Meal/Lodging Per Diem


Plate of food


Washington State does NOT follow US GSA's Meals & Incidentals Breakdown, or first/last day of travel rates. Washington State calculates individual per diem meal amounts using the following percentages of the destination's total meal + incidental rate rounded to the nearest dollar:

Washington State Per Diem Rates
(8 AM)
$14 $15 $17 $18 $19
(12 PM)
$17 $18 $19 $20 $22

(6 PM) 48%

$28 $31 $33 $36 $38
Total Meals Per Diem $59 $64 $69 $74 $79


First & Last Day of Travel

On the first and last day of travel, travelers must be in travel status during the meal period in order to claim the meal:

  • 8 AM Breakfast
  • 12 PM Lunch
  • 6 PM Dinner

For instance, a traveler who departs home at 8:15 AM may not claim breakfast that day. If the traveler returns from a trip at 5:30 PM they may be reimbursed for breakfast and lunch, but not dinner.

Per diem is destination based. Meal reimbursement rates for the last day of travel (return day) continue to be the rate for the location where the traveler last spent the night. In-State/Out-of-state expense type selections are typically for the whole trip, i.e. breakfast in Seattle on the way to Portland is "Out-of-State".

Per Diem vs Actual

Per Diem means "For the Day" in Latin. Per Diem meals do not require receipts. Travel must be overnight to qualify for tax free meal reimbursements. Meal per diem rates are:

  • destination based
  • determined by federal per diem guidelines
  • cover the meal, taxes, tips, and an incidental expense allowance

Travelers may not claim meals provided by a conference or third party.

Exceptions: meal payments are not required to be reduced or eliminated due to meals served on airlines or for continental breakfasts included in hotel stays. “Continental Breakfast” is defined as either:

  • a breakfast generally consisting of juice, bread, fruit and a hot beverage (typically coffee or tea), or
  • a light meal defined in agency policy.

See SAAM 10.40.20.d for more information.

Actual meals claimed require itemized receipts showing food and beverages ordered as well as proof of payment (cash receipt or credit card slip), and may not exceed per diem rates.

Group trips

A travel leader can purchase groceries and/or restaurant meals for the group and submit the itemized receipts for reimbursement. Alternatively the leader can provide per diem to other travelers by  handing them cash from an advance or out of pocket funds to be reimbursed. The other travelers must sign stating they received the cash from the travel leader. This signed sheet must include accurate dates and amounts. The signed sheet serves as the receipt and must be submitted with the expense report. Documentation should clearly indicate which meal(s) (breakfast, lunch, dinner) were used to calculate the cash payment. Group Advance Distribution Log

For group travel, meal attendees must be in travel status or authorized on an FBA form. Actual meal amounts are reimbursed as evidenced by receipt and may not exceed per diem rates per person, including tax and tip. Documentation should clearly indicate which meal(s) (breakfast, lunch, dinner) and attendees the receipt covers.

Which One?

It is recommended to reimburse travelers at destination meal per diem rates (no receipts required) rather than claim actual meal expenses.


Alcohol is not allowed on Chart 1 (State) Funds

Day Trip Meals are Taxable

Day trip meals are regulated by the IRS.

Travelers are eligible for taxable meal reimbursements on day trips when in travel status at least 11 hours regardless of the day of the week. The traveler may not stop for a meal just to meet the 11 hour rule. Meal rates are based on per diem guidelines and meal periods.

Use the Meals, Day Trip, Taxable expense type and note which meals you are claiming if not a full day. Taxes will be withdrawn from a future paycheck. Travel Services will send an email to travelers notifying them of which paycheck will be affected.

*If you are traveling specifically for a business meeting with a meal, a Food and Beverage Approval Form may be filed. A detailed receipt will be required. The meal will be billed as “Actual” and will not be taxable. Meals under Chart 1 (state) funds must still meet per diem per person and may not include alcohol.


Facade of a hotel

Per Diem Rates

Lodging Per Diem rates are:

  • Set by the federal government
  • Reflect lodging base rate and any required fees
  • Do not include taxes for domestic locations
  • Are destination based
  • Reimbursement is allowed only when the travel destination is more than 50 miles (most direct route) than the closer of either the traveler's home or work. Exceptions may apply under specific conditions.

Exceptions to Maximum Lodging Rule

Travelers may request an exception to the maximum lodging rule. Allowable exceptions per SAAM rule 10.30.20 include:

  • a1) When a traveler is assigned to accompany an elected official, a foreign dignitary, or others as authorized by law, and is required to stay in the same lodging facility.
  • a2) When costs in the area have escalated for a brief period of time either during special events or disasters.
  • a3) When lodging accommodations in the area of the temporary duty station are not available at or below the maximum lodging amount, and the savings achieved from occupying less expensive lodging at a more distant site are consumed by an increase in transportation and other costs.
  • a4) The traveler attends a meeting, conference, convention, or training session where the traveler is expected to have business interaction with other participants in addition to scheduled events. Further, it is anticipated that maximum benefit will be achieved by authorizing the traveler to stay at the lodging facilities where the meeting, conference, convention, or training session is held.
  • a5) To comply with provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act or when the health and safety of the traveler is at risk.
  • a6) When meeting room facilities are necessary and it is more economical for the traveler to acquire special lodging accommodations such as a suite rather than to acquire a meeting room and a room for lodging.
  • b) The traveler is required to attend a meeting, conference, convention, or training session where the traveler is expected to have business interaction with other participants in addition to scheduled events; AND It is anticipated that maximum benefit with be achieved by authorizing the traveler to stay at the lodging facilities where the meeting, conference, convention, or training session is held; AND The lowest available advertised lodging rate at the lodging facility exceeds 150% of the applicable maximum per diem amount for the location. Documentation supporting the lodging rates is to be attached.

Airbnb Guidance

Using Peer to Peer Rental Property

The process whereby a homeowner makes their home or a room within their home available for others to rent for short periods of time as an alternative form of accommodation. Such property rentals are commonly reserved through companies such as, but not limited to, Airbnb and VRBO.

  1. Receive TA/Request approval before making travel arrangements
  2. Research and consider the property’s potential risks:
    • Are there smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire escape access?
    • Are there shared spaces with other guests and/or the hosts?
    • Other considerations include secure parking, stairs and accessibility, pools and hot tubs, animals on the premises.
  3. Use a university (WWU) email address when reserving and booking.
  4. Include all university travelers sharing accommodation on the reservation and rental booking.
  5. Understand that all fees, such as cleaning fees, additional guest fees, resort fees, etc. are included in the base rate. The rate must be within the allowable destination lodging per diem rate unless an approved exception applies.
  6. Assume all responsibility for loss and damage to rental property and contents.