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I will travel to a conference at which I will present my work. My funder usually reimburses me for fees of conference registration, travel, and accommodation.

However, since my wife and kids will accompany me, I will book separate travel tickets for them, and a family room, which is usually more expensive than a single one.

I will ask the funder whether/how they would reimburse me for the accommodation.

I guess many other academics around the world travel for work with their partners, friends, or families, and I am wondering how they usually/ideally get fair reimbursement for accommodation shared with other non-funded travellers.

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Usually, you will explain the specifics of your travel and provide some documentation about

  • the actual expenses for travelling with your family
  • the expenses you would have had, had you travelled alone

You should then be able to make a case for getting reimbursed for the (lower) expenses listed in item #2, even though all your bills show the (higher) expenses from item #1.

If there was anything that cost the same, or even less, for the whole family compared to what you would have paid alone, make sure to provide good proof of the hypothetical 1-person-price and you might even get reimbursed some of what was used by the entire family :)

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    +1. Note: at many conferences it is cheaper to get accommodation at somewhere other than the conference hotel. You might this way get the whole cost of accommodation covered, while also having a more suitable setup for your family. (At one conference we rented a vacation house nearby for less than the conference venue). – user24098 Aug 12 '16 at 11:38
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    @dan1111: This may work, but it may also be that the funder will say that you'll only get the part of the expenses that would have been necessary to fund you at this particular place, i.e. if you book a double room you only get what a single room would have been and sometimes you even get 50% of the price of a double room. – Dirk Aug 12 '16 at 12:13
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    @Dirk, that is my experience, but of course funder policies may vary (it's a good idea to check with them). – user24098 Aug 12 '16 at 12:17
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    Dirk: That is true, although I'd probably try and protest in the case of getting only 50% of a double room (if that is less than the cost of a single room). I consider the requirement to not have a single room questionable to begin with (in particular if I already picked a place where a single room rate is lower than 50% of a double room in the official conference hotel), and when I don't know anyone else who will attend, I consider it inacceptable to be put into a room with a total stranger. – O. R. Mapper Aug 12 '16 at 12:20
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I have always eaten these cost differences. My family is small (me and wife), and I always get a room with a king bed anyway. We pay the cost for my wife's flights, the university (maybe through grants) pays for my flights, per diem, and hotel. If there is a rental car required, it doesn't change size, so the university pays that as well.

I don't think that the university would pay the difference for anything I chose to make different for my work travel (extra stops, room for children, etc.), because I think there are either university rules or granting agency rules that prevent it. These are my choices to travel with family, I must make up the differences.

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    It's simpler if you can claim on a per diem basis, but that's often not possible and you have to submit receipts (this has tax implications for example). At that stage you could technically claim only for your own share of the bill. Recognising the absurdity of this, many places will pay for the bigger room on the understanding that you don't claim for food etc. – Chris H Aug 12 '16 at 14:14
  • @ChrisH, many places, in what countries? My university pays a per diem without receipts based on a table of median/average costs for every city or region. Hotels/rental cars/taxis require receipts. Each country/region/nation has different practices. Some are more or less flexible than you suggest. Mine university doesn't really look at room size unless you book something outrageous. – Bill Barth Aug 12 '16 at 20:23
  • In both industry and academia I've never come across more than rumours of per diem arrangements in the UK. They used to happen but were clamped down on as taxable income. In industry the maximum daily amount claimable for certain categories of whoever claim with receipts was set on a per-country basis. – Chris H Aug 12 '16 at 21:34
  • @ChrisH, the US IRS (PDF) has a method for this. Either the per diem is for lodging, meals, and incidentals, or it excludes lodging. They set acceptable rates for each locale. That per diem is not taxable income if what is paid is less than or equal to the posted rate. – Bill Barth Aug 12 '16 at 22:35

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