For academic conference organizers, attendees and anyone inviting us for talks

I like going to conferences. I think most academics do. I love talking about my work and getting feedback and hanging with friends in the academy

(side note: I quite like the academy- I know it is not fashionable to like your job but…).

The thing though is that as much as we all like going to conferences (big and small) and giving talks it isn’t cheap. The cost is higher on graduate students who get a tiny share of the funding pool.

Professor friends – I know you have research funds – why aren’t you using them to help fund travel for your graduate students?

I do not even have graduate students, but our school gives us money to pay for our students to go to conferences with us. It is a lot easier for professors, especially tenured faculty, to find more money than it is for graduate students. Topic/rant for another day


So how do we financially prepare for conference/talks travel

Sources of funding

  1. Know your allocated travel funds – every school or let me say most schools have some travel allowance. When I was a graduate student, we had an allowance of $250 -which is cray, but we can discuss that later
  2. Make a list of all possible sources of funding for travel – my faculty mentor gave a list of at five sources that I did not even know existed
  3. Always ask organizers if they have a budget to cover your travel needs – this works – trust me
  4. Investigate possibilities for funding via the conference or affiliated organizations
    1. Most conferences have funding for students – recently there was a twitter storm about tenured people applying for student funding – we should all have more shame
    2. Some conferences have targeted funding for minorities
    3. Attending workshops before the conference might come with free travel and or housing
    4. Volunteering to help with some activity might also come with complimentary travel
  5. If you have a co-author, you may have the option to use some of your travel funds to cover their travel.
  6. You might be able to use travel awards to cover childcare – double and triple check with your school

Planning for travel

  1. Understand all related costs. The obvious ones are hotel and airfare but some small things to keep in mind-
    1. Travel to and from your home to the airport – this is huge for me. To get to the airport from Wellesley, I have to pay $80. That means a total of $160 unless I drive and park at the airport, which is neither cheap nor convenient for me. I could also ask my husband to pick me up, but that sucks if I get back at night – he has to be up at 5 am for work, so yeah, we are not doing that. Taking the bus is an unnecessary 2-hour journey. Uber is not an easy option because – Wellesley
    2. Meals during travel – coffee, bagels, lunch all add up- you also want to make sure you are eating healthy wholesome meals to avoid travel fatigue and sickness ($20 for the day or more depending on length)
    3. Luggage – black hair products, shampoo, lotion, bathing gels, etc. all require that I check in my bags. Hotel shampoo, conditioners, and soap are not designed for black bodies ($50)

Ways to cut costs

  1. Itemize your travel budget, so you know what to expect
  2. Build a relationship with taxi/car service if you live in the middle of nowhere – often they can give you a discount or override surge rates
  3. Buy bulk travel size supplies – I regularly stock up at bath and body when they have sales
  4. Buy bulk travel snacks – trader joes has some good size snacks
  5. Pack easy to carry fruit like apples, banana and 3oz yogurt (also trader joes)
  6. Eat a good meal before you leave home
  7. Book travel with an airline credit card to get double miles and free luggage check-in


Suggestions to expedite reimbursements

  1. Ask if your school allows for travel advance that way you are not out of pocket for a long time
  2. Complete reimbursement forms for each trip from the moment you make the first purchase – e.g., when you buy your air ticket
  3. Take pictures of every receipt or use an app to capture and store receipts – this is great when you are in the field
  4. Keep a small wallet for all your receipts



What other strategies do you use?