in order to mail your shampoo, cologne and other liquids to yourself at your destination city ahead of time to make sure you know it’s there before you even step on the plane. Are there such services?

Why yes!

You’ve got a few options, actually, and as long as you’re packing well and not mailing things that violate postal service regulations, then this could be a great way to avoid checked luggage, avoid the theatrics of the TSA war on moisture, and avoid having to buy stuff at your destination, all in one swoop!

There are essentially three options:

  1. Your hotel
    Where you stayin’? Call the hotel, ask if they hold mail for guests, and what the restrictions are. In all likelihood, this will be the most convenient and most reliable way for you to receive packages. Tip: Be sure you include “hotel guest” after your name when you address the package.
  2. Post office
    The magic words: “Poste restante,” or “general delivery.” Poste restante is an old fashioned mail-pickup service that most countries’ postal services still provide. Mail is addressed to a person, but in lieu of an address for delivery, the mail is sent to a post office branch, where you pick it up. You’ll usually address mail to Name, Poste Restante, the specific name of the post office (usually the main, central office), that branch’s street location, city, postal code, and country. Of course, you need to KNOW the location you’ll be picking it up from beforehand. Check the website of your destination’s postal service before you ship things off. FYI: The USPS’s sparse info page for general delivery is here.
  3. American Express
    American Express cardmembers and travelers’ check holders can have mail sent to an American Express Travel Services office anywhere in the world. I took advantage of this once, and it worked great, but it’s been a while (1994). See here to find an office. Call them before sending them mail, and ask if they receive and hold Amex client mail. Not every office will do it.

In all of these cases, underline the addressee’s last name for good measure, or write it in all caps. It can’t hurt to put a statement like “Hold until (date)” on the front of the envelope or package, too.

There may be some restrictions, such as weight. Take New Zealand’s poste restante rules, for example: Packages under 2kg are stored at no charge. Over that weight, and you’ll pay a fee to pick up the goods. Be sure to check with your destination’s post office rules before you ship stuff off poste restante.

Locations holding your mail won’t hold it forever, either. 30 days in the norm, but it’s not universal. (In Mexico, for example, it might only be 10 days.) When in doubt, call ahead.

And even if you mail things to yourself at your destination, be sure you’re not mailing something you’d be upset to lose. Mail can be slow, or can disappear. If you care about the contents, insure.

So the bottom line: Yes, you CAN mail things ahead of time. But at the end of the day, which is the bigger hassle? Dealing with the TSA, or dealing with the post office?

Related:
- Update: TSA compresses 100ml to 3.0 fluid ounces
- Airport Security: TSA Re-Allows Lighters on Board; Non-Flammable Water Still a Threat to Safety
- Rescuing your prohibited carry-on items from the trash
- Japan and China introduce liquid-explosive detectors: Why can’t the US?

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pixel Poste restante: Avoid airport security hassles by mailing packages to your destination
Categorized in: advice, liquids, reader mail, tips

8 Responses to “Poste restante: Avoid airport security hassles by mailing packages to your destination”

  1. Andy Says:

    That’s a great idea. I ordered last year a DVD from Germany and had it shipped as “Postlagernd” at the airport in Munich where I had 2 hour layover. It saved me 10$ or 20$ shipping and I had one more excuse to go through airport’s shops for locals. (restrictions still applied…)

  2. J Says:

    Thanks for the answer! This is great advice.

  3. Michael Says:

    Be careful about sending packages ahead to hotels. In this age where every travel establishment out there is dreaming up new ways of collecting additional revenue, some hotels are charging steep fees for such services. Call ahead first and check if this is the case.

  4. meneame.net Says:

    Como y Donde Mandar Tus Cosas Cuando Viajes…

    Una buena revista de como de donde y como puedes mandar tus pertenencias antes de viajar especialmente estos dias que la seguridad esta tan fuerte….

  5. possible Says:

    I would *not* ship to a post office in Mexico.
    I worked and lived at a school for international students in a small town in Baja California last year, and packages from abroad were picked up at the post office, not delivered to the school. I would say that about 2/3rds of sent packages never arrived. I can’t say where in the postal system they “disappeared,” but this is definitely not a reliable way to send and pick up your things.

  6. Denise Says:

    Hi,

    I really need hep with this one.I am travelling with my husband for the firs time to France and i got carried away with shopping.
    I am now 10kgs over (Excess Baggage) and don’t seem to understand how this shipping thing works.. I got onto DHL and there price is $441 Euro. And FEDEX is $393Euro.
    Surely someone would know of these websites where you can get something reasnoble for 10kg Excess being ONLY clohes— To Australia.
    Please help, My husband is going to Kill me…LOL

    Please

    Thanks Everyone

    Denise

  7. How To Get Keys To Couchsurfers, Friends, And Visitors When Traveling | foXnoMad Says:

    [...] to use and most internationally available methods of package pickup and delivery is called “poste restante” or  aka. general delivery. As Upgrade: Travel Better describes it, Poste restante is an old [...]

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