How to Mail Cremains

by Alex Johnson June 26, 2019 3 min read

With death there is a level of unpredictability; whether in timing, how it occurs, or often,where the death occurs. With every passing of someone we love, we are forced to confront the lack of control we actually have in those moments. What can truly make the circumstances that much worse is when a loved one passes away from home. Should the ashes of a loved one need to be transported, a funeral home would have the capability to handle the process completely. However, there are two other options for moving cremains: shipping via USPS or traveling with the remains via flight.


Neon united states postal service sign on the side of a building at night


It’s best to choose a funeral home in the same state or city your loved one is located; they would then take care of all of the arrangements necessary to mail the cremains. However, it’s understandable if the bereaved would rather handle the transport themselves. Whether to bring a loved one home or to take their ashes to another location for burial or scattering. In any case, there is a bit of a process one must go through to travel with the cremains legally. 

The United States Postal Service is the onlymailing service in the United States who is authorized to ship cremated remains. They have specified guidelines to ensure the safe departure and arrival of your loved one. For example, all cremains must be shipped using Priority Mail Express, a tracking number will be provided in doing so. Per policy, the USPS requires that the container holding the ashes themselves be strong, durable, and completely sift-proof. These requirements are set in place to ensure that none of the cremains are lost in transit or spill out onto other packages.

Such a container may be a temporary one; funeral homes will typically hand over cremains sealed in a plastic bag encased within a sturdy cardboard box, solely for the purpose of safe transport. If a more permanent vessel is desired, it should be made from a scannable material such as woodor paper. It would be unwise to bring a metalor stone urn already filled with ashes because the opacity of this material makes an x ray virtually impossible. Without an x ray, the TSA agent would then have to open the urn which could be emotionally distressing for the bereaved.


view from below of a plane flying through skyscrapers


If the bereaved is planning to travel with the cremains, the requirements are a little different. Each airline varies on the regulations set for ashes, some allow the urn inside of the carry-on bag, others only allow cremains via cargo. It would be prudent to call the airline ahead of time to be clear on the procedure set in place for traveling with cremains. Every airline however, does require the person traveling with cremains have the Burial Transit Permit on hand as it is necessary to verify the lawful presence of human remains.


Having someone die in another state, or even another country, adds an additional concern for the family to process while simultaneously dealing with the death and making final arrangements. As unpredictable as death truly is, there are various options for transportation that can be taken by the bereaved to facilitate the process of getting their loved ones to their final resting place.




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