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Per Diem (Travel Allowance)

Find out about travel per diem rates for meal expenses.

Per diem is a daily amount to cover meal expenses for UC San Diego employees and guest travelers traveling on official UC San Diego business. Per diem applies to the following travel situations:

  • Foreign travel
  • Alaska, Hawaii, or U.S. possessions travel
  • Long-term travel (30 days or more) in the continental U.S.

Per diem is not the same as meal and incidental expense (M&IE), which applies to short-term travel (29 days or fewer) in the continental U.S.

Note: Only actual expenses should be claimed for lodging expenses for the above travel situations. Please reference the Defense Travel - Per Diem Rates Query website for more information.


The incidentals portion of a per diem rate includes tips and fees for services (e.g., waiters and baggage handlers).

Claiming Actual Expenses

The claim should reflect the traveler's actual costs up to the per diem rate. Travelers can claim:

  • Actual expenses that are less than the per diem rate (best option).
    • To claim actual expenses less than per diem does not require receipts and can be rounded to the nearest whole dollar. For example, a traveler may keep a log of expenditures and use it to calculate expenses.
  • When claiming actual expenses in Concur (not using Travel Allowance), please make sure that you attach the Published Per Diem rates for the location.
    • Use the Per Diem Rate Lookup Tool and make sure that you filter by Month/Year of travel and the location.
    •  The Meals & Incidentals total is the added amount of the Local Meals and Local Incidentals column for the location (highlighted in blue).
    • Per Diem Rates example
  • An exception to per diem when actual expenses exceed per diem and required conditions are met.

See the Knowledge Base Article on Travel Expense Reports for more information.

Calculating Travel Allowance

Use Concur to determine per diem maximums which are automatically calculated based on location and duration. Travelers should only claim actual travel expenses (e.g., sustenance and lodging) up to the per diem rate. Should travelers exceed the maximum per diem rate for lodging and/or meals a valid business purpose is required and receipts must be attached.

For each meal or lodging provided at no charge during travel or paid as part of a registration fee, the daily per diem must be adjusted.

See the Knowledge Base Article on Calculating Per Diem for Travel in Concur for more information. 

Reimbursement by Receipts Instead of Per Diem

Travelers can be reimbursed for actual travel expenses up to the per diem rate in either of the following cases:

  • The travel is to a foreign destination and lasts 29 days or less
  • The travel is to Alaska, Hawaii, or the U.S. possessions and lasts 29 days or less

If actual expenses exceed the per diem rate, receipts are required. Examples include:

  • The traveler is required to attend a meeting or conference where meals and lodging must be obtained at a prearranged place, and lodging consumes all or most of the per diem allowance
  • The travel is to an area where lodging and meal costs have temporarily increased because of a special event or function (e.g., a national or international sports event)
  • The travel is to an area where lodging and meal costs have temporarily increased because of a special event or function and affordable lodging is not available within a reasonable commuting distance or the costs of commuting consume the savings from occupying less expensive lodging

Other circumstances: If the reason for requesting reimbursement for actual lodging and meal expenses in lieu of per diem is not listed above, contact UC San Diego Travel via Services & Support prior to requesting reimbursement for the trip.

Reimbursement: Use Concur to request reimbursement for official business travel. For guidance, see the Knowledge Base Article.

Maximum reimbursement: Reimbursement for actual expenses for meals and lodging cannot exceed 300% of the maximum per diem established for the location of travel.

Receipts: When requesting reimbursement for actual lodging and meal expenses that exceed the per diem rate, an itemized receipt for lodging and individual receipts for meals must accompany the Concur Expense Report that you submit to UC San Diego Travel following trip completion.