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Travel Expense Guidelines

:!: Warning: These are my attempt at consolidating various rules and guidelines I've seen while at UT, but they are not official UT or department policy.


Travel expenses are transportation, meal, lodging, and incidental expenses.

You must ensure the expenses are cost effective, considering all relevant circumstances.

Expenses that you would incur regardless of whether you were traveling cannot be reimbursed.

You are only reimbursed for actual expenses that you pay, plus personal car mileage.

Proof of payment is recommended for all expenses, and is required for transportation and meals. For personal car mileage, you need to provide a point-to-point distance listing of the route you took.

You must have travel authorization in advance of traveling outside of Austin.

Transportation Expenses

If UT business requires you to travel off-campus, you can be reimbursed for your transportation expenses.

Transportation expenses are either:

  • public transport where you pay a fare,
  • a vehicle that your rent, or
  • use of a personal car.

If you pay a fare or rent a vehicle:

  • You must do business with a transportation company;
  • The transportation must be a car, taxi, van, bus, train, aircraft, boat, or bicycle; and
  • You must obtain proof of payment.

If you use a personal car for UT business, you can be reimbursed for mileage, tolls, and parking.

You cannot be reimbursed for commuting between home and campus.

For groups of travelers, you should share cars/taxis/vans. Four (or more, if reasonable) people per car/taxi/van. You must split the charges among the employees sharing the car/taxi/van.

No limos, unless they are the cheapest option.

Guideline: Airfare should be the lowest economy airfare for the dates of travel, unless all lower airfares:

  • excessively prolonged travel (for example: ≥ 4 hour layovers, or adds ≥ 6 hours to an international trip),
  • required travel during unreasonable hours (such as between midnight and 6:00 a.m.),
  • resulted in other costs that would negate the airfare savings,
  • were likely to be disrupted or delayed, or
  • presented safety or health risks.

Find the “lowest economy airfare” by either (1) using UT's Concur system, or (2) searching Travelocity and Orbitz, and sorting by price. You don't need to buy there, but that'll give you a baseline price.

Rental car collision damage waiver and loss damage waiver are usually included in UT's contract rate. If you aren't using UT's contract, they are reimbursable. A charge for an additional driver may only be reimbursed if incurred for a business reason. Charges for a liability insurance supplement, personal accident insurance, safe trip insurance, or personal effects insurance are not reimbursable.

For personal car usage, create a point-to-point distance listing of the route you took, using a service like MapQuest. Your route should be the most cost-effective reasonably safe route, considering distance, drive time, and safe road conditions. Also, keep track of parking fees and tolls. (This can be receipts or notes you've kept.)


Note: Some funding sources do not reimburse for meals, so this section may not apply to you.

If you are outside of Austin but not overnight, you might be reimbursed for meals. (This is limited.)

If are outside of Austin overnight, meals and lodging are reimbursable. (There are per-day caps on these expenses.)

There are odd rules for tips on some UT funds. Check with accounting on this.

You cannot be reimbursed for alcoholic beverages.


If you are outside of Austin for ≥ 6 hours on UT business, you can stay overnight.

If are outside of Austin overnight, meals and lodging are reimbursable. (There are per-day caps on these expenses.)

Lodging must be a motel, hotel, inn, etc. company in the public lodging business. Rental apartments and rental houses from a company in the public lodging business are OK, too, but they must be cheaper than a motel/hotel/inn.

You can be reimbursed for staying longer if it allows you to save on airfare, and the total travel cost is less than staying a shorter time.

Arriving the night before or leaving the morning after your UT business is reimbursable.

Some universities and the US government say that if your travel time is 14 hours or more, you can arrive a day early to have time to recuperate. I think this is reasonable, but I have not seen this guideline used at UT.

UT is exempt from Texas state hotel taxes. You do have to pay other taxes, though.

If you share a hotel room with another UT employee, you must split the charges among the employees sharing the room.

Incidental Expenses

Incidental expenses are other expenses that you incur because of traveling on UT business that are not “personal expenses”. Remember, expenses that you would incur regardless of whether you were traveling cannot be reimbursed.

A list of some types of incidental expenses:

  • Baggage fees for the first checked bag is reimbursable. Charges for excessive baggage may be reimbursed if UT business requires it, for example traveling with UT equipment that must be checked.
  • Use of computers, printers, faxing machines, and scanners.
  • Storage of property used on UT business.
  • Lodging resort/facility/destination/amenity/energy fees, when such fees are not optional.
  • Mandatory insurance or service charges.
  • Other taxes.
  • Foreign country exit fees.
  • Fees for travelers checks, money orders, certified checks, ATM fees, and foreign currency conversion.
  • Travel agency fees.


  1. If you will be traveling often, consider applying to the Global Entry program to clear US customs and airport screening fast.
  2. If you’re traveling outside the US, check visa requirements. If you need a visa, that can be a slow process, so start it early.
  3. Get an estimate of your expenses. Break them down into:
    • Transportation (include airfare, home-to/from-airport, airport-to/from-hotel)
    • Lodging (check on taxes and fees)
    • Meals
    • Conference Registration
    • Incidentals (see list above)
  4. Start a spreadsheet recording your estimates, grants applied for, and approved amounts.
  5. Get travel grants:
    1. Consider applying as a student volunteer at the conference.
    2. Apply to the conference for a student travel grant.
    3. Apply to your ACM SIG for a student travel grant.
    4. Talk with your advisor about travel support.
    5. Apply to the department for Graduate Student Travel Support. The deadline is early each semester.
  6. When the RTA is approved, you'll be asked to fill in more forms! Expect it! Yay!
  7. Buy your airfare.
    • For within-US flights, the optimal time to buy is about 39 calendar days before travel.
    • Internationally, the optimal time is about 10 months in advance.
    • You can buy tickets through UT’s travel agency which has the advantage that the airfare won't be on your credit card, and some of UT's international paperwork is automated.
    • You can book airfare on your own, but you need to be not more expensive than the UT travel agency.
    • If you're flying among the IATA airport codes listed below, there are special State of Texas airfares you should check.
  8. Book your hotel room. Many conferences will have special conference discount hotel rates. If you’re a UT employee (TA/GRA/etc.), check with the hotel for a state government hotel rate. Also use Web hotel search sites, of course. is a good hotel search engine, particularly in Europe. You can also book hotels using UT’s travel agency.
  9. Register for the conference. If you have a student volunteer or conference grant application pending, wait for instructions on how to register. If accepted, the conference will likely give you a discount code to use when registering.
  10. If you don’t have business cards, print some to hand to people you meet. UT makes it easy to get business cards.
  11. If you’re traveling internationally, UT will require you to buy their international insurance ($19/week). That’ll show up in UT Direct’s “What I Owe” page. Don’t forget to pay it, or you won’t be able to register next semester.
  12. Get your airfare receipt before you travel. Airlines start deleting records of flights the week after you fly, and it gets harder to get the receipt then.
  13. If you’re traveling in Texas, fill in a hotel tax exemption form to give to the hotel as you check in.
  14. When you travel, be sure to get receipts for everything that you can. Receipts need to show that you paid. Keep them neat and organized.
  15. Get your hotel receipt as you check out, even if the hotel gave you a statement the night before. You need a receipt that shows you actually paid the bill, not just a statement of charges.
  16. When you get back, go to accounting with a Travel Reimbursement Form and all of your receipts for reimbursement. Try to do this within a week of returning. Actually, getting your receipts organized and filling in the form is a good activity for your return flight.
travel.txt · Last modified: 2019/09/10 12:49 by jthywiss