Underbook creatively. Compare consolidators, such as Orbitz.com and Travelocity.com, or the guaranteed-low-price New York hotel search engine www.nycvisit.com. You may also get a better rate by calling the hotel directly and asking for the manager on duty. "They're the ones who can cut you a deal," says Geenberg. "Call on Sunday, the one day when the people in charge of yield management aren't in. The guy on the phone just wants to sell you a room. The only better time is to walk in at 10 p.m. to a half-full hotel. They'll make you a deal."
Book an apartment. If you'll be in town for a week or more, stay in an apartment. You'll save on room rates and on meals because you'll have a kitchen. In some instances, apartment rentals require no minimum stay.

Time big meetings for the slow season. Hotels drop their rates up to 70 percent in December and in early to mid-January. If you can, plan your annual sales meeting, your yearly strategy session, or your industry get-together for this time of year.
Skip the overnight. Pack more into a day by arriving on the earliest flight, finishing your meetings by midafternoon, then heading home. You can shave the duration even further by renting rooms at airport business centers such as Admirals Club Executive Centers (in Dallas/Fort Worth, New York LaGuardia, San Francisco, and Chicago O'Hare, call 800-237-7971) or Wayport (www.wayport.com, rooms around $60 an hour at Atlanta's Hartsfield).

Use public transit. Rapid rail can whiz you from airport to hotel in many large cities, including Chicago, Atlanta, D.C., Philadelphia, Cleveland, and St. Louis. "It's a godsend when you're flying past everyone else as they're stuck in traffic," says Nulty.