4 tips for tracking your packages

Can't wait for that online order to get here? Here's how you can keep tabs on shipments.

Sarah Jacobsson Purewal Freelance Writer
Sarah is a freelance writer and CNET How To blogger. Her main focus is Windows, but she also covers everything from mobile tech to video games to DIY hardware projects. She likes to press buttons and see what happens, so don't let her near any control panels.
Sarah Jacobsson Purewal
3 min read
Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/CNET

Online shopping is awesome -- there are deals around every corner, you can do it in your pajamas, and sometimes you don't even have to pay sales tax! But there is a downside: No instant gratification. Once you make an online purchase, you need to wait days or even weeks before it's in your hand, which can be agonizing.

Related: 6 tricks for savvy online shopping

Thank goodness for online package tracking! But even though the Internet has made it easier to pinpoint exactly when your shipment will arrive at your doorstep, tracking packages can be a hassle with so many different carriers.

Here are our tricks for organizing and tracking packages all of your -- no matter which carrier is delivering them.

Google it

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If you know the tracking number of your shipment, but you're not sure which carrier that number belongs to, just plug the number into Google. Google will return a link that lets you go directly to the correct carrier's tracking page. (Some carriers use similar tracking numbers, in which case Google will return a couple of links that you'll need to click through to find your package.)

Search your inbox

Logged-in Gmail users can use Google to find past purchases -- complete with tracking info (if available) -- that are lost in their inboxes.

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Simply type "track packages" into Google and your search results will include a box titled "Your purchases." Here you'll see receipts and confirmation emails from online orders. At a glance, this box shows the name of the store you ordered from and whether the order has been confirmed, shipped, or delivered. Click on each line for details, including the products purchased, the total price, and a clickable link that will take you directly to the carrier's tracking page.

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Another tip for Gmail users -- if an email in your inbox contains tracking info, you'll see a little box to the left of the subject line that says "Track package." Click this box to go directly to the carrier's tracking page.

Use a universal tracking service

If you do a lot of online shopping, you're probably going to get packages from a number of different carriers -- not just USPS, UPS, and FedEx. A universal tracking service like Package Trackr can help you keep all your shipments organized. I like Package Trackr because it supports 35 different carriers, including DHL, OnTrac and Parcelforce.

Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/CNET

Just plug your tracking number into Package Trackr and you'll be able to see the status of your package, as well as detailed delivery progress as it makes its way to your house. Sign up for a Package Trackr account, and you can choose to get email notifications for different status updates (e.g. when your package is at customs clearance, or when your package is out for delivery) and give each shipment its own nickname. You can also forward confirmation emails to Package Trackr, and the service will automatically extract tracking information and place it in your account.

Use an app

Package Trackr is a handy service, but it has one big flaw -- text/mobile notifications are "coming soon." If you'd rather get tracking updates on your phone, I don't blame you. Luckily, there's an app for that!

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Actually, there are several apps, but my favorite is Slice. Slice (Android and iOS) is a free app that plugs into your email account -- sort of like TripIt -- to find all of your past purchases and upcoming shipments. On the Slice homescreen, you'll be able to see all current shipments, which you can tap to see tracking info and order details.

Slice's notifications aren't as detailed as Package Trackr's, but you can choose to get push notifications to let you know when packages are shipped, out for delivery, and delivered, as well as when products you've ordered in the past undergo a price drop or a product recall. Slice connects to Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, Outlook, Comcast, iCloud, Cox and Amazon accounts and currently supports over a thousand merchants (though the app also found several non-supported merchant receipts in my inbox).