All sites have an US Post Office
Packing your belongings will take some extra thought and planning. Packages will be traveling through a number of sorting centers before arriving in Anchorage, the states freight hub. From Anchorage, your totes or boxes will fly to Nome or Unalakleet where they will be sorted one more time before they are sent to the village by small airplane to be unloaded in rain, snow or sunshine by hand. Freight is often stacked outside on the runway before being loaded and delivered to the post offices by truck or in a cart towed by an ATV. Sometimes boxes get dropped or fall from a stack. Often the weather is challenging so boxes are exposed to rain, snow, and windy conditions.
- It can take 2 weeks to a month for boxes mailed parcel post from the Lower-48 to arrive in our communities (even longer for Diomede).
- You can certainly mail things priority mail, at a higher cost. It might be better to get organized and mail things early to help save some money.
As for the weight of your packages, there are two schools of thought.
- The first being that the fewer boxes the better. There is some mathematical reasoning to back this up as well: it is cheaper to send one 40-pound box than two 20-pound boxes. Mind you, as long as it meets overall dimension criteria, the USPS will accept packages up to 70 pounds.
- The other school of thought is that it is likely a lot easier to get your package to the post office you are mailing it from than it will be for you to get it home in the village. Another consideration is that the heavier the box, the more awkward it is to handle and the more opportunities it will get dropped somewhere along the way (a LOT of people will handle your box from the time it leaves you until it arrives in the village). Folks in this camp shoot for boxes between 35-45 pounds knowing that they ultimately have to haul them all once they get to their village.
Tape is cheap, much cheaper than replacing items that get lost when boxes explode for one reason or another.
Rubber Maid bins with holes drilled around the lid to zip tie shut are a popular option for sending things.
You also want to label your boxes clearly.
The weather can be unpredictable and extreme. Weather can affect the time it takes to deliver your belongings.
Prepare your Totes for success
- Drill holes through the lid and tote and secure the lids with zip ties. Leave the ties long and pointed down.
(Everyone who picks up your box will thank you.)
- Write the address on the tote using a permanent ink marker. Addresses taped onto totes might come off.
- Label the lid and tote with a number/letter you can match up the drill holes for future shipping. The numbers/letters will also make it handy to keep an inventory of your items. When you arrive, you will find the really important things straight away.
- Try to keep totes under 50 pounds. Heavy boxes get dropped. Planes have limited amount of weight so lighter boxes will be easier to load the plane.
- Use lots of padding to protect items, and pack tight so items do not shift.
- When shipping liquids/powders (think groceries) put them in zip-loc bags so that if one item breaks, it won't ruin everything else in the tote. Sometimes a double-bagging will not only prevent the spread of a burst item, but it will add additional padding.
- Do not mail anything that will spoil within 4 weeks.
- Whenever you can, ship liquid items in their own tote. Air pressure can sometimes burst bottles or break seals.
- Research whether it is cheaper to ship your belongings or order it from Amazon. Prime members receive free shipping but not all items ship to Alaska or ship for free to Alaska. It may work out cheaper to order an inexpensive item. Sometimes it will only ship with a physical address.
Flat Rate Boxes
Flat Rate Boxes
Another option is using USPS Flat Rate boxes. Check the USPS flat rate page for current pricing.
- There is a 70 lb limit.
- Heavy items such as non perishable food items like can goods are a good option for Flat Rate boxes.
- Picture on the left is an example of how some boxes may arrive. Make sure you use tape on all edges.
- Label appropriately (Fragile, Liquid, etc...)
- Secure your contents with padding or plastic bags for liquids.