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I have been accepted to a Ph.D. program in St. Louis, MO and will be visiting the school in late March. I will be reimbursed for flight tickets. The scheduled Open House runs from Thursday to Saturday, and I have been told to book my flights with arrival on Thursday and departure on Saturday. The flight ticket per those specifications is at least $510, while if I arrive on Thursday and depart on Sunday, it would be $50 less. Since I will be committing 5 years of my life to studying there, I would like to know that I like the place, in addition to liking the Department (which I do). So is it okay to ask the secretary if I can book my departure on Sunday and save them $50 (lodging that extra night will be on me)?

Additionally, the secretary said they will book my hotel stay themselves. I would like to know St. Louis a little better, so I would like to stay at an airbnb place (which is more than 50% less expensive). Would proposing to stay at the airbnb place instead of the hotel they provide considered a strange request?

  • What are your plans for getting between the Open House location(s) and an airbnb place? The department may be making arrangements to get attendees to and from a hotel they have picked. – Patricia Shanahan Feb 26 '15 at 20:36
  • @PatriciaShanahan Good point, but both the hotel and the airbnb place are within short walking distance from the department. – user90593 Feb 27 '15 at 3:01
  • @user90593 it depends how they handle it. When I went for my interview I stayed at a friends house and I asked them if I could use that money to pay the airfare. Just ask, if departments can spare money they will! But if their reimbursment requires official receipts you might have to stay at an official place. My department organizes other graduate students to host incoming students for a couple of nights. – Herman Toothrot Feb 27 '15 at 10:30
  • Other reasons that the dept might handle the hotel arrangements themselves: to make sure you don't stay in a horrible hotel or they may have arrangement for a "block" of rooms with discounted rates. – mkennedy Feb 27 '15 at 19:17
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It's perfectly acceptable to ask such thing, it does not make any difference to the department if you can show that the ticket price is the same or even less in your case. I suggest you try to stay longer if you can. When I was invited for an interview I was given a budget and I routed my flights the way I wanted.

  • what do think about changing the lodging, like in my new edit? Thanks. – user90593 Feb 26 '15 at 20:06
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    Still, just ask. Academics take advantage of funded travel to do some sightseeing very frequently. In general, no one generally cares what dates and times you fly, but expenses outside the conference period are your responsibility. You won't be judged at all for taking advantage of the opportunity. If the later flight was more expensive I'd offer to pay the difference, but it's actually cheaper so there shouldn't be a problem. – Moriarty Feb 26 '15 at 20:48
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I see no problem with the flight. However, as Patricia mentions, there is a chance that they won't be thrilled about you staying somewhere else via AirBNB - if this is a larger "Open House" event, they may have some arrangements and events planned, and if not all people are at the same place logistics may get more complicated for them. However, of course you can always ask. No reasonable person would get annoyed by that.

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