7 Packing Tips for a Basic Economy Flight

iStock.com/PeopleImages
iStock.com/PeopleImages

Booking a basic economy flight can be a smart way to save money if you’re traveling light. But if you’re planning on taking an extended vacation or a long trip home for the holidays, it could end up costing you more in the long run. Some airlines limit basic economy fliers to one personal item that fits under their seat, which means if you show up to the airport with a full-sized carry-on, you’ll have to pay to check it. That shouldn’t be an excuse to skip the cheapest options when shopping for plane tickets. We spoke to some travel experts, who explained how to pack everything you need for a long trip into one personal bag.

1. Choose the right bag.

For a basic economy flight, you need to start with the right bag before deciding what to pack and how to pack it. Most regular-size luggage won’t fit under an airplane seat, so look for a quality purse or backpack instead. Size is an important factor, but according to Matthew Kepnes of the travel site Nomadic Matt, you should also find a bag that helps you stay organized. “Bring something flexible and with lots of pockets so you can better organize your things,” he tells Mental Floss. “Ideally, your bag will also have outer pockets so you can take advantage of the space outside your bags for things like flip-flops or a water bottle.”

Hitha Palepu of the travel site Hitha On The Go recommends two of her favorite bags as your personal item: the metro tote from MZ Wallace, or the bento bag from Nomad Lane.

2. Wear your bulkiest items on the plane.

Bringing heavy clothing on a trip is necessary if you’re traveling someplace cold for the holidays. Instead of wasting valuable real estate in your bag, set aside the items that would take up the most space and slip them on before heading to the airport. “I try to wear my bulkiest items—the heaviest shoes, a coat, chunky sweater,” Palepu tells Mental Floss. And if you start to get hot beneath all those heavy clothes, you can always strip off a layer and use it as a pillow on your flight.

3. Take a minimalist approach.

When packing for basic economy flight, look at each item before putting it in your bag and ask yourself if you really need it. If you hesitate, set it aside and move on to the next thing. Having a minimalist attitude is the only way to leave the house with a personal bag you can fully zip closed. “We often get overzealous when it comes to packing for your trip, thinking we will need this and that when the truth is, we usually don't,” Kepnes says. “Don't plan for every contingency and bring your whole wardrobe. Keep it simple.”

4. Pack your most versatile wardrobe staples.

Instead of sacrificing your personal style on your next trip, stick to a few basic clothing pieces that are able to do a lot of work. According to Kepnes, versatility is key. “Bring clothes that all go well together so you can make up more outfits and not only have specific clothing combinations,” he says. “Just try to get the most mileage from each item.”

5. Plan to re-wear clothes.

There’s no trick that will help you fit two weeks' worth of clothing beneath your seat. The only choice is to pack as much clothing as you can fit and plan to re-wear those items—which, according to Kepnes, isn’t the end of the world. “You can always do laundry at your destination, too, so don't worry about running out of clothes,” he says.

In order to stretch her travel wardrobe as far as possible, Palepu packs essential oils so she can refresh pieces between wears. You can also fill a tiny travel-size spray bottle with Downy Wrinkle Releaser to smooth and freshen your clothes before and after wearing them.

6. Don't waste money on vacuum-sealed bags.

Using a space-saving vacuum bag may seem like an appealing option if you’re struggling to fit all your stuff in your backpack, but both Kepnes and Palepu say not to bother. “If you're careful about what you pack, you don't need a vacuum sealer or packing cubes to conserve space,” Palepu says. Instead of a special folding strategy, she’s conserves space by being mindful of the order she packs her items in. “When I pack, I pack the heaviest and bulkiest items first and my smallest, most flexible items last so I can fit them in the small nooks and crannies left by the bigger items.”

Kepnes also doesn’t endorse any special folding methods, but he sometimes uses packing cubes to stay organized. “If you still don't have enough room in your backpack, that just means you've got too much stuff!” he says. (He recommends his favorite backpacks here.)

7. Buy what you can at your destination.

There’s no reason to buy travel toiletries and gifts for your host on the way to the airport. If you need something that you’ll only be using at your destination, wait until you arrive to pick it up. “Keep your packing to a minimum and just aim to buy a few things upon arrival,” Palepu says. “That will keep you within the size limits but still allow you to have everything you need for your trip.”

How to Turn an Old Wicker Basket Into a DIY Cat Bed

iStock.com/Kurgu128
iStock.com/Kurgu128

From cat trees to stackable boxes, there are plenty of products out there for cat parents looking to spoil their pets. But you don't need to buy brand-name accessories to make your kitty feel comfortable in your home. If you have an old wicker basket, you can make a DIY cat bed that doubles as an accent piece.

For this craft project from Martha Stewart, get together a drill, two .25-inch screws, two fender washers, and a round basket. Align your basket where you want it displayed, with the flat bottom against the wall, and mount it by drilling the screws in their washers through the wicker. Add a soft blanket to make the nook an inviting spot for your pet.

Cats like to climb things: Being up high is a way for them to feel safe and expand their territory indoors. If you're not thrilled by the idea of your cat scaling the human furniture in your home, building an elevated cat bed just for them is a way to keep everyone happy.

This project isn't just for cat owners: The mounted basket can be used as a place to store throw blankets, towels, and even stuffed animals. And if you ever do decide to bring a cat into your home, there will be a spot waiting for them.

[h/t Martha Stewart]

10 Essential Items Every Bar Cart Needs

Antonis Achilleos
Antonis Achilleos

The 1950s style was all about fun—and some of that whimsy is reemerging in 21st-century homes. Witness the glorious resurgence of a '50s home staple: the bar cart. This retro piece of furniture pulls double-duty: If styled well, it not only serves as the focal point of a room, but come party time it takes center stage again as a functional, fashionable platform for crafting your guests' favorite cocktails.

There are countless styles of bar carts, as well as products to put on them. But what exactly do you need to get your cart up and running? A bottle opener and some booze are de rigueur. But beyond that? We turned to two experts: Vanessa Dina, author of The Art of the Bar Cart: Styling & Recipes (Chronicle Books); and Brooklyn-based bartender extraordinaire Ivy Mix, who routinely shows up on lists of the country’s top mixologists. Here are their suggestions for can’t-miss bar cart items.

1. Five Basic Spirits

The Art of the Bar Cart cover
Chronicle Books

This may sound obvious, but Mix—who designed and built her own modular red and orange bar cart so she could have a place for all of her tools—notes that there are five types of liquor that should always be on your cart: a vodka, a gin, a bourbon or rye whiskey, a rum, and a tequila. “They’re the standards,” Mix says.

2. Mixers

Negroni cocktail with an orange twist
iStock/bhofack2

Once you have your array of five essential spirits, you’ll need modifiers or mixers to create the drinks. “The ones that go the quickest in my house are my sweet vermouth, my Campari, and my Cointreau," Mix says. "I make martinis, margaritas, and Manhattans, so they’re really important. Having them right there makes it easy: A little bit of this, a little bit of Campari, and voilà—you have a Negroni. In fact, Campari is the most useful thing to make a tasty drink when other stuff is not around.”

3. Bitters

These flavorful, alcoholic extracts have taken the cocktail world by storm in recent years: Foodies craft them at home, bars highlight them on the menu, and multiple new brands and flavors are popping up everywhere. They’re also perfect for your home bar cart, Dina tells Mental Floss: “It’s an easy way to create a lot of variation in your drinks. They add spices, herbs, and other flavorful notes to a drink. But best of all, unlike liquor, bitters take up minimal space on a cart. I suggest a cubby to keep your collection organized.”

You can start with the classics—like Angostura and Peychaud's—or dive into flavors like smoked chili, cardamom, or chocolate.

4. Mason Jars

The internet abounds with recipes and ideas for adding a fun touch to your next shindig by serving cocktails in individual mason jars. But Mix sees the jars as an essential and versatile tool that can do the work of either a shaker or a mixing glass. “You can really do anything in a mason jar,” Mix says. “You can stir a drink in a mason jar and know that it’s going to be OK.”

5. Small Hand Juicer

“A lot of people don’t think this is important, but one thing I recommend to everyone is fresh juice,” Mix says. She notes that people frequently use a lime juice blend from the grocery store when making margaritas. “Most of the time it’s not actually lime juice, but this gross God-knows-what. Even if it is lime juice, [the manufacturer] had to pasteurize it or cook it in some way; it’s not right. But if you get one of those little hand juicers, you can squeeze a cup of lime juice in a couple of minutes. It’s a complete game changer.”

6. Citrus Peeler

When guests leave your next party, you want them to remember that the cocktails tasted fantastic—and looked even better. “That’s where garnishes come in,” Dina says. “Something as simple as an orange twist provides visual appeal as well as aromatics.” Lemon, lime, and grapefruit rinds created with a citrus peeler can also transform a simple drink into a professional-style cocktail.

7. Shaker With a Built-In Strainer

Cocktail newbies may not realize there are multiple varieties of strainers. A Hawthorne strainer is best for shaken cocktails; its flat profile and coil of wire that hugs the inside rim of the mixing glass keep chunks of ice, fruit, and herbs from slipping into the serving glass. Cobbler shakers come with a mixing vessel, strainer, and fitted top all built in; using one means that you won’t need to worry about misplacing your strainer. “They have a classic look that many people want,” Dina says. “In addition, it helps you pour and makes everything a little easier.”

8. Ice Container and Tongs

“Ice is an essential, and sometimes overlooked, player in cocktails,” Dina says. “Drinks would not be as tasty or inviting without the chill that ice provides, whether it’s large, small, hand cut, crystal clear, cubed, or crushed.” Ice buckets or containers not only keep your ice cool, but usually serve as a decorative accent as well. “If you have a theme for your bar cart, you can get an ice bucket to match,” Dina says. “I’ve seen a lot of them in rose gold recently.” Dina shares a tip: Buy some extra ice tongs so your guests can freshen up their own drinks.

9. Versatile, Attractive Glassware

From cordials to highballs to beer and wine, most drinks are supposed to be served in their very own style of glass. But not everyone has enough room on their home bar for multiple styles, so they have to pick and choose. “Short glasses are the most versatile,” says Dina. “You can serve everything from wine to a mixed drink in them and they take up less space. Also, it’s easier to find cute designs and styles at flea markets and home stores in the shorter versions.” Dina has cordial glasses displayed on her two-level home bar cart. Mix collects antique cocktail glasses; in addition, her father is a glassblower. “He uses his own colors so he can make beautiful, colorful glasses,” Mix says. “Having a really nice glass brings it the extra mile.”

10. Your Own Personality

Keep in mind that your friends are in your home—and not a bar—so parties are a chance to share a bit of yourself. Dina suggests that small frames with pictures of family, a piece of artwork that you picked up on a trip, or even foraged items like attractive branches can personalize your bar cart. She also recommends plants; her favorite are air plants. “A touch of nature freshens things up,” she says. “They are visually pleasing and make the whole area seem homier.”

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we're only happy if you're happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

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