The university pays for lodging when traveling outside of one’s local area, which is defined as more than 50 miles one way from home or Stanford, whichever is greater. An overview of how to book hotel and lodging, including specific information on group room blocks is available on the Lodging Overview page. Key considerations and associated processes are found in Business and Travel Expense Policies Fundamentals. The university outlines its guiding principles and the IRS regulations for business and travel expenses in Administrative Guide Memo 5.4.2.
Individuals traveling on university business are expected to use lodging accommodations that are necessary and cost effective. The cost of hotel and lodging should be kept to a minimum and consistent with a reasonable level of comfort, convenience, and security for the traveler.
A travel period may begin one day ahead of a business event (for example, arriving on Sunday for a conference that begins on Monday). The business travel period may include weekends, holidays and other necessary standby days if they fall between business travel days. If a traveler chooses to arrive early or to stay longer for non-business reasons, the university does not pay for expenses incurred during those additional days. Exceptions include when travel is at a lower total cost if the traveler stays over a weekend or holiday, with department approval, or when traveling more than eight time zones, The traveler must document the reason for this extra expense in order to support the non-business-day payment.
Travel 30 Days or Longer
Long term travel is defined as when a travel period is 30 days or longer. In these instances, the traveler is required to use the per diem reimbursement method, and the per diem rate is reduced to 55 percent for the trip. The assumption is that when staying 30 days or longer, a traveler can find cheaper accommodations than regular hotel rates.
The reduced rate will not be calculated by the Expense Requests System so the expense report preparer should calculate the reduced rates (0.55 x listed rate) and enter the adjusted amount in the Expense Requests System via the Adjusted Per Diem expense type in transaction lines.
Long term lodging expenses are paid only if the traveler incurs two sets of living expenses simultaneously and there is a stated Stanford business purpose for the expenses incurred during the long term travel. If the traveler rents or subleases their primary residence during the long term travel, the traveler may not be paid for lodging expenses at a location away from Stanford.
To learn about travel meal policies for travel periods of 30 days or longer, please visit the Travel Meals Policy page.
In general, the expenses of a spouse, family member or other person accompanying the business traveler are not reimbursable. Such expenses are only allowed if the accompanying person has a position with the university and is traveling to make a significant contribution in furtherance of university business. Exceptions to this policy are rare and must be approved in advance of travel by the Provost.
Sabbatical lodging expenses are paid only if the faculty member incurs two sets of living expenses simultaneously and there is a stated Stanford business purpose for the expenses incurred during the sabbatical. If the faculty member rents their primary home during the sabbatical, the faculty member may not be paid for lodging expenses at a location away from Stanford.
Roles and Responsibilities
It is the responsibility of the individual incurring the hotel or lodging expense and those involved in the preparation and approval of the reimbursement request or financial transaction to exercise good stewardship of university funds and to adhere to university policies. The individual incurring the expense and the appropriate administrator must ensure that all costs are in compliance with university travel and business expense policies prior to purchasing. These roles and responsibilities are outlined in Reimbursements & Expense Requests.
It is highly encouraged that Stanford travelers use Stanford Travel booking channels when booking flights, hotels, and rental cars for university-sponsored travel. Stanford Travel booking channels automatically register itineraries and any booking updates to the Travel Registry, streamline the reimbursement process, and offer discounts, benefits, and perks to travelers. In addition, the Stanford Travel team can provide specialized assistance as needed to travelers who book through Stanford Travel.
While Stanford Travel booking channels are a great option for most domestic and international travel, there are certain types of travel that need to be booked directly with the airline or hotel. These may include regional air travel offered by local carriers, travel for field research, ticket exchanges or reissues, or certain group reservations. See the chart below and the Airfare policy page for more detail on booking and managing those travel arrangements. For information on the booking processes for various types of travelers, see Topic Overview: Travel Process.
|Hotel and Lodging||Booking a hotel through Stanford Travel remains the preferred booking option wherever possible, though it is not required. All bookings must follow lodging policy guidance.|
|Groups of 10 or more Stanford Travelers||Groups of 10 or more Stanford travelers (faculty, staff, postdoctoral scholars, or students) traveling to the same location may be booked within or outside of the Stanford Travel program. A traveler can consult the group booking guidance for more information.|
When booking lodging, choose a standard room. Upgraded rooms, such as those with upgraded views, additional concierge service or suites, are not reimbursable unless there is no other suitable option. The business purpose should clearly explain why any non-standard room was selected.
Booking rooms with flexible cancellation policies (refundable rates) is permissible, even if the cost is higher than a non-refundable rate. Travelers are not required to book nonrefundable hotel rates. Booking a non-refundable hotel rate may result in loss of department or personal funds in case cancellation is necessary. Rates should still be within the maximum lodging rates listed on this page.
For more information about business and travel policies see the Topic Overview: Business and Travel Expense Policies.
The university has established guidance for reasonable hotel and lodging costs including guidance for higher-cost locations.
Domestic location guidelines will be updated annually by Stanford. Certain U.S. cities have a published exception rate that is higher than the per diem rate (noted in the chart below). Exception city rates are only available when using the actual reimbursement method.
For international lodging maximums, Stanford uses the federal per diem schedule’s Maximum Lodging Rate for that city and country. The traveler or travel arranger can determine this rate by checking the U.S. Department of State’s Foreign Per Diem Rates by Location for the city where lodging will be needed (choose a country and select Go to see the list of the country’s cities). Note the Maximum Lodging Rate for that city (if a city does not have a published Maximum Lodging Rate, select Other). This will be the maximum room rate (before taxes and fees).
To ensure that lodging rates are within Stanford policy, Egencia will display a link to this Lodging Policy page for information about domestic lodging rate maximums and international lodging rate maximums.
For guidance on requesting hotel accommodations that exceed these rates, see the section Process When Hotel Accommodations Are Outside of Policy on this page.
Maximums Effective for 2023
Conference hotels may be booked directly with the hotel at the conference rate, even if it exceeds the maximum. For details, see the Conference Hotels policy information on this page.
For all other hotels, Stanford Travel booking channels are recommended (but not required) for booking lodging. Visit the Stanford Travel Local Hotel Program page for Stanford-negotiated hotel rates that may support bookings within the Lodging Policy maximum for Palo Alto and vicinity.
Average Nightly Room Rate (excludes taxes/fees)
|International||Refer to Federal Per Diem|
|Exceptions (Actuals only)|
|New York City||$450|
|Palo Alto and vicinity (10 miles from city center)||$450|
|San Francisco and San Mateo counties||$385|
|Los Angeles area (includes Los Angeles County, Ventura County and Orange County)||$330|
Conferences often offer conference rates, or special rates offered by the conference organizers, on hotel rooms where that conference is being held. Lodging booked at conference rates is acceptable, even if those rates exceed Stanford's hotel and lodging rate maximums, as long the conference hotel guidance is followed.
Booking conference hotels
Conference hotels must be booked directly with the hotel or conference organizer and not through a Stanford Travel booking channel, because the conference rates are generally not available through these channels. Only hotels directly affiliated with the conference may be booked at the conference rate. When multiple conference hotel options are available, the traveler should choose the mid-price option.
Selecting a room
- Once a conference hotel is selected, the traveler should choose a standard room at that hotel.
- Upgraded rooms, such as those with upgraded views, additional concierge service or suites, are not reimbursable unless there is no other suitable option.
- The business purpose should clearly explain why any non-standard room was selected.
- Five-star hotels may be selected when they are the only hotel for the conference. If the only room available is at a five-star property, supporting documentation must be provided showing all other rooms were sold out.
It is best practice to take a screenshot of the conference website where it lists all conference hotels and rates, as conference websites do not always preserve that information after the conference. Attach this screenshot to the expense request and note that it was the conference hotel in the business purpose field.
When domestic or international conference hotels are booked outside of the Stanford Travel booking channels, travelers or travel arrangers must use the itinerary-forwarding service to register and then, as needed, update their trip details.
When conference rooms are sold out
When a room block for conference rooms at the special rate is sold out, a room may still be booked in the conference hotel, even if it is above the established lodging maximums. In these situations, note in the business purpose that the conference hotel was sold out and provide documentation, which should be captured at the time of booking to demonstrate that:
- The hotel was, in fact the conference hotel (i.e., capture a screenshot of the conference website listing the hotel as a conference hotel), and
- Include proof that the special block of rooms at the conference rate was sold out (i.e., capture a screenshot of the room availability and rates)
It is also a best practice to document and provide comparison rates for other hotel options near the conference hotel, particularly if the conference hotel standard rate is significantly above policy maximums and more affordable options were considered.
The room may then be booked at a standard room rate (no upgrades) and the above documentation should be attached to the Expense Report.
The Stanford Travel Card (TCard) is the recommended payment option for any travel costs that will not be reimbursed through the per diem method.
Alternatively, personal funds may be used and a request for reimbursement can be submitted after the trip. When the per diem reimbursement method is available and selected by the traveler, the TCard should not be used for those costs (i.e., lodging that will be reimbursed to the traveler at the per diem rate).
The same policies and guidelines must be followed regardless of payment or reimbursement method. For more information on reimbursement methods, see the Topic Overview: Business and Travel Expense Policies page.
When personal funds are used, there are different reimbursement options available depending on who is traveling and the funding source:
- Stanford travelers may select between per diem or actual reimbursement within the lodging policy. The method selected must be used for the entire trip. When a travel period exceeds more than 30 days in one location, the traveler is required to use the per diem reimbursement method, and an adjusted per diem rate will apply to the reimbursement amount.
- University affiliates and visitors must choose actual reimbursement up to the hotel and lodging maximums, regardless of the funding source. In these situations, a visitor must submit receipts for expenses of $75 or more to receive reimbursement. Any individual without a SUnet ID should indicate their affiliation in the business purpose.
Lodging arrangements that include contracts or agreements with terms and conditions requiring a signature, such as for the lease of a home or room blocks for 10 or more travelers, should be paid through a requisition in iProcurement.
Per Diem Reimbursement
Stanford uses per diem rates recommended by the U.S. government to take advantage of governmental cost studies and to ensure general equity with grant and contract requirements. See specific guidance on using the per diem reimbursement method in Business and Travel Expense fundamentals.
All booking policies still apply when using a per diem reimbursement method.
As described in Business and Travel Expense fundamentals, reimbursement requests must include sufficient documentation to support the business purpose and alignment to the purpose of the funds. Unless the traveler is claiming the per diem reimbursement for lodging, an itemized bill (folio) showing all charges and proof of payment must be attached to the lodging line in the expense report via the Expense Requests System. It is also a best practice to take and save a screenshot of the booking documentation, but it is not required to process the expense transaction.
Documentation of Rate Comparison
Stanford Travel may be used as the booking method for faculty, staff, postdoctoral scholars and students booking hotel lodging for university-sponsored travel. Generally documentation of hotel rate comparison is not required when the business trip is booked according to the travel booking policy.
A lodging rate comparison is required when any of the following occur:
- The trip includes a personal component causing an extension of the lodging stay.
- The room selection is out of policy, for example, if a standard room was not selected or the room rate exceeds published maximums shown on this page.
The rate comparison documentation is most often in the form of a screenshot of Stanford Travel of search results taken the same day of booking from a Stanford Travel booking channel. The screenshot must visibly note the time and date of the search (i.e., from the taskbar on your desktop); include a broad set of search results (e.g., all available rooms within policy); and should display the applicable parameters, such as all available lodging options. The expense report must include an attachment with the rate comparison documentation.
If the attached screenshot is dated post-travel, the Business Expense team will calculate an online comparison at the time of processing, and will pay based on the lesser of their own comparison or that provided by the traveler. For guidance on documenting a rate comparison, refer to How to: Document a Lodging Comparison.
Below are situations where a traveler may need to book hotel or lodging accommodations outside of policy. In these situations the lodging reservation should still be made per the travel booking policy.
- When there are no available options within policy (i.e., the only available hotels exceed the lodging maximum for that location and the traveler is not selecting a conference hotel), a traveler may book lodging where cost exceeds Stanford’s policy. To request reimbursement, the traveler must:
- When lodging is available within the policy maximums, but a traveler chooses to book lodging at a rate that exceeds policy, they will only be reimbursed for the portion of the lodging cost that falls within policy. To request reimbursement, the traveler must:
- In the transaction’s business purpose, explain that they chose lodging whose cost exceeds policy, even though lower-cost lodging was available.
- When a traveler would like to book lodging that is less than 50 miles one way from home or Stanford (whichever is greater), they must obtain an exception. This is done by requesting pre-approval before booking the lodging by submitting a support request. Note that exceptions will only be considered if the time between the end of one workday and the beginning of the next does not allow adequate time for rest and recovery. Most often an agenda contains this information, and it should be included in the support request. To request reimbursement, the traveler must:
- In the transaction’s business purpose, explain why they need to book the lodging. This allows auditors to identify the expense as necessary and appropriate.
- Attach the pre-approval email for the business transaction as back-up documentation in the expense request.