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Give yourself the gift of using a package tracker

Give yourself the gift of using a package tracker


You won’t know how nice keeping track of everything in one place is until you try it for yourself.

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A screenshot of the Parcel package tracking app.
Parcel gives you an overview of where all your packages are and can notify you when they’re moving.
Image: Parcel

My inbox is always awash with different shipping notifications, especially this time of year, as I’ve got gifts in transit to family members all across the country. “See what packages are coming your way,” sing FedEx, UPS, and the USPS’s Informed Delivery digests. “Here’s the latest on that thing you ordered,” say a billion online stores. The cacophony doesn’t bother me, though. I know I can safely ignore almost all of those emails because an app called Parcel is already keeping me up to date on everything that they’re trying to tell me.

While I’m about to heap a lot of praise on this specific app, it’s worth noting that it’s far from the only package tracking app around (I’ve heard a lot of praise for Shopify’s Shop, which also benefits from being available for Android, and we have to pay homage to an App Store OG like JuneCloud’s Deliveries even if it’s no longer what it once was). If you’re the type of person who does any meaningful amount of shopping online, I cannot recommend having one enough.

Screenshot of Parcel’s screen for adding deliveries.
Good delivery apps will auto-detect the carrier based on the tracking number — and let you change it in case they’re wrong.

Here’s what the workflow looks like: the minute I get a tracking number for a package, I open up Parcel and add it, along with a description of what’s getting delivered. And that’s... pretty much it. The app handles it from there, giving me notifications as it moves toward my house, which makes it so that I don’t have to constantly check where the thing I’m impatiently waiting for is. I’m always ambiently aware that it’s currently somewhere in Kentucky or flying over my house so it can go to a shipping hub before being routed back toward me. And if I want a broader overview, Parcel will show me a list of all the packages I’ve entered, alongside an estimate of how many days until they arrive, as shown in the screenshot at the top of this article.

(Conveniently, the length of that list also acts as a good indicator of whether I’ve been doing too much shopping. If it takes up my entire phone screen, it’s a good sign that I need to cut back.)

As for why I use Parcel specifically — and am willing to pay the $4.99 yearly subscription — there are a few features it has that make it perfect for the specific way I use apps. Perhaps the biggest is that there’s a version of it for macOS, so I’m not limited to tracking and adding packages on my phone. It also has a ton of options when it comes to how it arranges data; if I wanted to see how many days it’d been since my items shipped rather than how long it was until they’re delivered, there’s an option for that. I have my list arranged to put the packages with the most recent updates at the top, but there are also several other options.

Screenshot of Parcel’s package tracking screen.
I also love Parcel’s map view because it’s just fun — and as your package moves, it’ll draw a line to show the path it’s taken.

Parcel is also relatively omnivorous. It can track packages from pretty much every major carrier here in the US, and according to its website, it can even automatically add and track packages from Amazon if you give it access to your account. I would recommend reading reviews for any tracking apps you’re looking at if you frequently shop at Amazon, though, as not all of them handle those packages gracefully. (I can’t personally speak to whether Parcel does or not, as I try to avoid the retailer.)

Having an overview of where your packages are may seem like peak consumerism — and I’ll admit that it kind of is. But it’s not just useful for stimulating the part of your brain that wants the thing you ordered right now; I’ve also found it very helpful whenever I’m selling things on eBay and want to make sure my customers are getting their orders on time. It’s also nice to know when something’s gone wrong in the shipping process, so I’m not waiting by the door for something that was supposed to be arriving but got held up somewhere.

While I actively appreciate my package manager around holidays and birthdays, it’s a handy tool to have year-round, and you should make this the time you give one a try if you’ve never gotten into the habit before. (Searching your email for tracking numbers and then Googling them individually really is no way to live!)

If you’re intrigued by Parcel specifically, you can download it for iOS here and macOS here — you can try it out for free, though premium features like notifications do require a subscription. And if you’d rather try something else, there are plenty of alternatives available on the App and Play stores.