Housing and Transportation
Travel and housing can be quite expensive. So it is important that you do advance research on the costs associated with your travel to/from the conference before you commit to presenting and attending the conference.
If you are flying to a conference, you will likely need to arrange for transportation between the airport and the meeting site. Some larger conferences make arrangements for vans/shuttle service between the airport and the conference site for registered conferees. Since costs can vary widely, it is important that you research the transportation costs associated with travel to/from your hotel well in advance of the conference. If the conference is at a college or university, you may find useful travel information on the college or university’s website.
Often conference organizers will hold a conference at a hotel. Attendees are not generally required to register and stay at the conference hotel though there may be benefits to staying in the conference hotel including complimentary shuttle service to/from the conference center, if the meeting is not being held at the hotel. If the meeting is held at the hotel then staying at the conference hotel can be quite convenient – you can run upstairs to your room, change, pick up or drop off stuff at a moment’s notice. Depending on the size of the conference, the rates negotiated for meeting attendees at the official hotels affiliated with the conference may or may not fit your budget. Likely there are other hotels located in the immediate vicinity. Consequently it is wise to do some research as you are likely to find accommodations at a lower rate at a good hotel nearby. If you do however, choose to stay at a hotel unaffiliated with the conference make sure that the hotel is located within walking distance of the conference venue and that the immediate area is safe for walking. If you are traveling by air to the conference, you may be able to obtain a package deal for your transportation and housing by purchasing both through the same travel agency or internet travel site.
Reimbursement of Expenses
If you do secure support for your participation in a technical conference you are most likely to be asked to incur the expenses for meeting registration, travel, lodging, and subsistence up front and to request reimbursement for your expenses following your successful participation at the conference.
It will speed up the processing of your reimbursement if you follow a few general rules in making your plans. First, find out what, if any, specific rules your organization has regarding reimbursement. In general most organizations will only reimburse travelers for “reasonable” expenses. Reasonable means you are expected to make every effort to make the most economical use of the available funds by considering cost, time spent traveling, and convenience when making your travel arrangements. Some institutions will not reimburse you if you do not arrange your travel plans through their approved travel agency as they have been guaranteed to obtain the lowest available rate if their employees book through the approved travel agency. Second obtain receipts for any purchase for which you anticipate requesting reimbursement. Original receipts will likely be required to secure reimbursement for any purchase. Third, be aware that there may be limits imposed on the amount that you are allowed to spend for a specific purpose. This is often true for subsistence where there may be a per diem (“per day”) or even “per meal” cap. Finally, be sure to keep a copy of all of your receipts and any forms you submit for reimbursement in case anything gets lost or something goes wrong in the process.
The following are typical guidelines for travel reimbursement:
- Lodging: Lodging should be secured in a standard room not a suite in a mid-range hotel/motel. Lodging is generally reimbursed only for the days you are actually participating at the conference.
- Travel: If you are traveling by airplane or train and expect to be reimbursed for your expenses, you should book your travel at the coach rate – seeking the lowest possible fare.
- Subsistence: Your subsistence including any gratuity is generally reimbursable provided you secure a receipt. If you are of age, be aware that alcoholic beverages are generally not reimbursable. If you plan to dine with spouses, friends or guests, their meals are also not reimbursable. You should segregate and pay separately for any alcoholic purchases or food purchases for relatives, guests and friends.
- Incidentals: Incidentals such as entertainment (e.g., candy, soda, “On Demand” TV movies), personal telephone calls, gifts, and other personal purchases are generally not reimbursable.