Suggestions for users and survivors about
expenses of travel, travel advances, travel reimbursement

Countries and organizations often have their own specific rules about what is reimbursed and what documentation is needed. Not everything will apply to you. It is fine to ask the organizing body what their policies are for reimbursement and who is the contact person for this. Don’t feel embarrassed about asking what expenses are covered or stating what expenses you are likely to have.

Visas and passports

Find out if you need a visa for the country you will be visiting. Give yourself loads of time to get this arranged. Make sure your passport is current through the date you will be returning.

Receipts

Keep receipts for everything you spend. You will need these to get paid back.

Cash Advances

Users and survivors often don’t have much cash, sometimes don’t have credit cards. If you will need cash, estimate what you need and then ask for a travel advance. You will be required to prove with receipts that you actually spent all the money advanced in acceptable ways, and you will have to return amounts that you received ahead of time but didn’t spend.

Air tickets and transfers

Often the organizers will buy your air ticket themselves and send you an electronic ticket to print from your computer or sometimes mail you a paper ticket. If you purchase the ticket yourself online, your eticket will show the price and be your receipt. Otherwise, the paper ticket usually has a receipt showing the amount paid.

Make sure you know the carry-on limits and baggage weight allowances for the place you are going. Be aware of items that you are not allowed to pack or fly with, knives, matches, straight knitting needles, ...

You will usually need government issued identification, a passport, driver’s license, national identification card.

Save the small stub from you air ticket until you and your luggage are back home and you have been reimbursed.

If you have transfer costs getting from home to the airport and from the airport to the hotel, save the receipts and claim the costs as expenses. Some organizations do not pay for tipping. If a taxi cost $10 and you tipped $1 ask the driver for a receipt for the total, for $11. Most organizations do not pay for tipping for help with luggage.

Similar suggestions apply if you take the train. If you drive your own car, note the beginning and ending mileage. There will be some specific per mile rate allowed. Also claim for parking if it is not provided by the hotel. Most organizations will not pay for rental cars, even if it seems it would cost less.

Lodging

Often conferences will make lodging arrangements for you and pay for it themselves directly, on a master bill. The organizers reserve a block of rooms and a day or two ahead give the hotel a rooming list of the rooms the organizers will be paying for. Usually, even though the room is paid, the hotel will ask for a credit card, for incidentals. If you don’t have a card, you will not be able to use the phone from your room (if you want the phone, ask if you can leave a cash deposit) and you won’t be able to charge anything to your room.  Note that calls from hotel room phones are expensive and if there isn't a rate card by your phone ask how much before placing a call.)

Make sure you have been offered enough paid nights. It is not reasonable to expect you to arrive after a long journey and present that day. It is not reasonable to expect you to schedule your return so that you arrive home at two in the morning.

Hotel services

Phone calls from your room, room service, beverages and food in hotels are all more expensive than in you use a pay phone, borrow a cell phone, go to outside markets and restaurants for food.

Sometimes there is free internet with your own laptop from the business center or the lobby.  Often there is internet access from your room for a daily fee, usually noon to noon.

Review your bill when you check-out for extras, service charges, donations, parking that you didn't use, ...  Have anything you don't expect explained to you.

Food

Some organizations provide a per diem or sustenance allowance, a set amount per day for the city or country you are in, that must cover all food and any extras like tipping, bus fare, dry cleaning. If the meeting you are attending provides food, continental breakfast or lunch or a banquet, the organizers will subtract an amount from the per diem you receive.

Some organizations will only reimburse for the exact amount spent so for these you must save every single receipt for meals and for whatever else might be allowed. A tip can be included on the meal bill receipt and the total will be reimbursed. Most organizations will not reimburse for alcoholic beverages but wine with meals might be reimbursed.

Getting around

Usually hotels are within walking distance of the meeting you are going to or the meeting is in the hotel you are staying at. If no transportation is provided, buses and sometimes taxis from your hotel to the conference site will be reimbursed.

Other expenses

There may be other costs that you incur through your participation such as childcare, printing costs, telephone or email costs. Again, clarify what you can claim, preferably ahead of time, and provide the relevant receipts.

If you are undertaking a specific piece of work you might want to ask if a fee is payable.

Claiming reimbursement

Sometimes you will need to complete a form given you by the conference planners when you arrive, and submit it to them with all your receipts, at the conference, or when you get home. (If you submit it at the conference, you will not have any receipts for the transfers on the way home or airport parking.) They will then mail you a check or wire transfer money to a bank account whose information you have provided.

Sometimes organizers will reimburse you at the conference in cash, Euros or US dollars or Yen. You will then be carrying around quite a bit of cash. You may leave this in the hotel safe - count it when you leave it and when you collect it and don’t forget to collect it before you leave. If you are reimbursed in a currency that is not your own, you will lose some on the exchange. You may exchange at a bank in the country where you are, at the airport, or when you get home.

If there is no form provided, write out a list yourself or adapt the sample invoice form included with these suggestions.

If you need cash in another currency for spending money, ATM machines generally provided a pretty good exchange rate.

A conversation Kay Sheldon and Sylvia Caras had on the express train from Milan to Malpensa airport, July 2005, revealed the need for some orientation for users and survivors who travel and get repaid, so we decided to write down our ideas. Let us know if there’s more information we should include by emailing sylvia@peoplewho.org

 Sample Claim Form (if you wish, select, download, adapt for yourself)

Claim  for expenses, and travel to:

Organizer name

Address

 

Your Name

Address

Phone, Fax, email, National ID number

Dep from, at

Arr from, at

 

Date

               

Miles times Amount per mile

               

Transport

               

Transfers

               

Hotel

               

Meals

               

Parking

               

Other

               
                 

Totals

               

 

Preparation costs, fees, and stipends:

 

 

Total amount claimed