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Eight Nifty Cell Phone Tips

For most of us, a cell phone is as much a part of our packing list as a toothbrush. While cell phones are invaluable to make and receive calls, that little electronic marvel in your pocket is chock-full of nifty travel tricks you may not have imagined.

1. Flashlight
Most contemporary cell phones have a very bright display that can be used as a flashlight or nightlight in a pinch.

2. Photographic Memory
Chances are good that your cell phone has a built-in camera. You can use this feature to "back up" your own memory. Need to remember where you parked your car in the airport lot? Take a quick photo of the location and its surroundings. Don't want to forget your room number? Since most hotel keys are no longer imprinted with room information, shoot a picture of the number on your door so you can later recall whether it was room 1114 or 1411.

3. Travel Alarm Clock and Calendar
Nearly every cell phone has a built in clock, and most automatically reset to the local time simply by turning them off and on. Chances are that there is also a built-in alarm clock that can be used as a reliable alternative to the hotel's unreliable clock radio or when you are out and about.

4. Electronic Rolodex ®
Your phone almost certainly has a phone book function, and you may already have set up a handful of frequently dialed numbers. Before you head off on your next trip, program in a few more phone numbers -- your airline's customer service number, hotel reservations, and rental car company.

5. Text Messaging
Most phones these days support text messages also known as SMS (Short Message Service). Text messages can be sent directly from cell phone to cell phone. Text messaging is a great way to drop one or two lines to friends and family throughout your journey. Attach a photo from your phone camera and you've got the digital equivalent of a postcard! Just be sure you check with your cell phone service plan for the price of staying in touch.
Send yourself, via text message, important information for easy look-up: your flight number, departure and arrival times; hotel name, address and reservation confirmation number; airport shuttle info and rental car details.

6. Flight Status Notification
Most airlines offer a Flight Status Notification on their web site which takes advantage of your phone's text messaging. Just visit the web site's flight notification page and enter the flight number and date, along with your cell phone number.

7. Fingertip Information
One of the slickest uses for your phone's text messaging is a free service from Google SMS. It's like having a local Yellow Pages in your pocket! You can send a short text message such as "Pizza 91320" to the phone number 466453 (GOOGLE spelled with the numeric phone keys) and in seconds you will receive a text message back with all the pizza joints in that ZIP code. White Page look-ups also work if the individual is listed in the phone book - just send their first and last name along with their city and state (text "John Smith Anytown CA"). Google also offers an amazing selection of information via its SMS service such as weather forecasts (text "weather dallas tx"), currency conversions (text "5 usd in yen"), language translations (text "translate good morning in French") and even driving directions (text "santa monica ca to pasadena ca"). This service is currently available in the USA only. For more information go to http://www.google.com/sms

8. Don't Forget Your Phone Recharger!
Using more of your cell phone features means you'll need to recharge the batteries more often. As an additional safeguard, consider bringing along a back-up recharger.

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