Beating The Clock
Try these time-saving techniques to have a pain-free business trip.
By Rachel Rosmarin

(Business 2.0) – As a decorated road warrior, you've got frequent-flier miles coming out of your ears, a generous per diem, and a bag full of the latest gizmos. The one thing you don't have enough of is time. You probably think you have your travel basics down pat: Never fly with anything but a carry-on, pack an extra laptop battery, and avoid airport ticketing counters. But truly experienced biz trippers know that shaving real time off the travel clock--from knowing how to skip long lines at the airport to planning the fastest way to a destination once on the ground--means going beyond the basics. Follow this itinerary to make certain your travels are short, and sweet.

Don't Park at the Airport TIME SAVED: 20 MINUTES

Believe it or not, parking offsite can save money and time. Although most offsite lots are farther away from the airport, they provide free shuttles that may get you to your gate faster than if you tried to find a spot at the airport's onsite long-term parking lot and walk to the terminal. Better yet, they also cost about half as much. "People generally save about 20 minutes with us," claims AviStar Airport Parking CEO Greg Andrews. AviStar--with locations at 12 airports nationwide--makes it easy to reserve a spot via its website, Avistarparking.com, and will pamper your car while you're gone. The list of services includes everything from car washes to tune-ups.

Automate All Check-Ins TIME SAVED: 30 MINUTES

Airport kiosks are handy, but even better, most airlines let passengers check in online at least 24 hours before a flight. On Southwest Airlines, this not only saves time but ensures first dibs on the plane's best seats. Avis, Hertz, and National offer car-rental loyalty programs that let you bypass the counter completely. You walk directly to the car, and an attendant checks your reservation and runs your credit card when you drive off the lot. Hotel chains are streamlining the process as well. Hiltons in Boston, Chicago, New York, and other locations will register guests who have HHonors Gold or Diamond status wirelessly from any location in the hotel, while corporate sibling Embassy Suites offers check-in kiosks in the lobby. Radisson hotels allow guests to check in online.

Skip the Line TIME SAVED: 30 MINUTES

Most travelers know that if you're an elite-level frequent flier on American, Delta, or United, you can bypass long security lines by using the lane reserved for their most valued customers. But some airports now offer their own speed passes. Orlando International Airport, for instance, will enroll fliers in a pilot program called the Clear Registered Traveler, run by Verified Identity Pass. For $80 a year, passengers who have passed a Transportation Security Administration background check can receive a fast-pass card. After an iris or fingerprint scan in a separate security lane, program members skip the wait, which Verified Identity Pass claims saves its customers an average of about 30 minutes, and they're exempt from all randomized secondary screenings.

Take the Train TIME SAVED: 45 MINUTES

Nowadays, taxis are an easily avoided hassle in many major cities. Express trains in Frankfurt, Hong Kong, New York, and Philadelphia, among others, will whisk you from city center to airport (and back again) for a fraction of the cost of a cab, in as little as a third of the time. The SEPTA R1 Airport Line train in Philadelphia takes 15 minutes to get to the airport from downtown, costs $5.50, and runs every half-hour. A taxi takes 30 minutes and costs about $25. The Heathrow Express train in London takes travelers between Heathrow Airport and Paddington station--a hub for commuter transit and the London Underground. A one-way ticket costs $23, and the trip takes 15 minutes. Not bad when you consider that a taxi would take about an hour and cost $75 or more.

Use the Airport as an Office TIME SAVED: 2 HOURS

Looking for a way to squeeze in a few hours of work before boarding your flight? Members of American's Admirals Club not only have access to computers but can also reserve a conference room in advance and invite associates to meet them there. (Airline employees will shepherd nonflying guests through security.) Jonathan Bingham, co-founder of IT security firm Intrusic, has conducted job interviews and held sales meetings in the Admirals Club. "Once you've made it through security, the pressure is off," he says. "I can do back-to-back meetings until 20 minutes before my flight."

Change Flights on the Fly TIME SAVED: 3 HOURS

Don't be afraid to head to the airport early. While most airlines used to charge hundreds of dollars for same-day flight changes, many carriers, including American, Delta, and Northwest, will now let passengers confirm seats on an earlier flight, space permitting, for as little as $25, making the standby shuffle a thing of the past.