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 reasonable. 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.

Travel Period

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.

Travel Companions

Note: Each traveler must have separate sleeping quarters, unless they are members of the same household. No more than two people from different households may share the same bathroom. After the COVID-19 crisis, this policy will be reviewed and may be updated.

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 Expenses

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.

Booking Lodging

In order to be able to effectively support university travelers, Stanford requires the use of a centralized travel booking program when faculty, staff, postdoctoral scholars and students are booking air fare, hotels, or rental cars for university-sponsored travel. The centralized booking program, Stanford Travel, automatically registers travel reservations in the university’s Travel Registry, which connects to Stanford’s provider of medical, personal, travel and security assistance. This provides the university with the ability to locate and support its travelers in the event of an emergency. More policy details are available in the Business and Travel Expense policy overview.

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 booked through the appropriate channel and paid through a requisition in iProcurement.

Conference Hotels

Conference hotels may be booked directly with the hotel at the conference rate, even if the conference rate exceeds Stanford's hotel and lodging rate maximums. When multiple conference hotel options are available, the traveler should choose the mid-price option. 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, support 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, 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.

The Stanford Travel Card (TCard) is the preferred payment method for lodging and hotel costs. Alternatively, personal funds may be used and a request for reimbursement can be submitted after the trip. The same policies and guidelines must be followed regardless of payment or reimbursement method. Learn more about these methods on the Travel Process 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. If the funding source of the trip is a sponsored award, Stanford travelers must use the per diem option. 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.
  • Non-Stanford travelers and visitors are reimbursed for actual travel expenditures up to the hotel and lodging maximums, regardless of the funding source.

Per Diem Lodging 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. 

  • Domestic per diem rates are maintained by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA). To view the current per diem rates for a city (or county if the city is not listed), access the GSA’s Domestic Per Diem Rates.
  • Foreign per diem rates are maintained by the U.S. Department of State. To view the current per diem rates for an international location, access the Foreign Per Diem Rates by Location.

When using the per diem method, documentation will be required to demonstrate proof of travel, such as boarding passes or conference receipts to substantiate trip dates. 

When creating an expense report in the Expense Requests System, per diem rates are automatically calculated and applied based on the city visited. When the trip includes more than one university business stop and the cities involved have different per diem rates, the per diem rate for each calendar day (beginning at 12:01 a.m.) is determined by the location where the lodgings are obtained for that night. If the city in which the travel occurred does not have a specified per diem rate, enter the county in which the city is located to apply that rate. 

When using the per diem method, documentation or receipts are not required in the Expense Requests System, although individual schools, units or departments may require receipts.

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. 

Documentation of Rate Comparison

Stanford Travel is the required booking method for faculty, staff, postdoctoral scholars and students booking university-sponsored hotel lodging. 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.
  • In rare cases, an exception has been granted in advance by the Dean or VP to book outside of a Stanford Travel booking channel.

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.

The university has established guidance for reasonable hotel and lodging costs including guidance for higher-cost locations. Location guidelines will be updated annually and the Stanford Travel online booking tool will flag hotel rates above guidelines to alert the traveler. A reasonable explanation is required for reimbursements that exceed location guidelines. This guidance also applies to lodging booked with optional travel services such as AirBnB for Business.

Hotel Lodging Rate Guidance (valid through 2021)
Location Average Nightly Room Rate (excludes taxes/fees)
Domestic $200
International $200
Palo Alto and vicinity (10 miles from city center) $450
New York City, San Francisco $350
Geneva, London $350
Chicago $300
Shenzhen, Tokyo $300
Boston, Los Angeles area (includes Los Angeles County, Ventura County and Orange County), San Diego, Washington D.C. $250
Bangalore, Hong Kong, Paris, São Paulo $250
Conference Hotels
May be booked directly with the hotel at the conference rate, even if it exceeds maximum. See conference hotels policy information on this page.


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