How to Ship Cremated Remains
Many families find themselves needing to ship the ashes of their loved ones either domestically or internationally, but it’s not as easy as putting the ashes in a box and sending them on their way. There are necessary rules and regulations to follow in almost all transportation situations, so it’s important to know what to expect when shipping human cremains, flying with ashes, or transporting them by car.
Mailing cremated remains
You are able to ship cremated remains through the United States Postal Service.
If you plan on shipping cremated remains, there are certain rules and regulations you’ll need to follow. USPS is the only mail carrier allowed to legally ship ashes. If you’re looking for information on how to ship cremated remains, keep reading.
Is shipping ashes legal?
The only delivery service that can legally ship cremated remains is USPS. The USPS offers specific guidance on how to mail cremated remains, which you can find summarized below.
USPS requires you to package cremains in a specific way to prevent the remains from spilling during transport. You’ll need to purchase or provide both an “inner primary container” and an “outer shipping package”.
Inner primary container
If shipping domestically, your inner primary container needs to be durable and able to protect the contents inside. The container must also be sealed and “sift-proof” to prevent the contents from spilling.
If shipping internationally, your inner primary container needs to be a funeral urn. The funeral urn must also be sealed properly and sift-proof. Note: If shipping internationally, you must ensure that the designated country allows the shipping of cremated remains and that Priority Mail Express International is available in the country you’re shipping to.
Include cushioning around the inner primary container to prevent the container from being damaged or broken during transport. Bubble wrap, newspaper, packing peanuts, and other types of cushioning are acceptable.
Addressing the container
The outer container could become damaged or have the label damaged during transport, so it’s important to also address the inner primary container with the correct destination address. It’s recommended by USPS that you put the inner primary container into a sealable plastic bag and place a label with the complete return address as well as the complete delivery address on the bag. You should also write “Cremated Remains” directly on the plastic bag.
Outer shipping container
Cremated remains can only be shipped by USPS Priority Mail Express or Priority Mail Express International Service.
The USPS provides a Priority Mail Express Cremated Remains box that you can use for both domestic and international shipments through the Priority Mail Express service. Both of these boxes can be ordered online.
Before you close the package, they recommend including another piece of paper that includes both a return address and a delivery address, just in case.
Labeling the package
The outer shipping container has to be marked with the Cremated Remains label, which should be placed on each side of the box (including the top and at the bottom). You can purchase this label online as well.
For a complete overview on how to ship cremated remains with USPS, reference their guide.
Can you ship cremated remains with UPS?
UPS is not legally authorized to ship cremated remains, nor will they knowingly ship cremated remains.
Is shipping cremated remains with Fedex allowed?
Fedex is not legally allowed to ship cremated remains, nor will they knowingly ship cremated remains.
How much does it cost to ship cremated remains?
The cost of shipping cremated remains depends on the weight of the package and the cost of Priority Mail Express Service, which usually will start out around $25.00.
Transporting human ashes internationally
It’s possible to both mail cremated remains internationally and fly with cremated remains internationally. The specific rules and regulations depend on the country you’re flying to and the airline you’re flying with, so you’ll need to consult with a consulate or embassy, and your airline for the full picture before transporting cremated remains internationally.
Are there regulations for shipping human remains internationally?
When shipping cremated remains internationally, you’ll again need to consult with a consult or embassy for the country you’re shipping to. Some countries do not allow human remains to be shipped to the country.
You will need to include a complete delivery address and complete return address when shipping remains internationally. You must indicate that the contents in the package are cremated remains on the customs declaration form, which you’ll need to include. Additionally, USPS states that the cremation certificate should be attached to either the outer box or it should be made easily accessible. It is your responsibility to adhere to any restrictions by the country you’re shipping to.
Are there regulations regarding flying with cremated remains internationally?
Every country (and airline) has its own set of rules and regulations regarding the transportation of human remains and shipping ashes or mailing cremated remains. You should check with the relevant country’s embassy before flying or traveling to ensure you have the required documentation and meet their regulation standards. You should additionally check with the airline you’re traveling with to see if they have any special regulations regarding transporting human remains.
What type of documentation is required when flying internationally with cremated remains?
The type of necessary documentation will depend on the country you’re traveling to, the country you’re traveling to, and the airline you’re traveling with.
When transporting cremated remains internationally by plane, you’ll need to obtain a few different documents:
- A death certificate
- The certificate of cremation
It’s also a good idea (just in case) to have:
- Documentation from the funeral home or cremation company certifying that the container holds ashes of the person who passed away
- Proof of your relation to the deceased
- Any kind of export or import permits required by your country and/or the country you’re traveling to
This information is best gathered far ahead of time, especially if it's a death certificate you're after. Death certificates can sometimes take weeks to process, so you don't want to find yourself in a situation where you're without the required documentation and only a few days from needing to ship an item.
How to fly with cremated remains
Flying with cremated remains is a fairly standard procedure in the United States. Here’s what to know when flying with cremated remains:
In general, it’s recommended that you bring cremains with you in a carry-on bag to prevent the ashes from being disturbed and to protect the urn or container you’re traveling with. The container or urn will be passed through an X-ray machine in order to be screened. If the container fails this checkpoint, the TSA “may apply other, non-intrusive means of resolving the alarm”.
If the TSA is unable to clear the alarm and can’t ensure the container does not contain a dangerous item, you will be unable to bring the remains with you on the plane.
Here’s what you should keep in mind when flying with cremated remains:
- Talk to your funeral director or cremation company before flying and ask if there’s anything you need to know or be aware of before transporting the remains on a plane.
- Bring the cremains with you on the plane, in a carry-on bag.
- Store the cremains in a temporary, sealed container instead of the final urn. This can help ensure it passes the X-ray machine and that your urn isn’t damaged during travel. Most funeral homes and cremation companies provide temporary storage containers for cremains.
- Ensure the cremains are sealed before traveling. You do not want to open up your carry-on bag to find that the ashes have spilled all over your belongings.
- If you don’t want to store the cremains in your carry-on bag, be sure to check with your airline before checking the cremated remains in your checked luggage. There are airlines who will not allow you to store cremated remains in your checked bag.
You can find more information on TSA guidelines, here.
Transporting cremated remains by car
Transporting cremated ashes by car is by far the easiest method of transportation for ashes. There are no requirements or specific regulations about transporting ashes in your car, so long as you don’t enter into another country. If you’re transporting ashes in your car, it’s still recommended that you package the ashes properly. It may be worth transporting the ashes in the temporary container provided by the funeral home or cremation company instead of the final urn to prevent the urn from being damaged. Make sure that the ashes are in a sealed bag or container and that’s properly secure before starting your journey. If you’re at all worried about transporting ashes, you can consider bringing a death certificate and a cremation certificate from the funeral home on your journey.
If you’re looking for an urn to store the ashes in, visit the marketplace for affordable options.