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Travel Basics

This applies to Travel before May 1, 2010. Click here for current Travel Information.

In addition to the specific travel regulations found in these pages, all travel purchases are subject to all rules and regulations applicable to the acquisition of goods and services at UVA, including the Guidelines for Competition.

Procurement Services policies and procedures regarding travel apply to anyone traveling for properly approved University business purposes, with the two exceptions noted below. It is not necessary that the traveler have a position with the University.

Health System Note: Travel on behalf of the Health System is not addressed on this page. Those traveling on Health System funds should contact Medical Center Invoice Processing at 924-5495.

Sponsored Program Funds Note: The rules and guidelines on this page apply to travel on sponsored program funds, except where specifically noted. In the unusual case where travel is purchased solely from sponsored program funds and the individual grant or contract specifies other rules for travel purchases, the grant rules prevail. Please read your grant's "Sponsor's Notice of Grant Award" for exceptions to these rules. If your grant includes federal funds, it will be also be subject to federal regulations on travel purchases, including the "Fly America Act". Visit the Office of Sponsored Programs website often to be sure that you are aware of all such issues relating to travel on these funds.

State Funds Prior Approvals

Note: The prior approval requirements described in this section apply only when state funds are used. These prior approvals are not required for travel funded solely from local or sponsored program funds.

  • Any foreign or domestic overnight trip where the expense from state funds may exceed $500 requires an estimate of the total cost of the proposed trip.
    • The single estimate must include all anticipated expenses -- transportation, lodging, travel meals, business meals, conference registration, and any other travel costs or course fees.
    • All anticipated expenses must be included, regardless of how they will be paid -- pre-payment, direct payment, Purchasing Card, multiple Payment Vouchers, cash advances, or any other method of payment.
    • The estimate for the entire trip(see definitionpopup ) must be included on one "Pre-Approval of Proposed Travel Estimate" from the Travel Workbook.
    • Written Dean, Vice President, or Designee approval of this estimate must be obtained prior to making any travel purchase for the trip. The approver is responsible for confirming that all charges on the estimate conform to travel policy and procedures, and that funds will be available to pay for the trip as proposed.
    • This pre-approval sheet, with required signatures, must be submitted as part of the Travel Workbook in addition to the "Travel Reimbursement Request" and other sheets when requesting reimbursement. For direct payments, including pre-payment, this document must be kept in the department with the Payment Voucher documentation.
    • If actual charges at the end of the trip do not exceed the pre-trip estimate by more than 10%, Dean, Vice President or Designee approval will not be required on the rest of the Travel Workbook when reimbursement is requested. If the estimate is exceeded by more than 10%, the trip as taken must be re-approved and approving signatures obtained on the "Travel Reimbursement Request" sheet of the Travel Workbook.
  • International travel (see definitionpopup ) requires the approval of Dean, Vice President, or Designee prior to making any travel purchase for the trip.
  • Three or more travelers to the same destination in the same timeframe require the approval of Dean, Vice President or Designee prior to making any travel purchase for the trip.
    • Applies whether travelers are presenting or attending.
    • Applies to both day trip and overnight travel.
    • If the trip is international (see definitionpopup ), the prior approval of the Commonwealth's Secretary of Education must be obtained through Procurement Services.
  • Lodging expenses up to 50% over the state limits may be reimbursed only with the prior approval of Dean, Vice President, or Designee.
    • The original approved request, signed and dated, must be submitted to Procurement Services with the Travel Workbook. A separate approval document is not required when the signed "Pre-Approval of Proposed Trip Estimate" sheet is included with the Travel Workbook.
    • The approval document must include an explanation of the circumstances justifying the exception (e.g. It may be more economical to stay in a conference hotel that exceeds lodging limits than to incur transportation expenses to and from less expensive lodging.)

Note: Signed paper originals of ALL prior approval documentation, including the "Pre-Approval of Proposed Travel Estimate" form, must be submitted with the Travel Workbook to Procurement Services when the Payment Voucher is entered in the Integrated System. The Payment Voucher cannot be processed and will be on hold until this documentation is received.

Bundled Travel Packages

The travel industry has begun to offer economical bundled travel packages that combine airline travel with hotel stays, car rental, and even meals. However, these packages usually offer only a consolidated invoice that provides no breakdown of the various travel services included.

If you wish to purchase a bundled travel package, you must seek full reimbursement after the trip –- no direct payment, pre-payment or Purchase Card use is allowed. Prior to making the purchase, you must also ensure that the package is the most economical option for the trip and provide additional documentation confirming the savings, as described below:

  • Documentation must be provided comparing the cost of the bundled travel package to the combined cost of the same travel services purchased separately and within allowable travel limits, and of course, the bundle must be the less expensive of the two alternatives.
  • Documentation of each alternative must be either a website screen print or printed quotation from the vendor showing the cost and the travel services included.
  • These comparison documents must be attached to the paper copy of the Travel Workbook when it is submitted to Procurement Services for reimbursement.
  • In addition, all other travel rules, limitations, and documentation requirements such as itineraries and boarding passes, are still in effect.

Training Travel for Five or More

When it is essential to staff development for five or more employees to attend the same seminar, workshop, or training program:

  • The option of bringing the trainer on-site, rather than having employees travel to an offsite location, must be investigated prior to making the travel purchase.
  • If on-site training is cost-prohibitive, the practicality of using studio and video teleconferencing must also be investigated.
  • If any state funds are to be used, documentation of the comparative costs must be submitted with the Travel Workbook when reimbursement is requested. This is not required when payment is solely from local or sponsored program funds.

Air and Rail Tickets

Purchasing Tickets:

  • Travelers must ensure that they use the most economical means of travel. This means searching for the lowest fares available for the desired destination.
  • Tickets may be purchased off-contract, and may be booked directly by phone, fax or Internet, or with any travel agency.
  • When purchasing tickets over the internet:
    • Always be sure that the site you use is reputable and offers secure online transactions -- look for URL beginning with "https" when entering your personal or payment information.
    • You must retain the final confirmation page showing the type of ticket purchased (e.g. coach, business) -- it is required documentation when reimbursement is requested.
  • The University still has excellent Travel Agency Contracts in place if you prefer to book your tickets through a travel agency.
  • Most airlines now charge a $20-$25 fee for paper tickets -- electronic ticketing is recommended.
  • When purchasing tickets for others, always remind the traveler to save the boarding pass -- it will be required documentation.

Paying for Tickets:

  • To have the University pay directly for tickets and avoid the need for reimbursement, use the University Purchasing Card (UPC). This is the preferred way to have the University pre-pay for tickets. There are even special Purchasing Card pre-approval procedures that allow cardholders to purchase air, rail, and bus tickets in excess of their individual transaction limits.
  • To pay for the tickets yourself and have the University reimburse you after the trip, you may use the University Travel Card or your own personal credit cards. You will be reimbursed after your trip is completed and after submission of a Payment Voucher, Travel Workbook, and supporting documentation as described in Travel Procedures -- Reimbursement.

Upgrades to Air Travel:

Although first class tickets may never be purchased with state funds, travelers may purchase or be reimbursed for upgrades from coach to business class under any one of the following conditions:

  • Documentation is provided to prove that the business class fare does not exceed the lowest available tourist/coach fare, or
  • Flight is to western Europe and a business meeting will be attended within three hours of landing, or
  • Flight is transoceanic or intercontinental and expected flight time exceeds eight hours, or
  • The traveler pays for the difference between lowest available tourist/coach fare and the business class fare.


  • You must get a boarding pass or ticket stub when paying for air, rail, or bus travel.
  • The traveler should allow extra time at departure in case it is necessary to wait in line at the ticket counter in order to obtain a boarding pass or ticket stub.
  • The boarding pass or ticket stub must be retained and submitted with the Travel Workbook for reimbursement or attached to the purchasing card log if prepaid on the University purchasing card -- it is critical to hang onto that little bit of paper!
    • All privileges associated with University travel, such as unused portions of air or rail tickets, free trips, and frequent flyer miles, belong to the University.
    • The traveler must return any unused tickets or coupons to the departmental travel manager or the travel agency; they may not be used for personal travel under any circumstances.
    • It is the department's responsibility to monitor ticket usage, and ensure that trips are actually taken and any unused tickets returned.
    • Your department may be able to receive partial credit for unused tickets. Most airlines will grant refunds for medical emergencies or deaths. Some airlines may still allow the exchange of nontransferable, nonrefundable tickets for higher priced tickets, with a penalty, for up to one year from date of issuance, although most have abandoned this practice.
  • Unused Airline Tickets & Frequent Flyer Miles:

Overnight Travel Lodging and Meals

Note: "Travel meals" are meals for which a traveler may be reimbursed for no other reason than that the meals were taken while traveling on University business. Travel meals should not be confused with business meals, which have different rules for reimbursement. This particular section only addresses travel meals taken while traveling overnight.

There are many rules and limitations regarding reimbursement for lodging and travel meals -- be sure you read Travel Expenses Policy before you travel. Here are a few main points:

Expenditure Limits


  • Travelers may be reimbursed from state funds for travel lodging up to 50% over specified amounts with written justification and with prior approval of Dean, Vice President, or Designee. Any portion of lodging cost in excess of allowable limits for state funds must be paid from local funds (up to local funds limits). Taxes and surcharges should be excluded from these calculations.
  • On all funds, taxes and surcharges may be reimbursed in addition to the lodging limits, from the same funds used to pay for lodging -- lodging limits exclude taxes and surcharges.
  • When purchasing lodging over the internet, you must retain the final confirmation page showing room, services, dates, and rates.
  • Good stewardship requires that you get the best possible rates on lodging:
    • The University's contracted travel agencies can find the lowest rates for you. Be sure to let them know if you qualify for senior discounts.
    • Ask for discount rates -- the government rate, the State rate, the Federal rate, the education rate, the University of Virginia special rate, or the senior rate if you qualify. You may need your University ID as proof of employment.
    • If a discount is not available when you make your reservations, ask again at check-in. Often hotels will discount rooms if room occupancies are low.

Travel Meals and incidentals

  • Travelers may not be reimbursed from state funds for travel meals and incidental expenses in excess of specified per diem amounts. This restriction on travel meals does not apply to business meals taken while traveling.
  • On state funds, departments may choose to reimburse their travelers for the full per diem amount specified, or for actual meal expense incurred up to that amount. On local funds, only actual meal expense may be reimbursed.
  • Reimbursements cannot be made for meal expenses not actually incurred, as when no-cost meals are included in a conference package, meals are provided by others, or meals are claimed as business meals by the traveler.
  • Meal tipping and taxes are included in the expense limit for the meal, on all funds.
  • Incidentals in state funds limits include transportation between lodging and meals, transportation and lodging tipping, personal phone calls, and laundry. They are reimbursed at 100% for all travel days, including departure and return.
  • Travel meal expenses are reimbursed at 75% of the allowable per diem amounts on days of departure and return, regardless of departure or return time.

Receipts for Lodging and Travel Meals

You must provide receipts for all travel expenditures, unless otherwise noted.

  • Lodging -- Hotel bills must be itemized and reflect all charges at time of checkout; this precludes express checkout. Note: When hotel bills have been pre-paid (e.g. when purchased over the internet), you must still provide an itemized statement from the hotel of actual charges at the time of departure.
  • Meals -- Itemized receipts are not required for meals on state funds within specified per diem limits. On local funds, receipts are not required for single meals under $25, but the cost of each meal must be provided.
  • Incidentals -- Itemized receipts are not required for incidental expenses less than $10 per purchase.

Day Trip Meals

Day trips are trips taken on University business that do not involve an overnight stay. Consequently, day trip meals are never reimbursable from state funds as travel meals, though they may be reimbursable from state funds as business meals if they qualify. The following regulations apply to day trip travel meal reimbursements.

  • Meals taken on day trips may be reimbursed as travel meals from local funds only, with the approval of a Dean, Vice-President, or Designee.
  • Receipts are required for day trip meals.
  • The Travel Workbook is required for day trip travel meal reimbursement.

Business Meals Taken While Traveling

Business meals are not travel meals. They are included on this page because they are governed by travel regulations and because some meals that take place in the course of travel, either overnight or on day trips, may qualify for reimbursement as business meals rather than as travel meals. Please read the Business Meals page for a clear definition and links to applicable Meal Expense Limits. The following regulations apply to business meals taken while traveling.

  • If the business meal will occur during overnight travel, it must be included in the pre-trip estimate and receive the same prior approval from Dean, Vice President, or Designee. Business meals taken locally or on day trips do not require prior approval.
  • Unlike travel meals, all business meals may be reimbursed from state funds up to 50% over specified limits with written justification, itemized original receipts, and approval of Dean, Vice President or Designee.
  • If reimbursement is sought for a business meal which occurred while traveling, the corresponding travel meal per diem cannot also be reimbursed.
  • Receipts and a signed Business Meal Certification form are required for all business meals.

Vehicle Options

For Very Short, One-Way Hops:

    Public "for hire" transportation
    Taxis, shuttle vans and other forms of "for hire" transportation can be taken to and from an airport of trip departure or return, or to and from business meetings. Receipts are required only if over $10.

For Short Trips Originating Locally:

    "Motor Pool" Vehicles
    The University Motor Pool is no longer in operation and has been replaced by a contract with Enterprise Virginia. The traveler's responsibilities and other details are available on our Auto Rentals page. You are required to choose the most economical vehicle possible when renting.
    • Inside the territorial United States, actual mileage will be reimbursed based on the mileage rate established by the State.
    • Outside the territorial United States, you will be reimbursed based on the actual cost of operation of the vehicle.
    • You must record your mileage from place of departure to place of return, and for 100 miles or more on a single day, cost justification must be provided when requesting reimbursement.
    • Mileage can be reimbursed only to the extent that the mileage incurred exceeds your normal daily commute. To calculate reimbursable mileage:
      • If you leave from workplace and return to workplace, count only the mileage from workplace to destination, at your destination, and back to workplace.
      • If you leave from home and return home without going to your workplace, take your mileage from home to destination, at your destination, and back to your home, then subtract your normal round-trip commute distance.
      • If you leave from workplace and return to your home without going back to workplace, take your mileage from workplace to destination, at your destination, and back to your home, then subtract your normal one-way commute distance.
      • If you leave from home and return to workplace without going back home, take your mileage from home to destination, at your destination, and back to workplace, then subtract your normal one-way commute distance.
      • In all cases, you must also subtract any personal mileage incurred.
    • When the reimbursement request is for mileage only (or only for gasoline for a private vehicle, if cost is less than mileage reimbursement) and is less than $100, the Travel Workbook is not required, but all necessary information must be properly entered in the Payment Voucher. Traveler name, purpose or reason for the trip, destination, total miles, and cost justification if required must all be included in the description field or as a "paper clip" attachment in the Integrated System.
  • Personal Vehicles
    If there is cost justification, you may drive your personal vehicle.
    State-Owned Vehicles
    Any traveler involved in an accident in a state vehicle outside of Virginia must report the accident to the police in that locality and bring a copy of the police report back to his or her supervisor. For more information about this policy, see the Claims Administration link on the Risk Management web site. Vehicle expenses for travel in a state-owned vehicle are not paid or reimbursed as travel expenses, even for a business trip.

For Auto Travel at Your Destination:

    Rental Vehicles
    Rental cars are allowed once you have arrived at your destination without additional approval. The traveler's responsibilities and other details are available on our Auto Rentals page.

Other Travel Related Expenses


In addition to the Incidentals allowance, the University will reimburse travelers separately for the following travel expenses, when related to University business, and with receipts:

  • Cash advance fees and automatic teller machine (ATM) access fees incurred by using the University Travel Card.
  • Traveler's checks and traveler's check fees incurred by using the University Travel Card.
  • Passport and visa expenses.
  • Funeral attendance expenses for one University representative, if travel is required outside the local area.
  • Registration fees for functions related to University business, when employees are expected to attend as part of their job duties.
  • Telephone calls, telegrams, and facsimiles for official University business -- The traveler must state on the Payment Voucher the points and parties between which the communications were made and the reasons.

NOT Reimbursable

The University will NOT reimburse travelers for the following expenses:

  • Any expenses related to the personal negligence of the traveler, such as non-canceled hotel reservations and fines (including parking fines, speeding tickets, etc.)
  • Loss or damage expenses for personal property, such as lost or stolen articles, damage to personal vehicles, clothing or other items.
  • Entertainment expenses, such as fees for social or non-mandatory activities at conferences (tours, sports activities, etc.), alcoholic beverages (never allowable from state funds), inordinately expensive meals and lodging, videos charged to hotel/motel bills, etc.
  • Vehicle expenses (other than rental, mileage, parking and tolls), such as charges to gain entry to a locked vehicle and towing charges.
  • Travel expenses (including child care) related to family members or companions, unless on local funds and approved, prior to the expenses being incurred, by the President of the University or the traveler's Dean or Vice President.
  • Expenses for accidents or injuries when the employee is not on official business.
  • Personal calls are not reimbursed separately from M&IE allowances for Incidentals.
  • Laundry expenses are not reimbursed separately from M&IE allowance for Incidentals.
  • Travel insurance of any kind!

Acceptable Ways to Pay for Travel

Travel Card

  • Recommended for all employees required to travel on University business.
  • Cardholder is billed directly and is personally liable for expenses incurred.
  • A Payment Voucher must be processed to obtain reimbursement for allowable expenses charged.
  • This is considered a personal credit card.
  • Issued only by Revenue and Collections or, for Health System employees, by the HSC Travel Card Coordinatorpopup .

American Express Travelers Checks

  • Available to employees who have the Travel Card described above.
  • Charged directly to your Travel Card.
  • Should be requested only when expenses that cannot be paid by the Travel Card are expected.
  • Issued at no extra charge by Revenue and Collections or for Health System employees, by the HSC Travel Card Coordinatorpopup .

University Purchasing Card (UPC)

  • Allowed, and recommended, for only the following travel purchases:
  • "Motor Pool" rental cars from Enterprise Virginia and fuel for these cars only
  • Air and rail tickets
  • Conference registration if not paid to a lodging provider.
  • May not be used for any other travel expenses.
  • No personal liability incurred for allowable purchases.
  • Payment will be automatic and reimbursement will not be needed.
  • Issued through the University Purchasing Card Program of Procurement Services.

Special Cash Advances

  • For travelers who expect to be away for an extended period of time.
  • Must be repaid to the University Cashier in Financial Administration at Carruthers Hall within 30 days of return from trip.
  • Should be requested only if there is no other way to obtain the necessary cash to travel.
  • Issued by the Accounting Services in Financial Administration.

Personal Credit Cards or Cash

  • May be used for any allowable travel expense.
  • Payment Voucher must be processed to obtain reimbursement for allowable expenses charged.

Pre-payment for Travel Expenses

Generally, the University will neither pay for, nor reimburse an individual for, travel expenses incurred prior to the trip. However, when advance payment is required for air or rail tickets, conference registration, or for first night lodging, there are easy ways to have the University pay directly for these purchases and avoid the need for reimbursement:

  • To purchase air and rail tickets in advance, use the University Purchasing Card.
    In addition to other prior approvals which may be required, if the ticket price exceeds the individual's established spending limit, the cardholder must follow a special procedure to obtain an additional prior approval to use the Purchasing Card.
  • To pre-pay for first night lodging, obtain an invoice from the hotel for the first night lodging and submit a Payment Voucher. The hotel will then be paid directly.
  • To pre-pay for conference registration, as long as the payment is not to a lodging provider, you may use the University Purchasing Card or submit a Payment Voucher to have the registration fee paid directly.


The University of Virginia is a public institution governed by the Commonwealth of Virginia. As such, all expense records, regardless of fund source, are open to the public under the Freedom of Information Act. Travel expenses must be reasonable and necessary to accomplish the University's mission.

All claims for reimbursement for travel expenses must be in accordance with State law and the University's general Financial and Administrative Travel Expenses Policy.