University faculty, staff, students, and others acting on behalf of the University using grant funds may be reimbursed for the reasonable and necessary expenses incurred while traveling on official University business according to the guidelines set forth on this page.

These guidelines do not supersede the terms and conditions of the individual grant or contract. Nothing in this policy prevents departments from establishing documentation requirements beyond those described in this policy. In addition, local funds may be used to reimburse expenses that exceed State and Sponsored Program limits up to the local funds limits. Travelers should use prudent judgment and remember that all travel expense accounts are open to the public and must be able to sustain the test of public review.

Prior to travel

Prior to a trip, all anticipated expenses should be listed on a Request for Travel Authorization form (RTA)Excel download. After approval from the supervisor, this form should be forwarded through OSRP to the Purchasing Office for processing. Charges incurred without a properly approved TRA may not be honored by the University.

Registration Fees

Documentation of the conference registration fee should accompany the RTA. You may pre-pay for conference registration, as long as the payment is not to a lodging provider, using a Small Purchase Charge Card (SPCC), with personal funds, or by submitting a Payment Voucher to have the registration fee paid directly.


Documentation of the lodging rates should accompany the RTA. When reimbursement is desired from grant funds, the lodging rate listed in the Rate Guide should not exceeded, unless approved in advance by the President or his designee. Under this exception, the maximum rate may not exceed 150% of the lodging rate listed in the Rate Guide. A template for the letter can be downloaded here.

Lodging may be purchased over the internet using personal funds or an SPCC. When purchasing lodging over the internet, you must retain the final confirmation page showing room, services, dates, and rates.


The costs for meals should be estimated using the Rate Guide. For a travel departure or return day, budget for 75% of the per diem in the Rate Guide. For example, if the Rate Guide allows a $46 per diem, $36.00 ($46 - $5 = $41 x .75) = $30.75 + $5 = $35.75 which is rounded up to $36 would be allowable on a travel departure or return day.


Transportation during travel, whether by public transportation, privately owned auto, state owned vehicle, or for-hire conveyance, should be over the most direct and economical route.  Travelers should also seek the least expensive mode of travel and the least expensive travel fares.


When travel is by vehicle, the total travel expense, including mileage, meals, and lodging in route, shall not exceed the documented cost of tourist or coach class air fares.

Vehicle Options

Personally owned vehicles

Use of personally owned vehicles is allowed when it is cost justified.  Generally, a personal automobile is considered cost beneficial when occasional travel is planned for distances up to 100 miles per day. For overnight travel, consider the average daily mileage over the period the vehicle is needed. Cost estimates for  the use of personally owned vehicles will be allowed at the rate established in the current Appropriations Act. Currently, the rates for the first 15,000 miles of use each fiscal year are:

  • $0.565/mile - when a personally owned vehicle is cost justified or a "motor pool" vehicle (see below) is not available.
  • $0.246 mile - when use of a personally-owned vehicle is elected for the convenience of the employee.

Rates are reduced to $.13/ mile for travel in excess of 15,000 miles in one fiscal year, unless a "motor pool" vehicle (see below) is not available; then, the rate shall be $0.565/mile.

Rental Cars

Cost estimates should not include any additional insurance offered for any vehicle leased or rented within the continental United States, its territories or possessions, or Canada. For vehicles rented outside the United States, its territories, or possessions, or Canada, should include the LDW and CDW insurance on the rental contract.  You are required to choose the most economical vehicle possible when renting. For rental vehicles, cost estimates should be based on actual expenses rather than current mileage rates.

"Motor Pool" Vehicles

The University Motor Pool is no longer in operation and has been replaced by a contract with Enterprise Virginia. You are required to choose the most economical vehicle possible when renting. For rental vehicles, estimates should be based on actual expenses (rental fees and gas) rather than current mileage rates

Air and Rail Tickets

First class tickets may never be purchased with grant funds and, in general, airline tickets may not exceed the rates charged for tourist/coach fare. Travelers may, however, purchase or be reimbursed for upgrades from coach to business class under any one of the following conditions:

  • When the traveler can provide documentation proving that it does not cost more than the lowest available tourist/coach fare (comparison must be attached to the travel voucher); or
  • For transoceanic, intercontinental trips of more than eight consecutive hours; or
  • If the traveler pays the difference.

Travelers should purchase non-refundable tickets. Refundable tickets should only be purchased in the rare instance that there is a possibility of rescheduling the trip.

Air or rail tickets may only be purchased using one of the following methods:

  • The Small Purchase Charge Card (SPCC)
  • The University Travel Card
  • A personal credit card 

NOTE: Purchases made with the Travel Card or with a personal credit card cannot be reimbursed until after traveling. 

Bundled Travel

The travel industry offers 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 pay the initial cost from your own funds and seek reimbursement after the trip –- no direct payment, pre-payment, or SPCC 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 the following documentation confirming the savings:

  • Documentation must be provided comparing the cost of the bundled travel package to the combined cost of the same travel services purchased separately. The bundled travel must be the less expensive of the two alternatives and within allowable travel limits
  • 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 RTA.All other travel rules, limitations, and documentation requirements are still in effect.


  • Traveler's should research costs associated with any tolls that may be a part of their trip.
  • Similarly, parking costs should be researched. For airport parking, economy lots should be used.


  • Except in the case of rental cars, the cost of gas should not be a factor, as mileage rates are used. Gas costs can be estimated using a site or app like Gasbuddy.


"For hire" transportation

  • When flying or traveling by train, travelers should research the rates for transportation between the airport/train station and their hotel.

During Travel

If you are expecting reimbursement for grant-funded travel, be sure to keep your receipts.


  • Food: Because food costs are estimated using the per diem rate, receipts are not required.
  • Lodging: Hotel bills must be itemized and reflect all charges at time of checkout; this precludes express checkout. 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.

Special Note for Rental Cars

  • While the traveler is encouraged to determine the most economical way to refuel the rental vehicle, in no instance should the traveler enter into a “Fuel Agreement" or pay for  fuel at the time of rental or before vehicle is used. Reimbursement for gas is to be based on the fuel used and receipts provided.

After travel (securing reimbursement)

The traveler must submit a completed Travel Reimbursement Voucher (TRV) with original receipts, and a copy of the RTA to their immediate supervisor within thirty (30) working days after returning from the trip.  Be sure to check the applicable “personal vehicle use statement” and State Employee section(s).  In addition to all required receipts, signed copies of ALL prior approval documentation, including the RTA, must be submitted with the TRV. The TRV will be on hold until this documentation is received. If the grant or contract specifies specific amounts to be reimbursed for travel, the wording "Sponsored Program" must be clearly stated at the top of the TRV.

When meals, including continental breakfasts or receptions where the food/timing is sufficient to serve as a meal, are offered as part of the travel event or lodging expense, the traveler must reduce the per diem by the appropriate allowance amount.

All employees are reimbursed based on the direct deposit information on file with the Payroll Department.  As of May 13, 2013 the employee will automatically receive direct deposit for their travel to whatever account has been set up with Payroll.

Further clarification

This document outlines general practices consistent with the Commonwealth of Virginia's CAPP manual and Virginia State University practices; however, it is not comprehensive. If you have additional questions, please contact the Office of Sponsored Research and Programs.