“If it fits, it ships!” Mailing Your Hawaii Vacation Souvenirs Home

If you’ve been reading Go Visit Hawaii for a while, you know that I’m a huge fan of packing light. When you travel with two carry-ons, you not only save money by not paying checked luggage fees, you also save quite a bit of time and hassle. See my popular article, Six Savvy Reasons Why You Should Travel Light.

One of the downsides of packing light is that there’s very limited room in your luggage for bringing home souvenirs. On many visits to Hawaii, I’ve had to reluctantly resist buying bags of Kona coffee and our favorite milk chocolate toffee covered macadamia nuts. Since it’s almost impossible to find those Hawaiian treats back home, resisting them was a big challenge.

Enter my new best friends — the USPS Priority Mail Flat Rate Shipping Boxes!

After perusing yet another gift shop in Hawaii and leaving empty handed, I got the idea to check into using the USPS flat rate shipping boxes that I’d seen in commercials. I stepped into a post office and asked about the process of using the flat rate boxes and the cost. Here’s how it works:

  • Pick up the flat rate boxes from a post office. From all the post offices I visited, I noticed that the boxes are held within lobby of the main post office service desks, so, you can only pick up the boxes during office hours.
  • Make sure the box you select is labeled as “Priority Mail” and says it’s the “Flat Rate Box”
  • There is no specific charge for the box when you pick it up. (I suppose you eventually pay for it as part of the flat rate.)
  • The boxes are flat and not assembled, so you will need tape. The post office will sell you tape or you can bring a roll with you.
  • Pack your box as full as you can to minimize damage to the items you’re shipping. If items are allowed to move around they’re more likely to get broken or scratched. Use plastic bags and such to fill in gaps. Trust me on this one, I used to design packaging back in my engineering days.
  • After you’ve packed and addressed your box, take it to the nearest post office and send it on it’s way. Again, I’d recommend you go during office hours just to be safe.
  • Prices for the flat rate range from $4.95 for a small to $14.50 for the large. I opted for the large. Note: just like stamps, pricing is subject to increases. These prices are from 2010.
  • For more information on using the flat rate boxes, see this USPS Web site.

I picked up the large box with the dimensions of 12″ x 12″ x 5.5″. I packing it full to the gills. I bet it weighed 20 lbs or more. I packed several bags and boxes of macadamia nuts, three bags of Kona coffee, a book, a coffee mug, and a few odds and ends like well wrapped sunscreens that were more than 3 oz and therefore too big to carry on my return flights.

I thought I’d receive the package a week or more after I mailed it. I was happily surprised that I mailed my package from Hawaii on a Friday afternoon and I received it back home in North Carolina on the following Tuesday. I discovered that the priority bit on the name means that they arrive to their destination within 2 – 3 shipping days.

As silly as this may sound, I was so excited to receive the box I sent to myself. It was almost like Christmas morning. I will most definitely be using the flat rate shipping boxes again.

  1. Brilliant! – BTW, there is a post office right in Ala Moana shopping center, near Sears. One in Waikiki as well on the far side, away from Diamond Head. (Across the street from Eggs & Things)

    1. Thanks, Dave. That Eggs & Things location rocks…good cheap breakfast + a walkable nearby post office = great convenience for Waikiki vacationers!

    1. Mark – do you know how the costs would compare between similar sized FedEx and USPS boxes?

      Can you pick up FedEx boxes for free? Do the “pack n’ ship” type places charge an additional fee when you use FedEx? Or do you have to go to a FedEx place in order to avoid those fees?

      While I’m sure there are FedEx locations in Hawaii, I have to say that I’ve encountered post offices far more often.

  2. Did you put your home address as the return address and mailing address? I want to ship home from vacation but not sure if it’s legal to have the same address for both. Thanks for your help!

    1. That link is if you want to order boxes to be sent to your home or business. They’re currently free to order them but they are sent in quantities of 10 or 25.

      When in Hawaii, we pick up individual boxes from a post office.

      Pricing has probably gone up a bit — maybe a dollar or two, I’ve not checked for the large box. I have sent small boxes recently.

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