You can still get the most out of your business travel experience though the business of travel itself has taken a serious hit this past year.

In the past year, the U.S. airline industry shed about 9 percent of its capacity, cut more than 28,000 full-time jobs, liquidated seven smaller airlines, and suffered net losses approaching $28 billion, according to the 2009 Business Travel Survey conducted by Business Travel News.

Furthermore, many air carriers fought back by unbundling costs and charging for everything from in-flight Internet to excess baggage.

Fear not though because it's not all bad news for the steadfast traveler.

The latest American Express Business Travel Monitor says some corporate travelers experienced as much as 78 percent in savings for the first quarter of this year alone. In addition, average business class fares have fallen by 7.1 percent as compared to last year, with some major carriers offering promotional fares such as half-price seats.

There are also plenty of less obvious ways to save time, energy, and money before you even board your plane.

Letting Go of That Baggage

For example, did you know that in addition to checking yourself in online, you can also check in your baggage? Either on the web or at one of the kiosks that is next to the ticketing terminal, you can print your boarding pass but also pay for and check in any luggage as well.

Many airports now have a "web bag drop" area where a representative can check your boarding pass and take your luggage for you.

But if traveling light is your cup of tea, then think about investing in Zen Class's Nirvana Seatback Organizer and Travel Tote (1). The item, which retails for $39.99, is designed to hang over your seatback tray and has pockets to hold anything from your ticket or passport to your PDA, Flash card, portable DVD player, earphones, magazine, or even a beverage.

Alternately, you can wear your luggage with one of Scottevest's (2) spacious garments, some of which contain up to 28 pockets and are very gadget-friendly. For example, the lightweight windbreaker, which costs $75, gives you the capacity to control your iPod or smartphone through two clear compartments. The jacket also doubles as a travel pillow when packed.

Micromanaging Your Travel

Another shortcut that is currently in its beta version is a patent pending selfservice travel manager called Tripware (3). Designed for those who plan, book, and manage their own trips, Tripware comes in two formats:

  • Outbook, which is designed as a plug-in for Microsoft Outlook 2007
  • Travel Center, which is a desktop application for non-Outlook users.

Tripware's features include complete itineraries, alerts and notifications, rewards and loyalty program tracking, and expense report management.

Once you have a form of Tripware downloaded onto your computer, you simply enter a meeting into your business calendar including the city, address, or airport code of the meeting location, and click the Tripware "Book Trip" icon located in the appointment window. Tripware includes more than 50 customizable preferences such as airport, hotel, scheduling, and rental car companies. Specific providers can also be "blacklisted" if a traveler would prefer not to use them.

All Hail Taxis!

Another great resource for traveling to another city is TaxiWiz (4), which calculates cab fares for up to 21 major cities, both national and international. It is also available in a mobile version. One simply enters the starting location and ending location for a specific city, and the fare is calculated.