Grad Student Travel

Grad student with research poster

Computer Science grad students attend conferences all over the world

The department supports traveling students in many ways, including offering a department travel grant, paying for airfare and/or conference registrations in advance, and, most importantly, reimbursing expenses.

Most of the trips you will take are paid for by U.S. government research funding your advisor has been awarded. Your advisor, or the PI (Principal Investigator) in the research grant world, agrees to use the federal grant money in a responsible way, and to ONLY use the funds to support travel and work undertaken for the particular grant's purpose. By working or traveling on these federal grants, YOU, by extension, accept responsibility to use these funds according to the rules (of which there are many, and which are NOT always discernible through simple common sense.)

Even if the funds come from the department, another Duke entity, or from an industry gift, we, and Duke, expect you to use the funds according to the rules. 

So, know the rules before you start, and read all the way through this document because there are ways the staff can make your travel easier on you.

Pre-Travel Steps

  • Get approval from your advisor for the trip.
  • See the Graduate Program Assistant as soon as your advisor OKs your travel.
    • The GPA can help pay up-front costs of the conference by paying for conference registration and airfare. The alternative is to pay these expenses yourself, but you will not be able to request reimbursement until after the conference is over.
  • Determine if you are eligible for the Department and/or Grad School Travel Award - need pdf link and read the requirements for the applications closely.
    • Fill out one or both of the applications and send or give to the Graduate Program Coordinator or the Graduate Program Assistant.
    • You are allowed one of each per fiscal year (Graduate School deadline for submitting is June 15th for FY end date June 30th).
  • For international travel, you are required to register your travel AND if you are taking a laptop, cell phone, or other items owned by Duke (purchased by your advisor or a Duke Staff person) go here for export control information.
  • Airfare must be purchased through a U.S. airline.
    • Do not purchase tickets through discounted agencies like Expedia, Kayak, Travelocity, etc. You will not be reimbursed for these.
    • Upgrades are not reimbursable.
  • International airfare must be purchased through a U.S. Flag carrier to be compliant with the US Open Skies law.
    • We recommend booking through Delta, United or American OR use a Duke approved travel agent.
    • If your flight has portions routed on non-US carriers, that is fine as long as the flight was booked on a U.S. Flag Carrier.

While You're There

  • Save all of your receipts! When you return you will include receipts of all of your conference expenses in one report that you will submit to the Graduate Program Assistant.
    • Make sure you get your hotel folio. Any charges on the hotel folio that are beyond the overnight stay must be accounted for as an itemized receipt, e.g., room service.
    • We CANNOT reimburse any receipt that includes alcohol. If you have alcohol, keep payment separate. 
    • Be sure to submit ITEMIZED RECEIPTS, that is, receipts that list every item purchased. We can only reimburse itemized receipts!
    • You can only be reimbursed for your meals. Request separate checks if dining with other people.
  • Depending on your travel times, you are allowed 3 meals a day (breakfast, lunch & dinner).
    • Snacks (outside of meals) cannot be reimbursed
    • Beverages (outside of meals) can be reimbursed; i.e., coffee, soda, water.
    • Please see Duke’s travel website for domestic travel & foreign travel rules regarding meals.
  • Examples of other non-reimbursable expenses:
    • car or train upgrades above coach
    • wireless fees
    • travel insurance
    • meals you eat out when they are already included in conference registration fee
    • airline or other vehicle upgrades
  • Keep in mind that you are traveling on other people’s money, either the University’s or the federal government. Both institutions require:
    • The least cost
    • Specific accounting and proof of payment for each expense
    • That each travel expense be related to the business purpose of the institution

Post-Travel Steps

  • Prepare your expense report. 
    • Order your receipts and entries by date and time.
    • Scan & submit as a single PDF file whenever possible to the Graduate Program Assistant via email.
    • If you must turn in paper receipts,please use a paper clip. Do not staple!
  • Turn in your expense report within 30 days from the return of your trip.
  • Do not throw out your receipts until you have approved your expense report through the work@duke portal. Once the Graduate Program Assistant has submitted your report you will be able to approve the expenses or send back for corrections.