15 Parking Hacks to Make Driving a Breeze

istock
istock

There’s no greater feeling than hitting the open road for a drive, at least until you have to park. Try these helpful tips to save yourself a little time and a lot of frustration. 

1. PARK FACING EAST IN THE WINTER. 

Frost can be a huge problem on winter mornings. One small thing you can do to cut back on the amount of scraping you have to do before you head to work: Park facing east when you’re leaving your car outside. With this positioning, when the sun rises in the morning, its rays will be directly hitting your windshield. The extra heat will do at least some of the de-icing work for you. 

2. HARNESS THE POWER OF KITTY LITTER... 

The sun can help with ice, but it won’t defog your windshield. Fill a tube sock with (unused) kitty litter and place it on your dashboard right by the windshield. The kitty litter will absorb some of the excess moisture that would otherwise spend its morning fogging up your windshield. That litter will also come in handy if you find yourself stuck in the snow—sprinkle some under your tires for traction. 

3. … AND A RAZOR BLADE. 

Still having trouble seeing clearly or need to take care of residue or other messes that have landed on your windshield while you were parked? Carefully use a razor blade to scrape away tough or tacked-on messes. 

4. BREAK OUT THE HAND SANITIZER. 

In the winter, car locks and doors can freeze over, making it difficult to get back in your car.  A little hand sanitizer will get things moving again. Rub some alcohol-based sanitizer on the lock as well as your key, then insert it. 

5. PUT A TENNIS BALL IN YOUR GARAGE. 

If you’re lucky enough to have garage parking, hang a tennis ball on a string from the ceiling to work as a parking guide. To start, park your car exactly where you want it in the garage. Next, get a ladder and position the stringed tennis ball so it falls right in the center of your windshield. Now you know exactly how far you can pull forward without hitting anything. 

6. DO SOME RESEARCH. 

If you’re planning to use a parking garage in a city, it pays to do some shopping around. Before you leave, look up all the nearby parking garages and find the one with the best deal. Print out the advertised pricing structure and bring it with you. When bargaining for the right price with parking lot attendants, they won’t be able to argue if you have it in writing. 

7. PICK A QUIET STREET. 

Big city parking garages come with even bigger price tags. If you want to trim your expenses, street parking is usually a more affordable alternative. Not surprisingly, you’ll want to focus your attention on quiet side streets. Your phone can come in handy here: If you’re driving around an unfamiliar place, there are a number of apps you can download to help you locate vacant spots and figure out whether or not they’re legal. Have your passengers use an app to direct you to the open real estate. Once you’re settled, don’t forget to read all nearby signs to avoid getting towed or ticketed.

8. DON’T BE AFRAID OF SLOPED SPOTS. 

Parking on an incline can be tricky, but it pays to remember your old driver’s education class. If you’re parallel parking next to a curb on a road sloping upwards, turn your steering wheel away from the curb so that if anything goes wrong, your car will roll backwards towards the curb, and not into traffic. Parking downhill? Make sure your steering wheel is turned toward the curb. Finally, if you’re parking on a hill in either direction, but there’s no curb to be found, turn your wheel to the right to ensure your car rolls off the road should your parking brake fail.

9. GET HELP FROM THE DOORMAN. 

For the right price, doormen can help you avoid tickets and street cleaners. Friends living in the city usually have a doorman who will be willing to move your car for a small tip.

10. KEEP A COLLECTION OF QUARTERS ON HAND. 

Old pill bottles and certain candy containers are the perfect shape to hold a roll of quarters. Keep the whole thing in your glove compartment so you never have to search under seats just to park. 

11. REMEMBER PARALLEL PARKING IS ALL ABOUT THE BUMPERS.

Still suffering from residual nervousness over the parallel parking on your driver’s license exam? You have nothing to fear. To parallel park, start by lining up about two feet from the car in front of the space you’re after. While stopped, cut your wheels all the way right. Back up until you can see the back car’s license plate in your side mirror. Once those are lined up, straighten your wheel and back up until the front of your car is past the back of the first car. Next, stop your car, cut your wheel, and finish parking.

12. REVERSE PARK FOR AN EASY EXIT.

If you know you’re going to be leaving a big event like a concert or sporting event at the same time as a lot of other drivers, you can take some steps to make your exit a little more straightforward. For starters, back into your spot. To begin, pull up two and half spots in front of the empty spot. After checking for pedestrians, begin slowly backing up and turning your wheel towards the spot. Keep turning until the lines of the parking spot are parallel in your side mirrors. Once they’re lined up, straighten your wheel and back in. 

13. GET INTO A SPACE ON THE FIRST TRY. 

If you’re parking in a standard parking lot, the process is pretty straightforward. But sometimes, you come into the space at the wrong angle, and need to back up and try again. Avoid wasting your time on a redo by turning extra wide into the spot. This means turning the opposite direction first before cutting the other direction between cars on either side of the space.  

14. USE AN APP TO HELP FIND YOUR CAR...

If you find yourself often forgetting where exactly you parked, there’s no shame in calling in some outside help. There are a number of apps that help you locate your car once you park it. Most employ GPS to help you hone in on the exact location of your car in no time.

15. … OR YOU CAN JUST SNAP A PICTURE. 

If you really, really have trouble finding where you parked your car, try taking pictures. Take a wide shot of your parked car and another of the street signs at the closest intersection. It’s almost impossible to lose your car when you have the cross streets right on your phone.

Keep Your Cat Busy With a Board Game That Doubles as a Scratch Pad

Cheerble
Cheerble

No matter how much you love playing with your cat, waving a feather toy in front of its face can get monotonous after a while (for the both of you). To shake up playtime, the Cheerble three-in-one board game looks to provide your feline housemate with hours of hands-free entertainment.

Cheerble's board game, which is currently raising money on Kickstarter, is designed to keep even the most restless cats stimulated. The first component of the game is the electronic Cheerble ball, which rolls on its own when your cat touches it with their paw or nose—no remote control required. And on days when your cat is especially energetic, you can adjust the ball's settings to roll and bounce in a way that matches their stamina.

Cheerable cat toy on Kickstarter.
Cheerble

The Cheerble balls are meant to pair with the Cheerble game board, which consists of a box that has plenty of room for balls to roll around. The board is also covered on one side with a platform that has holes big enough for your cat to fit their paws through, so they can hunt the balls like a game of Whack-a-Mole. And if your cat ever loses interest in chasing the ball, the board also includes a built-in scratch pad and fluffy wand toy to slap around. A simplified version of the board game includes the scratch pad without the wand or hole maze, so you can tailor your purchase for your cat's interests.

Cheerble cat board game.
Cheerble

Since launching its campaign on Kickstarter on April 23, Cheerble has raised over $128,000, already blowing past its initial goal of $6416. You can back the Kickstarter today to claim a Cheerble product, with $32 getting you a ball and $58 getting you the board game. You can make your pledge here, with shipping estimated for July 2020.

At Mental Floss, we only write about the products we love and want to share with our readers, so all products are chosen independently by our editors. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a percentage of any sale made from the links on this page. Prices and availability are accurate as of the time of publication.

9 Outdoor Accessories for the Perfect Backyard Party

Amazon/OtterBox
Amazon/OtterBox

Hosting the perfect party in the great outdoors doesn't have to involve you moving any further than your own backyard. Whether you’re looking for games to play with friends, chairs to keep you comfortable, or tents to turn your yard into your own personal campsite, check out some of these essential products that will transform your own patch of nature into a true outdoor oasis.

1. Wine Tumbler; $20

Tumblers from Otterbox
OtterBox

These wine tumblers from Otterbox will make your backyard the toast of the summer. Made from 100 percent stainless steel and lined with copper, these 10-ounce cups will keep your wine at the perfect temperature until the last s’more is eaten and the fire is put out. Each tumbler holds two standard wine pours and has a sweat-resistant design so you can leave your coasters inside. And each tumbler is fitted with a press-in lid, keeping your drink secure whether you’re taking a walk or playing a game with friends.

Buy it: Otterbox

2. Wood-Burning Fire Pit; $300

Wood-burning fire pit from Wayfair.
Martha Stewart/Wayfair

This steel wood-burning fire pit is exactly what you need to create a little ambiance once the moon is out and friends and family are ready to unwind with some roasted marshmallows. The pit itself is only a few feet across, so you'll be able to build a cozy fire for a handful of people, and the mesh screen that secures over it will keep the sparks away from you and your party. 

Buy it: Wayfair

3. Kabob Grilling Baskets; $17

Kebob grilling baskets on UncommonGoods.
UncommonGoods

No backyard adventure is complete without a tasty meal, and these kabob grilling baskets will help you spend less time on the grill and more time enjoying the beauty of nature. These baskets can be packed with all the ingredients you could ever want for kabobs, and without wooden skewers involved, you’ll avoid any unwanted splinters in your meal. With the ability to customize each basket, you’ll have the flexibility to create the perfect portable dinner for guests (or just for yourself).

Buy it: UncommonGoods

4. Beer Caddy; $25

A beer caddy on Amazon.
LEGACY/Amazon

Beer lovers won’t have to worry about foregoing a cold one while spending some time outside. This soft cotton canvas caddy can hold up to six bottles or cans, and it comes with a removable inner divider, so you have the flexibility of mixing and matching different-sized beverages. Its attached bottle opener—which is hooked to the caddy via a retractable cord— can be stowed in a side pocket for quick access, allowing you to open your drinks with ease.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Outdoor Jenga; $119

A large outdoor Jenga game
Jenga/Amazon

Mix up the usual ghost stories and campfire singalongs with this giant game of outdoor Jenga. Fifteen times larger than the size of a standard Jenga game, these extra-large Jenga blocks can stack up to over 5 feet high and are the perfect size for a deck or beach towel. This set comes with a portable bag for all the blocks so you can easily transport the game from one spot in the backyard to another.

Buy it: Amazon

6. and 7. Camping Chair; $30 and Loveseat Camping Chair; $73

A Colman outdoor chair on Amazon.
Coleman/Amazon

If you’re not a fan of sitting on wet grass or getting bugs on your clothes, this camping chair from Coleman will help you kick back in style. The chair has a cushioned seat and back for maximum outdoor comfort, and it also has a built-in four-can cooler pouch to keep cold beverages handy. It even comes with a nifty side pocket for books, magazines, and newspapers.

An outdoor loveseat that's available on Amazon.
Goplus/Amazon

For anyone who hates toting multiple chairs outside, check out this loveseat-style camping chair! Its ergonomic design seats two people with ease, and it’s supported by a rust-resistant steel frame and weather-resistant fabric for withstanding the elements (or just a shower from a nearby sprinkler). Even though it can hold up to 400 pounds of weight, the chair itself weighs only 11 pounds, making it an ideal choice for anyone who wants to avoid making extra trips to the garage for gear.

Buy itAmazon (camping chair); Amazon (loveseat)

8. Camping Hammock; $29-$40

A hammock that's available on Amazon.
Wise Owl Outfitters/Amazon

If you're one to go a bit horizontal toward the end of a party, take a look at this hammock from Wise Owl Outfitters. Made from heavy-duty parachute nylon, this hammock is incredibly durable and can be secured to trees with a simple set of straps. The hammock comes in two different sizes, a twin and a full, so you can choose the size that's right for you. And best of all? The largest one weighs only 26 ounces, making it easy to take comfort on the go.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Magnetic Door House Tent; $172

A magnetic door house tent on Wayfair.
Wayfair

Mosquitos, flies, and other outdoor pests don’t stand a chance against this portable screened-in porch from Wayfair. This outdoor sanctuary is big enough to fit a picnic table (and all of your friends) inside, and it features two magnetic-close front and back doors. This tent even comes with a 10-year warranty, so you can rest easy knowing that it will provide you with backyard adventures—and zero bug bites—for years to come.

Buy it: Wayfair

At Mental Floss, we only write about the products we love and want to share with our readers, so all products are chosen independently by our editors. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a percentage of any sale made from the links on this page. Prices and availability are accurate as of the time of publication.