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The Dos and Don’ts of Expense Reporting for Business Travel

A clear guide on business travel expenses that can and cannot be submitted for reimbursement

January 21, 2021

It’s the common dilemma that all business travelers face when returning from a business trip – determining what expenses can be submitted for reimbursement and those that cannot. Corporate travel doesn’t always come cheap, but there are many aspects of your trip that can be claimed back from your company through expense reporting. SoldoutNight, a newly founded business travel solution startup, will soon have great features in place, which help companies manage expense reporting properly. 

The problem is that business travel policies are often complicated and they vary from company to company. We’re here to give you a clear guide on what can and cannot be submitted for reimbursement. That being said, it is always worth checking with your organization to confirm their specific guidelines before you leave for your trip.

What to Expense

  • Airfare ✈️

First on the list is an obvious item, but an important one. If you are required to travel by plane to your work commitment, the cost of your airfare will be covered. However, it is important to check your company’s policy on airfares in case there is a particular airline they use or if they only pay for an economy seat.

  • Hotel 🏨

The cost of your hotel is another expense that can definitely be submitted for reimbursement. Again, it is important to understand your company’s policy on hotels as they are likely to have a per night budget for business travel. Per night budget may also depend on your job tittle or seniority. 

  • Transportation 🚖

Chances are you will need to use some sort of transport to get around during your business trip. Whether its a taxi from the airport or an Uber to your meeting, you should be able to expense it. Just remember that you can only expense transport that is directly related to business.

  • Check-In Baggage 💼

Just like your airfare, the cost of your check-in luggage will be covered by the organization. That is, checked luggage will be covered within reason. If you’re going for an overnight trip there’s probably no need to check a bag. 

  • Mileage & Parking ⛽️

If you’re driving your own car for business, it is perfectly acceptable to claim mileage and parking costs. You will need to retain proof of parking expenses and accurately track your mileage in order to get reimbursed. Remember you can only claim the business portion of your mileage (i.e. from the office to a meeting or corporate travel destination), not from your home to the office.

  • Meals and Unlimited Coffee ☕️

A well-nourished and caffeinated employee is a good employee! While the guidelines can often be a little ambiguous when it comes to food on the road, employees should be entitled to three meals a day and unlimited coffee. Check your company’s policy on meals before you leave as they might have a food budget. 

  • Wifi 📲

While it is usually possible to get free wifi in most locations, it is not always of the best quality. To stay productive and ensure you get through the required work, you will probably need to purchase a high-speed internet connection. This relates directly to business and can definitely be included in expense reporting. 

  • Health & Fitness 🧘‍♀️

Modern organizations prioritize health and fitness and are much more health-conscious than companies have traditionally been. It is likely that your company will be willing to put some money towards this so you can stay fit and healthy on the road. While many hotels have a free gym space, you may find that you are more motivated to get involved in a group session at a local gym or a yoga class. It’s also a great way to interact with locals and network! So your company might reimburse the cost. Remember to always check with your boss or travel manager to confirm.

  • Tips 💰

Tips are mandatory in many countries around the world. If your business trip takes you overseas, you might be required to pay this additional amount for different services. This is an unavoidable expense and something you can submit for reimbursement. 


What Not to Expense

  • Room Service & Minibar 🍽

Got big plans to take advantage of room service and the minibar? Think again. Minibar is a no. Room service is a gray zone. This is an unnecessary cost that may not be covered under corporate travel. Even if you are only using room service for meals, be conscious of the cost. Room service is often overpriced and it may mean you go over your per meal budget.  

  • Alcohol 🍷

Everyone knows a business trip is not an excuse for a big night out, but what about a glass of wine with dinner? Probably no. Or maybe a drink shared with a client? Only if clients push for it. We recommend not considering any personal alcohol purchase as a business travel expense. It’s worth checking your company’s policy to confirm their views on the matter.

  • Spa & Beauty 💆‍♂️

Unfortunately, a business trip is not an opportunity for a free haircut. If you somehow find the time to squeeze in a nail appointment or a trip to the spa, this is something you will have to pay for yourself. 

  • Sightseeing 🏞

One of the perks of business travel is that you get to experience a new location. If you have a chance to do some sightseeing, take advantage of the opportunity! However, remember that all leisure expenses will be coming out of your personal bank account.

  • Entertainment 🎪

In general, you cannot claim entertainment expenses for business travel. Occasionally, it might be acceptable to submit an entertainment expense if you participated in an activity with a client, but this is really something that should be confirmed in advance. 

The world of business travel expenses can be difficult to navigate, but our guide of dos and don’ts should provide some clarity when you next need to complete your expense report.