Set up a trackable form of shipment via the USPS. Not all letters or packages can be automatically tracked through the postal system, so make sure that the method you are using does allow for tracking. Some tracking requires a wait of 45 days for lost mail.
Domestic first class and media mail shipments do not automatically include tracking. You must request tracking be added, for which there is an additional charge.
Most other forms of shipping (that are more expensive than first class), such as Priority Mail, do include tracking.
Not all forms of tracking are equal. As a general rule, the more expensive the form of shipping, the more detailed the tracking information will be.
Hold on to your receipt. The receipt should include a tracking number (titled a “Label number” on some receipts) at the bottom of the form.
The number of digits and the precise format of the tracking number may differ depending on the form of shipment you selected. For a list of the differing formats, see here.
Go to the the USPS website. The USPS website–USPS.com–has links on nearly every page that will take you to the pages for tracking packages. The general search box on the site’s homepage will also track packages if you enter the information here.
Type the tracking number into a search box and then press the enter key.
Understand the USPS status descriptions. The USPS uses a particular terminology to describe the status of each package, and while most are straightforward enough others are less comprehensible.
You will see “Arrived at USPS Origin Facility” indicating the moment the package was first entered in the USPS sorting system. This is not necessarily the same as the first Post Office that the package was in, but the first place in which it was prepared for transshipment to the next point.
“Arrived at Post Office” will be seen when the package has arrived in the vicinity of its final delivery but still remains within a USPS facility.
The description “Out for Delivery” is perhaps the most straightforward. The package is currently with a postal service agent for delivery.
“Unable to Deliver” will appear if the package required a signature or further instructions in order to facilitate delivery. At this point, the package will usually be returned to the local postal facility for later delivery.