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Index > Operations Policies > Business Travel – Lodging Policy

Business Travel – Lodging Policy


The purpose of this policy is to provide departments, supervisors, employees, and non-employees with specific policies and procedures regarding RISD’s business and travel expenses in order to ensure the appropriate use of college funds and compliance with IRS regulations related to business expenses.


This policy covers lodging while traveling. The policy applies to all faculty, staff, students and others who incur expenses while engaged in RISD business or related travel.

Policy Statement

RISD is a non-profit institution and a charitable tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Because of this special tax-exempt status, RISD must ensure that its funds are used to further its charitable purposes and that all expenses are reasonable both in nature and amount. Students and their parents, donors, governmental parties and the public are increasingly sensitive about appropriate activity and expenditures on behalf of tax-exempt organizations, and it is very important that RISD manage its resources in an appropriate manner.


Please refer to the Procure-to-Pay Policies Glossary for the following terms:

  • Accountable Plan
  • Away from Home
  • Expense Report
  • Foreign Travel
  • Incidentals
  • Business Travel
  • Travel Expenses
  • Per Diem Rates
  • Personal Expense
  • Proof of Payment
  • Receipt
  • Sponsored Project
  • Substantiated Expenses
  • Sufficient Documentary Evidence


RISD will directly pay or reimburse a traveler's lodging expenses for the single occupancy cost of a standard room incurred during college-related travel using the GSA or US Department of State Per Diem Rates as a guide.

All hotel overnight stays must be pre-approved by the Division Dean/Department Head. When traveling for a conference it is appropriate to stay at the hotel hosting the conference, even if the rate exceeds the guidelines; however, the room booked must be at the conference rate.

RISD will not pay for free accommodations awarded in connection with hotel frequent guest programs or any complimentary room accommodations provided by a hotel or other third party.

Trips of less than 90 miles one-way do not qualify for RISD support of an overnight stay.

RISD will not pay for associated room costs such as room service, laundry, premium television or gaming service, or purchases from the room mini-bar or snack bar.

Non-compliance with this Policy may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment. Actions that may be taken include, but are not limited to:

  • Termination of purchasing card privileges temporarily or permanently
  • Removal of travel privileges temporarily or permanently
  • Termination of employment.


Pre-Approval Requirements

All employee business travel must be pre-approved by employee's manager/supervisor prior to travel/booking.

Timing of Reimbursements

Travel expenses will be paid only after the trip is complete. Expenses should be submitted within 30 days of completing the travel or incurring the expense. Expenses submitted for reimbursement longer than 90 days after completing the travel or incurring the expense will not be accepted.

Substantiated Expenses

All expenses must be properly substantiated and include proper receipts and proof of payment. Traveler is required to provide sufficient documentary evidence to justify the expense as Business Travel.

Procedures and definitions for this policy can be found on the Accounts Payable and Procurement pages of

Additional Notes

This policy pertains to travel and business expenses supported by any source of RISD funds including, but not limited to general operating budgets, designated funds, restricted gifts, endowment income, sponsored agreements and student organizations. Where sponsor, agency, or other regulations are more restrictive than prescribed by this policy, the sponsor, agency, or other regulations will apply.

Use of Preferred Suppliers

Travelers are expected to book travel with and through College Preferred Suppliers. The Procurement page on provides more details and contact information on suppliers.

International Travel

All of RISD's policies and procedures pertaining to travel apply to foreign travel. Actual costs are reimbursable, to the extent reasonable and necessary, provided valid business purposes and appropriate documentation are submitted with the expense report. Any travel by students or faculty conducted outside the US should be reported to and coordinated with the Director of Global Partners and Programs.

Business Travel Accident Insurance

RISD provides business travel accident protection for all active full and part-time faculty and staff members on RISD-approved and directed business travel. Prior authorization of travel is important to support claims made under this policy. RISD will not reimburse for travel insurance purchased for a traveler. Specific questions regarding the RISD business travel accident insurance coverage should be directed to the Office of Risk Management and Compliance.

Meals While Traveling

RISD will reimburse travelers for the reasonable cost of their own meals incurred during the time they are away from home (as distinguished from business entertainment expenses or local business meals covered in the Catering and Entertainment Policy). Employees can choose to be reimbursed via per diem or actual cost for meals. Non-employees are not eligible for per-diem. As a general rule, travelers are expected to incur no additional cost for meals, which are provided as part of a fee for attendance at conferences, workshops, hotel cost, etc. When meals are provided in this way, the daily meal per diem must be reduced accordingly. If there is a business justification provided regarding dietary restrictions, the traveler may be reimbursed for the meal. RISD will not reimburse travelers for the purchase of alcoholic beverages.

Travelers sometimes pay for meals for others for college business reasons. These business expenses must include the name(s) of the meal attendees and the business purpose of the meal. If the attendees are not RISD employees, their affiliation with the College should be provided. For meals with five or more individuals including the traveler, the traveler can name the group instead of each attendee (example of group attendees: Apparel Dept., Alumni Club of Boston). Alcohol is not an eligible expense. These may be considered legitimate RISD business expenses provided the expense is pre-approved by the employee’s VP/Provost; however, they may not be appropriate on federal grants or contracts.

Miscellaneous Travel Costs:

Other travel expenses may include, but are not limited to:

  • Hotel internet service fees
  • Fees for currency exchanges
  • Tips

All such expenses must be itemized and documented in accordance with this policy.

Personal Business Conducted During Period of Travel

Personal expenses, as well as any incidental travel costs incurred for personal business during the course of a RISD business trip, are the responsibility of the traveler. Incidental travel costs include expenses that would not have been incurred on the business portion of the trip, except for the fact that the traveler conducted personal business at some point during the trip. For example, gas and mileage charges for out-of-the-way travel to visit friends or relatives are personal expenses. Such expenses must be identified and deducted from the expenses reported on the expense report.

Nontraditional Lodging or Shared Accommodations (Non-Hotel)
There are significant questions about traveler safety when considering shared-economy lodging properties (example: shared houses & hostels). Commercial hotel and lodging properties change room security codes on a traveler-by-traveler basis. Homes and apartments offered by services typically do not. Emergency evacuation and entry/egress standards are stringent for commercial lodging properties. Residences offered by shared economy providers are zoned to a different, non-commercial standard and may put travelers at risk in the event of medical emergencies or evacuations. As such, student travel should not be booked into these types of accommodations. RISD personnel must not book a stay at a non-traditional or shared accommodation on behalf of another traveler because RISD employees cannot accept the risk on another traveler’s behalf

Companion/Spousal Business and Travel Expenses

Expenses incurred for accompanying companions/spouses are considered personal in nature except on occasions when attendance of a companion/spouse at an event serves a bona fide business purpose for RISD and the presence of the companion/spouse is essential (not just beneficial) to the employee being able to carry out the business purpose for RISD. In these cases, the Vice President/Provost should authorize the business and/or travel expense in writing. The written approval must be submitted with the expense report and must detail the business purpose served by the companion/spouse’s attendance at the event and how the companion/spouse’s presence was essential in carrying out that business purpose. Amounts paid by RISD for companion/spousal travel and/or business expenses must be included in the employee's W-2 as taxable wages unless the companion/spouse’s attendance at the event meets the above requirements. Departments should consult the Controller prior to making commitments to reimburse for companion/spousal travel and/or business expenses as the reimbursement may be taxable to the employee.

Unallowable Expenses

RISD will not reimburse or pay for expenses that are inherently personal in nature. The following list of personal expenses serves as a guide and is not to be considered all-inclusive:

  • Excessive meal costs that are not substantiated by a complete and business purpose that includes details of guests at the meal
  • Alcoholic beverage
  • Personal grooming service, such as barbers, hairdressers, toiletries massages, manicures/pedicures, and saunas
  • Childcare costs, babysitting, and housesitting costs
  • Pet care, including fees for boarding pets and other animal care
  • Any costs related to personal clothing and accessories (costs for rental of formal wear for business-related events should be discussed with one’s supervisor prior to the event)
  • Prescriptions, over-the-counter medication, and other medical expenses
  • Personal reading material, such as non-scholarly magazines, books, and newspapers
  • Personal recreation or entertainment such as greens fees, sporting event tickets, sightseeing fares, theater tickets, entry fees, lift tickets, etc.
  • Credit card delinquency fees and finance charges
  • Amenities such as movies, in-room bars.
  • Personal costs such as life, medical, personal automobile loss of personal effects and baggage insurance
  • Business travel accident insurance beyond the college’s policies
  • Lost baggage
  • Loss or theft of travel advance money, airline tickets, personal funds, and/or other personal property
  • Parking tickets, traffic violations, auto repairs, or the cost of vehicle towing
  • Excessive meal costs that are not substantiated by a complete and explanatory business purpose
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Individual meal expenses for one-day travel
  • Expenses not properly documented (non-itemized)
  • Membership fees for priority boarding, expedited screening or customs processing (Global Entry, PreCheck, Nexus, Sentri)
  • Lost/damaged baggage or personal items
  • Carbon offset credits
  • Donations
  • Room-upgrade fees
  • No-show fees
  • In-room movies
  • Fees for personal expenses, such as: golf, exercise room/health-club
  • Rooms paid with frequent-guest-program credit
  • Expenses related to an employee's spouse or other family members

If the item being considered is not on this list, please reach out to Procurement to determine its eligibility for reimbursement.

DISCLAIMER: THIS IS A LIVING DOCUMENT. This document discusses policies/procedures meant to establish an operational reference point. As data is gathered and risks assessed, the policies/processes in this document will be revised as needed and any and all updates will be communicated to the RISD community. No policy can account for every single scenario that may be encountered; therefore, if a situation arises where an exception to the policies/procedures outlined in this manual is required, a letter of authorization from the Senior Vice President of Finance & Administration or their delegate will be required.

Revision history

This policy was created on: November 1, 2013, as part of the original Travel and Expense Policy

This policy was last reviewed/modified on: 6/20/2023

This policy was approved as of: 6/6/2023

As necessitated by law: As needed.


Issuing Office

Controller’s Office

Responsible Officer

Senior Vice President of Finance and Administration

Individuals/offices required for review and changes

Director of Procurement Services

Credit Card Services and Reimbursement Administrator