How do I know how much I can spend for meals when traveling overnight?


State Statute 81-1174 (link) says that State employees will be reimbursed for actual expenses incurred.  Therefore, State Accounting cannot place restrictions on the dollar amount employees can spend for meals, but it is expected that the expense incurred is reasonable.  To help Agencies determine what is reasonable, we recommend that they review the meal allowances published by the U.S. General Services Administration which can be found at GSA  meal guidelines.  (The Federal maximum per diem standard rates are only a guideline and should not be claimed.)  There should be no alcoholic beverages included in the reimbursable amount.


Agencies are not required to restrict employees to a specific allowance for breakfast, lunch and dinner, nor to a specific allowance per day unless they choose to do so.  Example:  an agency has a travel policy that states they expect employee’s expenses to be reasonable for the city to which they are traveling.  An employee leaves on Monday at 6:00 a.m. for overnight travel to a city where the GSA guideline is $55.00 per day for meals and incidentals.  On Monday, the employee skips breakfast, and eats lunch and dinner and the total cost for the day is $40.  On Tuesday, the employee eats breakfast, lunch and dinner and the total cost for the day is $60.00.  On Wednesday the total cost is $75.00 and on Thursday (employee flies home) the total cost is 25.00 for the day (returns before dinner).  The total expense for the entire trip for meals and incidentals is $200.00.  Agencies may consider this as reasonable for the four day trip because the total for the entire trip is reasonable when compared to the GSA guidelines of $192.50 (GSA allows 75% of the per diem on travel days:  $55 * 75% = $41.25; Day 1 = $41.25 Days 2 & 3 = $55.00 Day 4 = $41.25 for a total of $192.50 ).