The Stanford travel program for has clear boundaries for postdocs. To be reimbursed for university-sponsored travel, faculty, staff, and postdoctoral scholars must use the Stanford Travel Booking Channels and comply with all instructions when booking airfare, hotels, and/or car rentals (with limited exceptions). Complete policy details are available in the Business and Travel Expense Policies overview. Best practices include talking with the departmental finance managers and your PI before traveling.
Prior to travel, get permission from your faculty sponsor. Talk to your sponsor about the source of funds that will pay for the trip. Frequently, the research grant or fellowship award will have a travel allowance or institutional allowance. Once you and the faculty sponsor have an understanding on the source of funding, it is best to let the faculty's administrative assistant (or student services administrator) know about your trip and the funding. Your sponsor should be supportive of travel that furthers your research, your training, and the research goals of the lab.
For travel policies, read the Admin Guide 5.4.2 Travel Expenses. Remember that these policies are not written specifically for students, but the rules, in general, apply to all. Talk with your faculty's administrative assistant if you have questions. Note that there are some expenses not eligible for reimbursement (i.e. accident insurance on car rentals - Stanford has insurance that covers accidents in rental vehicles).
Advanced Payment and Receipts
The only expense that can be paid in advance of the trip is registration. If registration includes housing, that can be covered at the same time. You will pay for all other expenses out of pocket and will be reimbursed after the trip. Keep receipts for all expenses, however small. If the expense is under $25 and there is no receipt (such as a quick meal at a fast-food restaurant), you can still be reimbursed with minimal additional paperwork. Always ask for receipts from taxis, keep track of mileage if driving, keep registration materials from your conference, check the hotel bill for accuracy before leaving, etc. You must provide the original receipts to the department administrator processing the reimbursement. University regulations require originals be held at the Controller's Office for audit requirements.
Reimbursements are processed in a variety of ways, depending on the type of reimbursement and the way the scholar is paid at the time of travel. Stanford University makes all attempts to keep reimbursements non-tax reportable, but there is a category of scholar that will receive tax-reportable reimbursements. (Please see http://fingate.stanford.edu/staff/travel/policy_notes/required_docs_reimb.html.) Scholars paid solely by stipend at the time of their travel will have their reimbursement processed as a stipend and it is considered tax-reportable income. Reimbursements for foreign nationals from non-treaty countries will have 14% tax removed, as it is on the monthly stipend/fellowship checks.
The scholar is responsible for obtaining information on their tax liability. Stanford employees are not able to give tax advice. You can visit Gateway to Financial Activities web site at http://fingate.stanford.edu/students/index.html for general tax advice.
Processing By the Department Administrator
If salaried, the department administrator will attach the original documents to the reimbursement request being processed and the check will come to you, generally, after 3 weeks. If on stipend, the department administrator keeps the original documents to attach to the expenditure statements of the funding source. If stipend and foreign student it is sent on a SU-21 without attachments to the Payroll Office to process the reimbursement check or, if stipend and a US citizen or permanent resident, entered into PeopleSoft GFS. The reimbursement can be done through GFS if an Item Type of "travel" or "other" is setup by the scholar's department.
If the travel is local and there is a single expense (i.e. mileage to San Francisco), petty cash may be used for the reimbursement. Petty cash cannot be used if there were multiple expenses even if reimbursed separately (i.e. a registration fee and mileage reimbursement). If the source of funds is from a restricted source, petty cash reimbursement may not be desirable due to financial reporting requirements. Please check with the department business manager before processing petty cash.
Funding For Travel
There are very few sources outside the faculty sponsor's for funding travel. Please talk to your business manager about possible department or school sources. There are two awards made to women postdoctoral scholars appointed in the School of Medicine - limited to women due to the nature of the gift to the School. The McCormick travel awards and the Henzl-Gabor travel awards are offered once a year. The Postdoctoral Services Office web site will advertise when they are open, as well as an email notification to eligible scholars.
Other kinds of reimbursements are addressed at http://fingate.stanford.edu/staff/reimburse/index.html. Expenses under $150 can generally be reimbursed by petty cash. Original receipts are always required. Scholars are discouraged from purchasing equipment. Have the department order and pay for the item; this avoids any delays or tax-reportable reimbursements.