Travel Policy in a Nutshell

Traveler ResponsibilitiesTravel Policy in a NutshellRoles in the Travel ProcessUC Policies


  • The traveler will incur and report actual travel expenses in a responsible and ethical manner.
  • The traveler will make choices that demonstrate good stewardship of university resources; spending decisions will not be extravagant or lavish.
  • Travel expenses must be considered ordinary and necessary to accomplish the official business purpose of the trip.
  • Travel expenses considered by the IRS to be taxable income to the traveler will not be reimbursed (limited exceptions may apply); refer to IRS Publication 463
  • Transportation expenses will generally be reimbursed based on the most economical and commonly used mode of conveyance taking the most direct route, unless otherwise justified.
  • Travel expenses will be reviewed and approved/denied in accordance with university policy and campus business practices; refer to UC Policy G-28

Business Purpose 

  • Provide a clear and thorough business purpose for all segments of your trip. You should always be able to explain how the university benefited from any expense it paid.
  • A good way to explain the business purpose is to answer who, what, where, when and why. You don’t need to include confidential details, such as donor names, but you should give some specifics (example: Donor meeting on October 1 in Dallas, TX to discuss potential gifts for undergraduate scholarships.) You do not need to submit back-up support for reimbursement, but it’s a good idea to keep agendas and other documentation for your records or if required by your funding source.

Business and Personal Travel Combined

  • Under no circumstances should personal travel expenses be charged to, or temporarily funded by, the university.
  • Domestic trips must be considered entirely business related for reimbursement; expenses related to personal side trips will not be paid by the university. For international travel, a trip is considered entirely business if at least one of the following tests is met: 1) the traveler did not have control over arranging the trip; 2) vacation was not a major consideration; 3) the time outside the U.S. was 7 consecutive days or fewer; 4) if more than 7 days, less than 25% time was spent on personal activities. If a trip is determined to be primarily personal, airfare/transportation costs will not be reimbursed. The university will only pay for expenses necessary to carry out the business activity.

Paying for Others

  • Generally this is not allowed, except on supervised groups or co-travelers sharing a room. If the only available option is to pay for someone else, provide a statement with your reimbursement request explaining the special circumstances.
  • Each university traveler should pay for his/her own expenses and submit an individual reimbursement request.
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  • Only your business-related airfare can be directly charged (i.e., directly billed) to the university. You can charge your airfare directly to the university by using the Direct Bill process and booking through Connexxus.

Airfare Guidelines

  • Tickets classified as economy/coach class are allowed, including economy-premium, -plus, -elite or similar label. When combining a personal trip with a business trip, your entire airline ticket will need to be paid personally (cannot be charged on a Direct Bill ID). Be sure to obtain a comparable airfare at the time of booking using the dates you would have traveled if strictly on business.
  • Ancillary fees charged by airlines (i.e., seat assignment, excess baggage) are reimbursable with a reasonable business-related justification.

Business or First Class Airfare Tickets

  • These higher priced tickets are generally not allowed. With additional documentation and approval, the following special circumstances may be considered:
    • Business- or first-class is the only service offered between two points
      • Provide written statement explaining circumstances
    • The use of coach-class would be more expensive or time-consuming
      • Provide written statement explaining circumstances
    • An itinerary involves overnight travel without an opportunity for normal rest before commencing business
      • Provide written statement explaining circumstances
    • The advantages of business- or first-class are necessary to reasonably accommodate a disability or medical need
      • Provide written statement from a doctor clearly explaining the specific accommodation(s) required that necessitate higher-class amenities; do not include a diagnosis.
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Car Rental and Ground Transportation

  • You can rent up to an intermediate size car. If larger than intermediate size is used, provide a business justification. If the justification is missing or insufficient, an exceptional approval will be required or the expense may be non-reimbursable.
  • Rent through Connexxus so your reservation is on a UC negotiated contract. You’ll be eligible for discounts and other benefits, and for rental in the U.S. and Canada, automatically covered by UC’s rental car insurance.
  • A detailed receipt is required for reimbursement.
  • If driving your personal vehicle, you may be reimbursed the standard per-mile rate based on the most direct route. To determine the number of miles, use an online mapping tool (MapQuest or Google Maps). The standard mileage rate includes fuel, as well as wear-and-tear on the vehicle.
  • If you choose to drive to a destination normally traveled to via air, pre-approval should be sought and a written statement explaining the circumstances will be expected for reimbursement. You will be reimbursed the lesser of mileage based on the most direct route or an amount equal to the cost of flying coach/economy with advance booking.
  • When driving between locations, you are expected to travel more than 300 miles/day in order to claim expenses for overnight lodging and meals.


  • The traveler must be at least 40 miles from the headquarter location or home, whichever is closer, to be reimbursed for an overnight stay, unless the stay is required to meet a business need (i.e., an event coordinator must be onsite for late night / early morning set-up). 
  • The receipt must be itemized (room, tax, service, and any other charges listed separately).
  • Daily lodging limits for domestic trips under 30 days is set at a $275 room rate, excluding taxes and fees. A traveler who is required to attend a conference where the prearranged conference lodging rate exceeds the $275 per night maximum may stay at the conference hotel without exceptional approval with an explanation and documentation provided with the reimbursement request. Otherwise, when the traveler is unable to secure lodging at $275 per night or less, the traveler must submit additional documentation such as a price comparison within proximity of the meeting location that supports the higher lodging rate and exceptional approval is required.

Travel Packages / Bundled Reservations

  • Travel packages typically do not provide sufficient receipt detail to satisfy reimbursement requirements.
  • Do not book a package that bundles airfare, hotel, car rental and/or other trip expenses unless you confirm beforehand that an itemized receipt for each type of expense will be provided.

Cancellation and Change Fees

  • If you are unable to honor a reservation, you are responsible for canceling the reservation in compliance with the cancellation terms established by the hotel, airline, etc.
  • You must immediately return any refundable deposits or unused transportation tickets to the university.
  • Charges or lost refunds resulting from failure to cancel reservations will not be reimbursed unless you can show that such failure was the result of circumstances beyond your control.
  • When you personally purchase a ticket, cancel appropriately, and hold the airline credit, you will be reimbursed:
    • After the 12 month credit period if not used for personal or business travel, or by exceptional approval
    • You will need to provide documentation showing that the credit expired
  • Change fees may be reimbursable if you can document a legitimate business need for the change or you can show that the need was the result of circumstances beyond your control.
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Meals and Incidentals Expenses (M&IE)

  • If a trip is less than 24 hours, meals are not reimbursable, unless there was a need for an overnight stay.
  • When traveling within the continental U.S., the daily limit is $62. This limit is not a per diem. Only actual expenses can be reimbursed.
  • The daily per diem limit when traveling internationally or offshore U.S. varies by location and is based on the U.S. State Department per diem rates.
  • Incidentals include tips for baggage handlers, hotel housekeeping and similar services.
  • M&IE does not include miscellaneous business expenses, such as internet access or copy services, which may be claimed separately.
  • Receipts are needed for any expense of $75 or more. Some fund sources may require receipts regardless of dollar amount. For guidance on additional restrictions, contact your research administrator or department business officer.

Reporting Travel Expenses

  • Keep track of your business-related expenses and only claim reimbursement for the actual amount spent.
  • International trips and domestic travel more than 30 days may be reimbursed on a flat-rate per diem based on actuals and not to exceed the U.S. State Department rates for the location.
  • A Travel Expense and Reimbursement Request shall be used to account for all travel advances and expenses incurred in connection with official university travel.
  • A travel expense report must be processed after EACH trip, even if no reimbursement is due to the traveler (e.g., the only expense was airfare paid with a Direct Bill ID).
  • Reimbursement requests must be submitted within 45 days of the end of a trip unless there is recurrent local travel, in which case vouchers may be aggregated and submitted monthly. When a trip lasts more than 90 days, the traveler must submit a quarterly report of expenditures. Expense reports submitted late may still be paid with appropriate approvals; the amount of the payment may be reported as taxable income.
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  • Submit itemized receipts for all airfare, car rentals, domestic U.S. lodging, and conference registration regardless of dollar amount, or any other single expense of $75 or more. Some fund sources may require receipts regardless of dollar amount. For guidance on additional restrictions, contact your research administrator or department business officer.
  • A valid receipt contains payee's name, amount, date, place, identification of what was purchased and proof of payment.
  • If you lost a business receipt and have exhausted all efforts to obtain a copy from the merchant, provide an explanation with your reimbursement request  including the details of the purchase and your declaration that the amount claimed is the amount actually paid by you and that you have not and will not seek reimbursement from any other source. A copy of a credit card statement can substantiate that you made the purchase, but does not provide the details of what was purchased, so does not serve as a stand-alone receipt replacement.
  • Auditors expect to see receipts to support the payment of a business expense; if a payment is not proven to be business related, it may be disallowed for reimbursement or reported as taxable. It is always in the traveler’s best interest to keep records of expenses incurred and reimbursed.

Entertaining While Traveling

  • For a breakdown of per-person entertainment meal reimbursement limits, check out the Entertain While on Travel Status page. Must comply with the UC Entertainment Policy (BFB-79).
  • Be prepared to provide the business purpose of the event and the names and affiliations of guests.
  • If spouses attended, exceptional approval is required.

Extended Travel

  • Special considerations apply to extended travel. If the travel is planned to be more than 30 days, consult the policy for guidelines on how to handle expenses.
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