How to Set Consultant Rates for Travel: A Comprehensive Guide

Alfredo Ramirez

As a consultant, managing travel for client engagements is an integral part of the job. However, determining how to charge for travel days can be challenging, especially for first-time work travelers. This comprehensive guide aims to provide clarity and advice on setting consultant rates for travel, ensuring fair compensation while maintaining client relationships.

Understanding the Basics of Travel Charging

While it may seem like consultants can spend most of their days behind a computer screen, there comes a time in most consultants’ careers, no matter their expertise, when they are asked to travel for client work. It could be programmatic work, a retreat or annual meeting, or just meeting clients in person after years of working together.

As the echoes of COVID recede and the entrepreneurial world finds its balance in the post-pandemic hybrid work environment, it is essential to successfully navigate travel days and the negotiations that can lead up to them. Travel is not free, and neither is your time. Charging for travel is a standard practice . Below, we describe how to establish these standards in any contract or negotiation.

1. Establishing a Travel Rate Policy

Travel days for consultants often involve significant time and effort, impacting your ability to work on other projects. Having a clear policy on travel rates is essential, and it is usually necessary to disclose or include it in any contract negotiations. 

This policy should outline whether you charge the same rate for travel days as for working days or offer a reduced rate, reimbursements, per diems, and any other incidentals that may arise during travel. If it isn’t included in the contract, but you already know your preferences or policy, communicate it before travel to avoid client misunderstandings.

Most importantly, discuss how you will invoice travel expenses. The most popular option is generally to send a separate travel invoice with the cost of travel included. The level of detail, including receipts or other expenses, is an item for discussion between you and the client. Payment should be made using the same terms as your existing contract, such as Net 30 or upon receipt.

2. Domestic vs. International Travel Rates

The nature of travel can influence the rate. For international travel, which often involves more extended hours and complex logistics, some consultants opt for a higher rate than domestic travel. This distinction should be part of your travel rate policy.

In addition, if traveling internationally, you may include a standard or pre-determined exchange rate to facilitate payment in local currency.

3. Charging for Actual Travel Hours vs. Full Day

When you travel to an office or work on-site, even sitting on a plane, you are technically working and taking time away from other client work. Don’t opt to charge only for time on-site or days working.

Many consultants will also charge for the traveling hours, while others charge a full-day rate regardless of travel duration. Charging for actual hours can be more precise but may require detailed tracking and justification.

4. Inclusion of Preparation and Recovery Time

Traveling for work often requires preparation and recovery time. Some consultants include these as billable, especially for international trips involving jet lag and extensive planning. This approach acknowledges the full extent of the effort required for travel.

Preparation can also be included as part of a pre-existing scope of work or an additional set of agreed-upon hours.

5. Special Considerations for Conference Attendance

Consider how to charge for your time when traveling for conferences or events at a client's request. Some consultants charge total daily rates for each conference day, recognizing that their presence and participation are part of their professional services. Consultants should also consider all other items discussed, such as pre-determined rates, reimbursements, and payment terms.

Handling Client Pushback and Negotiations

It's not uncommon for clients to push back on paying full rates for travel days. In such cases, explaining the rationale behind your rates and the industry standards is essential. Emphasize the value you bring to the project, even on travel days.

If a client is resistant to paying full rates for travel, consider offering a compromise, such as a slightly reduced rate, or billing for a set number of hours regardless of actual travel time. This approach can maintain good client relations while ensuring you are fairly compensated.


Setting consultant rates for travel is a nuanced process that requires balancing fair compensation for your time and effort with maintaining positive client relationships. By establishing clear policies, being open to negotiation, and understanding industry standards, consultants can navigate this aspect of their business effectively. Remember, your time is valuable, and travel is integral to your professional service offering. As such, it deserves to be compensated fairly and transparently.

Discover numerous professional opportunities to travel, whether speaking at conferences or working with new clients, on Prosal.


Alfredo Ramirez

Alfredo is the COO and Co-Founder of Prosal. He has over ten years of experience working in the nonprofit industry and previously founded a successful digital strategies business, winning over $2 million in RFPs throughout his career. He is an avid mountain biker and snowboarder and enjoys anything that takes him outdoors.

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