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.

10 Rad Gifts for Hikers

Greg Rosenke/Unsplash
Greg Rosenke/Unsplash

The popularity of bird-watching, camping, and hiking has skyrocketed this year. Whether your gift recipients are weekend warriors or seasoned dirtbags, they'll appreciate these tools and gear for getting most out of their hiking experience.

1. Stanley Nesting Two-Cup Cookset; $14

Amazon

Stanley’s compact and lightweight cookset includes a 20-ounce stainless steel pot with a locking handle, a vented lid, and two insulated 10-ounce tumblers. It’s the perfect size for brewing hot coffee, rehydrating soup, or boiling water while out on the trail with a buddy. And as some hardcore backpackers note in their Amazon reviews, your favorite hiker can take the tumblers out and stuff the pot with a camp stove, matches, and other necessities to make good use of space in their pack.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Osprey Sirrus and Stratos 24-Liter Hiking Packs; $140

Amazon

Osprey’s packs are designed with trail-tested details to maximize comfort and ease of use. The Sirrus pack (pictured) is sized for women, while the Stratos fits men’s proportions. Both include an internal sleeve for a hydration reservoir, exterior mesh and hipbelt pockets, an attachment for carrying trekking poles, and a built-in rain cover.

Buy them: Amazon, Amazon

3. Yeti Rambler 18-Ounce Bottle; $48

Amazon

Nothing beats ice-cold water after a summer hike or a sip of hot tea during a winter walk. The Yeti Rambler can serve up both: Beverages can stay hot or cold for hours thanks to its insulated construction, and its steel body (in a variety of colors) is basically indestructible. It will add weight to your hiker's pack, though—for a lighter-weight, non-insulated option, the tried-and-true Camelbak Chute water bottle is incredibly sturdy and leakproof.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Mappinners Greatest 100 Hikes of the National Parks Scratch-Off Poster; $30

Amazon

The perfect gift for park baggers in your life (or yourself), this 16-inch-by-20-inch poster features epic hikes like Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Once the hike is complete, you can scratch off the gold foil to reveal an illustration of the park.

Buy it: Amazon

5. National Geographic Adventure Edition Road Atlas; $19

Amazon

Hikers can use this brand-new, updated road atlas to plan their next adventure. In addition to comprehensive maps of all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico, they'll get National Geographic’s top 100 outdoor destinations, useful details about the most popular national parks, and points on the maps noting off-the-beaten-path places to explore.  

Buy it: Amazon

6. Adventure Medical Kits Hiker First-Aid Kit; $25

Amazon

This handy 67-piece kit is stuffed with all the things you hope your hiker will never need in the wilderness. Not only does it contain supplies for pain, cuts and scrapes, burns, and blisters (every hiker’s nemesis!), the items are organized clearly in the bag to make it easy to find tweezers or an alcohol wipe in an emergency.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hiker Hunger Ultralight Trekking Poles; $70

Amazon

Trekking poles will help increase your hiker's balance and stability and reduce strain on their lower body by distributing it to their arms and shoulders. This pair is made of carbon fiber, a super-strong and lightweight material. From the sweat-absorbing cork handles to the selection of pole tips for different terrain, these poles answer every need on the trail. 

Buy it: Amazon

8. Leatherman Signal Camping Multitool; $120

Amazon

What can’t this multitool do? This gadget contains 19 hiking-friendly tools in a 4.5-inch package, including pliers, screwdrivers, bottle opener, saw, knife, hammer, wire cutter, and even an emergency whistle.

Buy it: Amazon

9. RAVPower Power Bank; $24

Amazon

Don’t let your hiker get caught off the grid with a dead phone. They can charge RAVPower’s compact power bank before they head out on the trail, and then use it to quickly juice up a phone or tablet when the batteries get low. Its 3-inch-by-5-inch profile won’t take up much room in a pack or purse.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Pack of Four Indestructible Field Books; $14

Amazon

Neither rain, nor snow, nor hail will be a match for these waterproof, tearproof 3.5-inch-by-5.5-inch notebooks. Your hiker can stick one in their pocket along with a regular pen or pencil to record details of their hike or brainstorm their next viral Tweet.

Buy it: Amazon

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22 Creepy Cryptids From Around the World

Belgian painter Pieter Dirkx's interpretation of the Mongolian death worm.
Belgian painter Pieter Dirkx's interpretation of the Mongolian death worm.

According to Merriam-Webster, a cryptid is an animal "that has been claimed to exist but never proven to exist." But as Bigfoot believers and Loch Ness Monster enthusiasts are often quick to point out, it’s pretty difficult to prove that something doesn’t exist. Plus, it’s much more fun to indulge in the idea that giant sea monsters and hairy humanoids are roaming the uncharted corners of the planet.

On this episode of The List Show, Mental Floss editor-in-chief Erin McCarthy is taking viewers across time and space to unearth legends about lesser-known monsters that, again, haven’t been proven to not exist. Take the Mongolian death worm, a lamprey-like nightmare that supposedly lives in the Gobi Desert and radiates a poison so strong that you could die just by standing near it. If you’re an ill-behaved child or a Catholic who scarfs down steak every Friday during Lent, watch out for the Rougarou, a Louisiana-based werewolf that sniffs out those two demographics.

Learn about more fearsome, fascinating cryptids of all kinds in the video below, and subscribe to the Mental Floss YouTube channel for future episodes of The List Show.