6 Tips From Travel Experts for Packing Winter Clothes

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Winter is a great time to snag travel deals, but if you’re going to spend all those extra savings on baggage fees, you’re better off staying home. To get the most out of your winter vacation, pack your clothes efficiently. Not only will you save money at the airport, but you’ll also save time and stress during the packing and unpacking process. We asked some travel experts about the methods they use to maximize their luggage space when heavy winter clothing is involved.

1. WEAR YOUR BULKIEST ITEMS.

A woman in a winter coat and gloves stands in an airport with her suitcase.
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No matter what folding method or fancy equipment you use, your winter coat will always take up more room in your suitcase than a t-shirt. One simple way to save space is to forgo packing it in your bag at all and wear it on the trip. The layering method is an essential strategy for Chris Elliott, travel writer and author of How to Be the World's Smartest Traveler (and Save Time, Money, and Hassle). “This method lets you avoid having to pack your heavy winter jacket, which as you know can easily fill up the entire carry-on,” he tells Mental Floss.

The same trick applies to your boots, gloves, scarves, sweaters, and any other piece of winter gear you can slip on without overheating. And don’t worry, you won’t be dressed for the tundra for the entirety of your journey: As soon as you get into the car or plane, slip off your jacket and use it to get comfy. Kristin Addis, writer of the travel blog Be My Travel Muse, does this when when she’s not storing her jacket in the overhead bin. “Sometimes flights are so cold that it’s really nice to use it as a blanket or extra pillow,” she tells Mental Floss.

2. FIND THE RIGHT BAG.

A closeup of a suitcase in front of a blue sky with a plane flying by.
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Winter puts your luggage to the test. A well-made bag should be able to fit a last-minute pair of socks when it’s already full to the brim, while an old, cheap model will be stretching at the seams long before that. Elliott recommends that travelers prioritize quality over bells and whistles. “You might have a really awesome bag that’s self-weighing and it’s got a charger in it,” he says, “but if it doesn’t hold up to the rigors of travel, you should leave it at home.” For a bag that delivers both fancy features and durability, Elliott recommends Blue Smart.

3. REMEMBER: LESS IS MORE.

A woman sitting on an overstuffed suitcase.
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Stuffing in that one extra sweater can be the undoing of many winter travelers. Instead of focusing on bulky outerwear, Addis prefers to pack light base layers that will keep her toasty without pushing her luggage past the weight limit. “I try to bring things that are inherently warm and lightweight like merino wool ski underwear and a very warm down jacket,” she tells Mental Floss. “Even with just those two layers I am good in -20°C as long as it is a dry cold.” If you have base layers packed for every day of your trip, there’s no reason to bring more than one or two sweaters. No one will fault you for wearing the same outfit twice. Elliott also prefers to pack base layers from quality brands like North Face over the flashier items he has in his closet. “If you’re going somewhere really cold, unless you're going to Aspen, you don’t really need to make a fashion statement,” he says. “You don’t need to pack your entire wardrobe.”

4. USE THE NAVY FOLDING METHOD.

A closeup of a person's hands packing rolled clothes into a suitcase.
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To roll or to fold? That is the question that plagues many travelers when they first set out to fill a suitcase. You may suspect that it doesn’t make much of a difference either way, but to both Elliott and Addis the answer is clear: Rolling is the way to go. For lighter undershirts, employ the fold-and-roll method used by the Navy. Lay the shirt flat on your bed or some other surface and fold the bottom third of the shirt to its back side. Next fold it vertically, laying the right half of the shirt over the left half. Finally, fold the left third of the shirt into the middle and then fold the remaining right third over that. Compress it even tighter by rolling the whole thing up starting from the collar. For sweaters, you can get away with a few less folds. Lay the garment flat and fold the arms behind the back to make an “X”. Fold it in two vertically—now you’re ready to start rolling it tight from top to bottom. If you’re worried about your perfectly bundled packages unraveling, secure them with a rubber band to give yourself peace of mind. Having a hard time visualizing how it's done? Check out this video.

5. INVEST IN LUGGAGE CUBES.

A set of three Eagle Creek packing cubes.
Amazon

To pack like a pro, get your hands on a set of luggage cubes. After testing them out, Elliott says he’ll never go back. “I always thought luggage cubes were gimmicky and then I tried them,” he says, “They are not gimmicky at all. Two luggage cubes can save you a ton of space.” Elliot's favorite cubes are from Eagle Creek. The mesh, zippered containers are basically mini suitcases: Fold and roll your clothes like you normally would then squeeze them into the cubes until they're full. The packed cubes fit like puzzle pieces into your bag, helping to maximize space. Addis is also a fan. “My big secret is packing cubes!” she says. “I roll and stuff each item into them, zip it up, and then it is organized and more compact.”

6. WEIGH YOUR BAG.

A woman weighing a suitcase on a scale.
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One extra pound can make the difference between paying an extra $50 at the airport and walking on the flight with that money in your pocket. Traveling with heavy winter gear means your bag is more likely to tip past the 50-pound limit. Avoid getting blind-sided at security by weighing your bag before you leave the house (a digital luggage scale is perfect for this). Pack the bare minimum amount of supplies you need before your first weight check. If you have a few pounds to spare and some room left in the bag, reward yourself by chucking in your favorite scarf or sweater you planned to leave behind.

11 Amazing Facts About Alligators

Cindy Larson/iStock via Getty Images
Cindy Larson/iStock via Getty Images

Alligators are pretty terrifying as they are, but scientists are making discoveries about the reptilian ambush predators that only add to that reputation.

1. Alligators have an extremely powerful bite.

You really, really don’t want to be bitten by an alligator. A 2004 study of wild and captive alligators found that large individuals bite down with 13,172 Newtons—or 2960 pounds—of force, one of the most powerful bites ever recorded for a living animal [PDF].

2. Alligators can consume almost a quarter of their body weight in one meal.

Alligators don’t have a problem with their eyes being bigger than their stomachs. Thanks to a special blood vessel—the second aorta—they’re able to shunt blood away from their lungs and towards their stomachs, stimulating the production of strong stomach acids to break down their meals faster. Juvenile alligators are capable of eating about 23 percent of their body weight in a sitting, which is equivalent to a 180-pound person eating more than 41 pounds of steak au poivre at a meal.

3. Alligators eat their young.

One of the biggest threats to an American alligator? Other alligators. When alligators are born they’re small enough to be light snacks for their older neighbors, and a 2011 study estimated that, in one Florida lake, bigger alligators ate 6 to 7 percent of the juvenile population every year.

4. An alligator's stomach can dissolve bones.

Alligator resting on a log in a swamp
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An alligator stomach is a hostile environment. Their stomach acids have a pH of less than 2—in the range of lemon juice and vinegar—and most soft-bodied prey is totally digested in two to three days. If you wound up in a gator stomach, however, you'd stick around a bit longer. Bone and other hard parts can take 13 to 100 days to disappear completely.

5. Alligators have antibiotic blood.

Alligators are tough—and not just because of the bony armor in their skins. Serum in American alligator blood is incredibly effective at combating bacteria and viruses, meaning that even alligators that lose limbs in mucky swamps often avoid infection.

6. Prehistoric ancestors of today's alligators lived 70 million years ago.

Alligator forerunners and relatives have been around for a very long time. The largest was Deinosuchus, a 40-foot alligatoroid that lurked in coastal habitats all over North America around 70 million years ago. Damaged bones suggest that unwary dinosaurs were a regular part of the “terrible crocodile's” diet. Fortunately, modern American alligators don’t come anywhere close to measuring up.

7. Alligator pairs often stick together.

A decade-long genetic study of Louisiana alligators found that some females paired with the same males multiple times, with one in particular choosing the same mate in 1997, 2002, and 2005. Even some females that mated with multiple partners still showed long-term fidelity to particular males.

8. Alligators love fruit.

Baby alligator riding on an adult's back
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Alligators aren’t strict carnivores. They also eat fruit when they get the chance, and might be important seed-dispersers. That might not sound so scary at first, but just watch this video of an alligator mashing a watermelon.

9. Despite their short legs, alligators can climb trees.

While on the lookout for alligators, you should remember to occasionally look up. American alligators, as well as several other species of crocodilian, are surprisingly accomplished climbers [PDF]. As long as there’s enough of an incline for them to haul themselves up, gators can climb trees to get to a better basking spot, or get the drop on you, as the case may be.

10. Alligators use tools to lure their prey.

Alligators might be reptilian innovators. Scientists have observed Indian and American species of alligator luring waterbirds by placing sticks and twigs across their snouts while they remain submerged. When the birds go to pick up the twigs for nesting material, the gators chomp. 

11. Alligators have no vocal cords, but they still make sounds.

Alligators are among the most vocal reptiles, despite not having vocal cords. By sucking in and then expelling air from their lungs, they can make different sounds to defend their territory, call to mates or their young, or fight off competitors—such as a guttural hiss or a frankly terrifying bellow.

13 Salty Facts About Mr. Peanut

Mr. Peanut attends the 90th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.
Mr. Peanut attends the 90th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.
Noam Galai/Getty Images

On January 22, 2020, in a morbid bit of pre-Super Bowl marketing, Planters took to the internet to announce that Mr. Peanut—the dapper little legume who has been peddling Planters peanuts for more than a century—has died at the ripe old age of 104. In order to pay tribute to the literal face of America's peanut industry, we’ve assembled some facts and history about this shell of a man.

1. Mr. Peanut was created by a 14-year-old.

Mr. Peanut wasn’t hatched from a cynical ad firm brainstorming session. His adorable visage was the product of a 14-year-old from Suffolk, Virginia named Antonio Gentile. Gentile entered a contest held by the Planters Chocolate and Nut Company in 1916 to crown a new peanut mascot. The aspiring Don Draper sketched out a doodle of a “Mr. P. Nut” strutting with a cane. After getting freshened up by a graphic designer—including donning his trademark spats and monocle—Gentile’s design was picked up and he was awarded $5.

(Postscript: The Gentile family became friendly with the Obici family, owners of the Planters empire, and Gentile’s nephews once suggested that the Obicis helped put him through medical school; he became a surgeon.)

2. Mr. Peanut has a full name.

According to Planters, Mr. Peanut is something of an informal moniker. The full name given to him by Gentile was Bartholomew Richard Fitzgerald-Smythe.

3. Mr. Peanut once weighed more than 300 pounds.

Although peanuts can be a highly sensible snack, full of healthy fats and protein, they can also be a source of too many calories. Case in point: the 300-pound cast iron Mr. Peanut, a display item made in the 1920s and 1930s. Planters would use the heavyset mascot on top of a fence post at their Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania factory.

4. Mr. Peanut survived the Great Depression.

During the economic downturn of the 1930s, things like “snacks” and “nutrition” suddenly became optional rather than expected. Though many food products struggled to cope with slimmed-down wallets, Planters plastered Mr. Peanut on bags of peanuts that sold for just five cents each. Declaring it a “nickel lunch,” the company was able to use the affordability of peanuts as a selling point.

5. Mr. Peanut went to war.


Getty Images

Specifically, World War II. When the U.S. entered the conflict, Mr. Peanut volunteered for service as a character featured on stamps and propaganda posters.

6. Mr. Peanut is a monocle enthusiast.

Food mascots rarely take sides on hot-button issues, but Mr. Peanut made an exception in 2014 when a fashion movement threatened the return of the monocle. After getting wind of men wearing the single-lens reading accessory, Mr. P issued a press release stating that he took notice of the “hipsters” following in his “stylish footsteps” and implied few could pull it off. The monocle has yet to fully re-emerge.

7. Mr. Peanut's Nutmobile predates the Wienermobile.


Planters

Though the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile usually takes most of the engine-driven PR credit, Planters actually introduced the NUTMobile, a shell-shaped portable advertising car, in 1935—a year prior to the Wienermobile’s introduction. A Planters salesman designed and drove the car, adding a decorative Mr. Peanut passenger behind him. (Mr. Peanut did not operate the vehicle because Mr. Peanut is not real.)

8. Mr. Peanut is in the Smithsonian.

How influential has Mr. Peanut been to the food industry? In 2013, the Smithsonian admitted his cast-iron incarnation into its National Museum of American History. The statue was exhibited as part of a series on marketing for the institution’s American Enterprise series; Antonio Gentile’s family also donated his original sketches for posterity.

9. Fans didn't want Mr. Peanut to change.


Planters

For the company's 100th anniversary in 2006, Planters held an online vote to see whether peanut aficionados wanted to see Mr. Peanut experiment with a sartorial change: Fans could vote for adding cufflinks, a bow tie, or a pocket watch. In the end, the ballot determined they wanted to keep him just the way he is.

10. Mr. Peanut has a fan club.

Mr. Peanut has appeared in so many different licensed products in an effort to expand his popularity—clocks, peanut butter grinders, and coloring books among them—that a collector was having trouble keeping track of them all. In 1978, Judith Walthall founded Peanut Pals, a Mr. Peanut appreciation club that circulates a newsletter and holds conventions. You can join for $20—practically peanuts.

11. Mr. Peanut has remained mostly silent.


mazmedia via YouTube

Mr. Peanut was already a few decades old when television came into prominence, which afforded him an opportunity to jump off packaging and magazine pages. Despite the new medium, Planters decided they liked him best when he didn’t talk—at all. The mascot was silent all the way up until 2010, when Robert Downey Jr. was commissioned to deliver his first lines. Bill Hader took over voicing duties from Downey in 2013.

12. Mr. Peanut found a buddy.

When Planters unveiled an updated Mr. Peanut for contemporary audiences in 2010, he was sporting a grey flannel suit as well as a new sidekick—Benson, a shorter, single-peanut tagalong. A Planters spokesman clarified to The New York Times that the two are “just friends” and live in separate residences.

13. In the 1970s, Mr. Peanut ran for Mayor of Vancouver.

Amid a burgeoning alternative art scene in 1970s Vancouver, a performance artist named Vincent Trasov decided it would be interesting to run for mayor of the city while in the guise of Mr. Peanut. Hailing from the “Peanut Party” and meant to be a commentary of the Nixon-era absurdities of politics, he was endorsed by novelist William S. Burroughs and received 2685 ballots—3.4 percent of the vote.

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