Travel & Meal Expense Guidelines and Tips

Please be aware of the following Penn State/EMS Travel and Group Meal Policies.  Please click here to review associated expense forms.

All foreign travel requires export control review prior to the start of the travel, regardless of PSU funding being used for the travel. Export Complaince Procedures can be found on the Penn State Office of Ethics and Compliance Website.

Attention all EMS Faculty and Staff : New international travel policy goes into effect June 30, 2016

This is just a reminder that in order to qualify for travel expense reimbursement, all international travel on behalf of Penn State by Faculty and Staff will require pre-travel enrollment of their trip with the Travel Safety Network effective June 30, 2016.  

The Penn State International Travel Policy can be found at:

While we encourage you to read the full policy, the salient features are:

  • No travel reimbursement will be permitted if the travel was not enrolled in the Travel Safety Network prior to embarking on the travel

  • Employees traveling with technology will need to have an export review completed due to federal rules about technology that can be taken abroad and brought into the country. The export review, to be completed by the University’s export compliance officer, will be triggered when an international trip is logged into the TSN.

  • Faculty and staff members leading students abroad, as well as the students traveling with them, will be required to participate in an Emergency Preparedness Workshop run by the Office of Global Programs at least once every two years. While not new, the workshop is now mandatory as part of the policy for faculty/staff members leading students internationally. University employees not supervising students but traveling internationally for research, conferences or other purposes are not required to participate in the workshop.

  • For international trips with five or more undergraduate students, at least two faculty/staff members must be in attendance.

  • When a trip is enrolled in the TSN, a notification will be sent to the Office of Risk Management if a destination is on the insurance industry’s list of restricted/dangerous countries, opening a dialogue between the Office of Risk Management and the faculty/staff member to ensure the employee’s safety. 

  • Spouses and children of faculty, staff and students will rarely be permitted to accompany an academic trip where students are also present, although there is a process for an exception through the vice provost for Global Programs. This provision is designed to ensure that full attention is given to the oversight of students and does not apply to international travel where students are not present.

Important:  Please note that there are additional requirements for graduate students intending to travel on behalf of Penn State to countries on the U.S. State Department Warnings List; such travel requires submitting a request to the Graduate School 60 days in advance of the travel to gain approval by the Graduate School and Provost.  This is a rigorously applied requirement and is mandatory for all students seeking reimbursement of their travel expenses.  For more information, please see:

Group Meals/Meetings

A completed Group Meal/Meeting Form and signed itemized receipts are required for any group meal/meeting being paid from University funds; it is the host/cardholder’s responsibility to provide an itemized receipt.

Per diem (including alcohol) is $51 per person. You cannot charge the remainder to any other funds and alcohol (including tip) must be charged to unrestricted donor/gift funds (3611 funds). 

Tipping over 20% is not allowed and will not be reimbursed. If you charge it to your PCARD it will either be marked as personal in ERS or you will be required to reimburse PSU if the charge posts to IBIS.

Any receipts not turned in after 60 days will not be reimbursed.

Reports not submitted within 60 days will not be reimbursed.

Any function over 12 attendees requires a sign-in sheet included with the normally required documentation.

If an attendee is a non-PSU employee please include their full name, title and employer on the group meal form.

Expenses for spouses/partners at Group Meal/Meetings are not normally allowed and may not be charged to general funds. With specific justification for a business need, spouse expenses at a meal/meeting may be permitted on unrestricted donor/gift funds (3611 funds). 

Group Meal/Meeting expenses are not permitted on research funds.



Travel expense requests turned in after 60 days from the date of return, will not be reimbursed.

Travel expense reports not submitted within 60 days will not be reimbursed. 

Traveler needs to note how the research project benefited from the travel/clear business purpose of travel. 

If you are charging multiple funds, traveler/PI needs to explain how the split was determined and how the travel benefited each project being charged.

If you attended a conference, please include the title of the talk you gave or the poster you presented.

Non-conference travel must include the individual(s) name(s) that the traveler met with, their company and topic discussed/reason for meeting.

If you choose to claim a portion of your travel as personal you will be required to provide a price comparison (flight, hotel, rental car --- ONLY for PSU business days, do NOT include the personal time on the comparisons) from Penn State’s Travel OnLion or Centre for Travel, at the same time you book your actual travel.

If you choose to purchase from outside of Penn State’s Approved Travel Vendors (Travel OnLion or Centre for Travel), you will need to provide a price comparison through one of the approved vendors and it must be completed at the same time you book your actual travel.

Driving vs. Flying is influenced by distance, time, cost and one’s preference. When flying is the economical choice but one chooses to drive and the round-trip mileage is 750 miles+, the reimbursement may not exceed the cost of the lowest available airfare from the same points of origin and destination. The traveler must provide a flight comparison from Travel OnLion or Centre for Travel to document the appropriate airfare for comparison (comparison must be at least 6 weeks out).

Signed, itemized receipts must be included with the completed Travel Support Form; it is the traveler’s responsibility to provide all required travel receipts for reimbursement. 

Internet connections cannot be charged to research funds.


Invited Speakers

If you invite a speaker to Penn State they MUST complete a Visitor Information Form prior to arriving. Even if the speaker is not paid or reimbursed, if any expenses are covered by Penn State (hotel, flight, meals etc) we are required to have a completed Visitor Information Form on file. For international visitors, we also need a copy of their I-94 Card prior to their departure from Penn State (preferably on the day of their arrival to PSU).