I am going on a business trip for a couple weeks.

My employer said "all reasonable expenses will be reimbursed". My employer is known to be quite stingy and tries to nickle and dime everyone, although doesn't check submitted timesheets / expenses.

Despite that, I would like to be fair.

Should I charge for travel preparation time (making my luggage, etc.) and travel time (being in the taxi, being in the place, waiting in line at the airport, etc.)?

The way I see it, it's fair and reasonable. Personally I would rather be doing things I enjoy doing rather than being stuck in a place or in the back of a taxi.

How can I determine the appropriate amount to claim regarding travel time and preparations?

  • 3
    Whether it's fair is a direct consequence of all the factors above. If people in your position are typically reimbursed for that kind of travel, it's reasonable to ask for that. If you are exempt and occasionally expected to work overtime, then you can argue that this travel is more of the same and you're already paid a good salary for your time, which can be more than 40 hours in a week. As an example, where I work it's typical to get a per diem for every day abroad to compensate for lost personal time (since you can't relax at home).
    – Lilienthal
    May 20, 2016 at 8:24
  • 3
    When I started this job however I was sent on a month-long training abroad and it was communicated in advance that that per diem (which is a significant amount of money) would not be paid out but I'd submit all my expenses. Both decisions were fair and reasonable and it would be unreasonable to request more money in that situation. Some colleagues from other countries did get extra money for it. US colleagues got nothing at all. My point is that there is no one answer.
    – Lilienthal
    May 20, 2016 at 8:26
  • 2
    If you take a taxi, it would be reasonable to show the invoice and ask to reimbursed for that. If you take your own car, then you could do something similar for fuel mileage and/or parking fees. However, standing in line or sitting around in the taxi is not generally a "reimbursable" cost. No one is charging you money to sit there, even though you would rather be doing something else.
    – Brandin
    May 20, 2016 at 9:19
  • 7
    Time packing is really pushing it - no one pays for your time to pack a suite case. Travel time will be what ever the policy is at your business. You need to ask.
    – paparazzo
    May 20, 2016 at 10:48
  • 2
    Do you also ask for reimbursement for the time you spend every day driving from your house to your workplace and back ? What you're trying is a little excessive and unreasonable. May 20, 2016 at 13:03

5 Answers 5


Generally speaking, you charge for what you spend money on.

So if you take a taxi, you bill the amount the taxi cost.

Travel time and prep time is generally handled on an employer-by-employer basis, that means how you get compensated for it is dependant on your employer. Depending on where you live, there are additional regulations and even legal things.

The only thing we can really tell you is go talk to your Boss or HR Department, because only they will know exactly what applies. If you suspect malice on their part (e.G skirting laws to pay you less) then first of all you should find a new job, and second of all consult a lawyer. Beyond that, we can't know.

  • Calling a lawyer over travel expenses is a ridiculous waste of money. Finding a new employer and/or refusing to travel for an employer that doesn't fairly compensate travel expenses is the way to go. May 20, 2016 at 14:29
  • If TC is salaried, travel days are work days. Period. If TC is paid on contract on a per-job basis, TC has to agree upon this with his/her employer in advance.
    – Cloud
    May 20, 2016 at 14:45

It depends. Note that in all these examples, I'm assuming the employer has explicitly required you to travel, as opposed to (say) you choosing to live far away from the office and commuting, and that they're already picking up the tab for actual expenses (flights, hotels, taxis etc).

So. If you're a salaried employee, and you travel during working hours, you're already getting paid and there's nothing to charge for. And since salaried jobs tend to entail flexibility both ways, you're unlikely to qualify for overtime just because you had to get up early to go to the airport, arrive a bit late, etc.

However, if you're a salaried employee and you travel significantly outside working hours (late at night, weekends etc), you may be eligible for overtime pay or time off in lieu, because the time you use to travel is time away from your free time. However, this will depend on company travel policy. If you're on a multi-week assignment, many companies will also offer you a choice between flights back home or extending your hotel for the weekend, but they won't pay you overtime unless you're actually working on the weekend.

If you're an hourly employee and you are required to travel, you should be paid for every hour of travel, full stop.

If you're a freelancer or consultant, you can agree whatever you want with your clients and charge what the market will bear, and more often than not, travel time is paid for. In my own case, I charged my regular hourly rate for international travel, computed using the shortest direct flight time. This both compensated me for time when I could not meaningfully work for any other clients and was a nice little earner when I was commuting regularly between Singapore and Saudi Arabia, a good 12 hours apart (no direct flights at the time) -- and the client was OK with this, because there weren't many other people who had both the skills and the willingness to do it.

That said, I've never heard of anybody claiming compensation for packing their bags -- just how slow a packer are you? Even the most generous travel compensation is usually measured from the door of your home to the door of the client site.

  • 3
    +1, the type of employment (hourly vs salaried vs freelance) is probably the biggest thing here.
    – enderland
    May 20, 2016 at 11:50

This most definitely depends on your employer. In general, time is not an expense, so if it says they will reimburse expenses that does not mean they will pay for your time. The word "reasonable" tells me you may expect people to decline your request to be reimbursed for the gum you bought in the airport or the wine you had at dinner, but I can't predict what your company considers reasonable. I had a client who sent out a series of memos listing more and more things they wouldn't reimburse for - it started with "sundries" like gum and entertainment like going out to a movie, a few weeks later another one saying no alcohol, and shortly after that one that said tips wouldn't be reimbursed since that was your choice. After I had told them I would not travel for them any more (already invoices with expenses took 2 or 3 months to pay, so that I had to lend them the plane fare from when I bought the ticket to 3 months after I did the work) there was one more announcing a flat per diem rate :)

But I wanted to provide an alternate point of view on the paying for your time. As an employer I did not do it. Not because I'm cheap and stingy, but because I never wanted going on a trip to be seen as a revenue opportunity. I wanted the staff to want to go for its own value, not because "I can rack up 26 hours at time and a half if I travel on Sunday night, work till 8pm each night networking with attendees, and I don't get home Friday until late. That's a whole free week of vacation later this year!" I want them to go to the conference or whatever because they will get something from it, not to get overtime pay. So my policy was:

We know that when you travel out of town for us, you will often work a longer than normal day. In addition, the time spent traveling can feel very much like work. Nonetheless, we do not pay overtime or provide extra time off to compensate for traveling. If you are offered an opportunity to attend a course, attend or speak at a conference, or deliver a course, and travel will be involved, do not assume that you will get extra money or time off as part of the arrangement. We have never sent anyone out of town against their will, and don't ever intend to. Remember that there are two reasons for traveling on business: for your benefit or for the firm's. If you are traveling to receive training or to learn new technologies at a conference, you should feel that the benefit to you outweighs the extra time commitment. If not, you can wait to learn that material in some other way. If you are traveling to earn the firm money, you should be getting a higher salary since you are bringing a benefit to the firm. In other words, you are pre-compensated for traveling in your monthly salary. If you feel you need a raise because travel is getting more frequent or more inconvenient, bring it up with your manager sooner rather than later.

Imagine you spend $2000 to admit someone to a conference where they are going to learn a ton of great stuff, you spend hundreds on plane tickets, hundreds a night on hotels, restaurants etc, and then you're asked for overtime pay (maybe a week's salary!) as well. Not only is that making the conference very expensive, it's making me feel like I'm the only one who cares about the person going to the conference. Aren't they happy to be learning new things? I have friends who use vacation time to go to conferences, and pay their own ways. The contrast to someone who sees a way to not only be fully paid (salary and expenses) but also later get a full week of extra vacation -- it doesn't look good.

If the person is traveling to make us money, then I probably pay them well. Again I don't need to use up whatever profit I make on charging for their time by paying for longer days. It adds up quickly and the margins were always very thin to begin with. Generally most of my staff were not at a level I could send them to a client. The ones I could ... they got paid a lot more already, precisely because they were the ones I could send on their own to make us money. If they didn't want to go without 5 or 10 or 20 hours of overtime pay then fine, they didn't have to go. The smart ones wanted to show they could do that sort of thing - it would serve them well in their career. The people with a shorter term view, who wouldn't go unless there was something in it for them this week, well not sending them generally was just as well.

  • 1
    This is a good alternate view and you make a good point. In my case, I will not be learning anything new. I will be "making the firm money". I don't get a higher salary, at least I'm 90% sure I don't since this trip is something that came up recently.
    – user48683
    May 20, 2016 at 12:01
  • 1
    I have traveled for business a lot and never once have I been reimbursed for time outside my work hours because I am salaried. It is not a reasonable thing to expect to get paid extra to sit in a taxi. They expect to reimburse for meals, hotel, airfare, cab fare, rental car, etc not your loss of personal time.
    – HLGEM
    May 20, 2016 at 17:05

For every company I have worked with, from global consultancies and banks to local IT companies, I have always charged all my expenses (taxis, hotel, meals, etc.) and my travel time (minus my normal commute time) was counted as working hours - so from the time I left the house I'd count my time to the airport, waiting in queues, in flight, on trains etc - and subtract the hour my commute would take to leave my working time for that day.

All my expenses would be reimbursed (minus lunch, usually, as it would be expected that would be the same as my normal day).

My time would either be paid as overtime, or I'd accrue extra hours in the week which could be taken off in lieu in some companies, or just noted in others.

Most of my work has been in the UK, Europe and the Commonwealth, so I have no experience of US standards on this.


You can charge him for everything you are actively doing. This is like driving yourself.

You cannot charge him for passive activities. For example, if you travel by plane or by train, you are passive which means you are not working. Although you can charge him for the traveling costs (fuel, train ticket, hotel, taxi, etc.).

Because of this reason, a lot of managers often have to travel by plane or train, rather than cars. Otherwise they would have too many working hours.

  • What about time waiting in line at the airport for check-in, security, customs, etc?
    – user48683
    May 20, 2016 at 9:13
  • @SupremeGrandRuler How much does it cost you to stand in line? In general, you get reimbursed for things that have provable costs (e.g. you take a taxi and can show exactly how much you spent on that).
    – Brandin
    May 20, 2016 at 9:16
  • 1
    @brandin, Depends how long I stand in line. My employer pays me by the hour so I would charge him based on how long I stood in line.
    – user48683
    May 20, 2016 at 9:39
  • 4
    @OttoV Your answer is not universal. My current employer encourages people to take time off in lieu if they have to travel for work on weekends, and when I was a consultant, I charged my hourly rate for long-distance travel (10-hr flights were not uncommon). May 20, 2016 at 10:53
  • 1
    @OttoV. Your statement isn't universal, heck, it isn't even legal in all jurisdictions!
    – Alexander
    May 20, 2016 at 13:33

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