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Use Your Cell Phone to Travel Better

On your next trip, make your cell phone work for you.

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Use Your Cell Phone to Travel Better Cell phones, which traditionally operate as communication tools, are fast becoming a widely used interface for online information as well. You've probably seen people typing away on their complicated, expensive mobile devices -- you know, the kinds of phones that take pictures, send e-mail and can communicate with animals. But travelers don't need to purchase an expensive iPhone or BlackBerry to use their cell phones for something other than gossip exchange.

Use your cell phone to take a guided tour of a museum, facilitate an airport pickup or check the status of your flight. Any simple cell phone can do this and more, and largely at no cost beyond what you pay for a standard phone call or text message. And don't worry, using a cell phone as a travel tool does not require a degree in mechanical engineering. (It only necessitates a thorough read of this article.)

Cell Phone Parking Lots
Cell phone parking lots aren't available at every airport (especially smaller local airports), but they're a comfortable alternative to the traditional airport pickup dance that involves circling the airport eight times in search of your friend or family member. And better yet, they're free!

Airports with cell phone parking lots, sometimes called cell phone waiting lots, include Los Angeles International, Seattle-Tacoma, San Diego, Houston Intercontinental, Philadelphia International, JFK and Chicago O'Hare. The airports allow drivers to park for up to half an hour -- for free -- while calling their arriving loved ones to arrange a meeting point. Check your local airport's Web site to see if it has a cell phone parking lot.

Travel Text Messages
SMS, or Short Message Service, allows you to text your friends to ask about a good local spot to grab a meal, or to get directions to a museum. But your loved ones may not have all the answers (or they may innocently misdirect you). So add Google, Orbitz and a host of other knowledgeable organizations to your phone book for instant information. These services are free, but standard text messaging rates do apply.

  • Google: To get addresses, directions, weather forecasts, movies, currency rates and more, send your inquiry to GOOGL (46645). For an overview of all that Google text messaging -- officially known as Google Short Messaging Service, or Google SMS -- can do for you, click here.

  • Orbitz: Orbitz traveler updates provide flight delay information and weather conditions. Text your inquiry (you can find a list of commands here) to ORBITZ (672489).

  • Yahoo: Text YAHOO (92466) to get flight information, movies, weather, local restaurant locations and more. Yahoo's oneSearch feature also gives you answers to queries about, well, pretty much anything, by bringing Wikipedia to your phone.

  • 4INFO: This free service offers less travel-related information, such as horoscopes, sports scores and the "daily insult," but it can also give you weather and news. Text the appropriate code for what you want sent to your phone (codes can be found here) to 4INFO (44636).

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