Plan a Trip

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Learn the Basics

The Commonwealth Accounting Policies and Procedures (CAPP) Manual provides extensive guidance related to the Commonwealth of Virginia policies including Moving and Relocation (Topic 20345), Agency Travel Processing (Topic 20336), Travel Charge Card (Topic 20360) and State Travel Regulations (Topic 20335).

University Policy Number 2101 – Travel Authorization and Reimbursement provides information related to payment and reimbursement of reasonable and necessary expenses incurred while traveling on university business.

The following requirements must be met in order for business travel to be reimbursable:

  • Travel must be consistent with the university mission.
  • Travel must be performed in the most economical manner (i.e., expenses must be necessary and reasonable).
  • All expenses must be incurred while in travel status.
  • Actual expenses must be reported (except for meal and incidental expense per diem).
  • Expenses must not exceed the limitations imposed by the Commonwealth or Mason.

Timeline for Travel Reimbursement Requests

Travel Reimbursement requests should be submitted within 60 days of trip completion. Travelers are responsible for presenting legitimate and complete vouchers to the Travel Office. Required receipts must be attached to the voucher to support reimbursement claims. Any Travel Reimbursement requests submitted more than 60 days after trip completion may be reported as income and included on your W-2 as required by IRS guidelines. Under an accountable plan, the IRS defines a reasonable period of time for an employee to adequately account for expenses, as 60 days from the date the travel was paid or incurred, which is consistent with the expectation of the Commonwealth. Therefore, employees are required to submit Travel Reimbursement and supporting documentation within 60 days of trip completion. Travelers who make multiple local trips (mileage/transportation only) may consolidate them into one monthly travel voucher. Authorized Approvers/Supervisors should make every effort to review and electronically approve or return travel vouchers within three business days. Once approved, the travel vouchers are automatically routed to the Travel Office for processing.

Examples of Allowable Expenses

  • Transportation (including airfare, rail tickets, rental car, taxi, shuttle, etc.)
  • Lodging (within per diem rate for location when an overnight stay is required)
  • Meals (based on overnight lodging location per diem rates)
  • Business telephone calls
  • Internet charges (when required for business)
  • Passport and visa expenses, vaccination fees, airport fees
  • Registration fees

Required Documentation for Reimbursement of Business Phone and Internet Charges

Business phone calls, facsimiles, and data transmission charges must be supported by documentation that includes the date, points and parties involved, the business purpose of the call, and the charges incurred. Travelers are permitted to incur charges for use of the internet at hotels, airports or other locations provided that internet access is necessary for business activity. To be reimbursed for internet charges, travelers must provide an explanation of internet usage, such as checking and responding to email. The explanation may be written on the itemized hotel bill or internet provider receipt.

Internet Charges to Sponsored Funds

Internet charges to sponsored funds are allowable only when directly related to the specific grant or contract. As such, checking email could only be charged to a grant if email activity was limited to, and directly related to, a specific project. Internet-based research directly related to a sponsored project is allowable.

Unallowable Expenses

Personal expenses are generally not reimbursable. Examples of common expenses that are not reimbursable are listed below. This list is not all-inclusive.

  • Lost or stolen articles
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Excessive meal and lodging charges
  • Personal telephone calls*
  • Personal laundry expenses*
  • Damage to personal vehicles, clothing or other items
  • Expenses related to personal negligence of the traveler, such as fines
  • Services to gain entry to locked vehicles
  • Towing charges
  • Insurance associated with rental cars in the United States
  • Luxury vehicle rentals
  • Excessive parking and gasoline charges
  • University parking fees
  • Movies charged to hotel/motel bills
  • Expenses for children, spouses and other non-business companions
  • Local commuting expenses
  • Service fees and tips (e.g., to baggage handlers) *These expenses are covered by the incidental portion of the per diem payment
  • Travel between lodging and places where meals may be taken
  • Travel insurance (personal injury or loss, trip interruption/cancellation, etc.) Note: Travel accident and emergency insurance coverage is available for employees (covered cost). Additional information is available from the Office of Risk Management.

Pre-Trip Checklist

The following items should be considered when planning a business trip. The traveler will need this information to establish a Travel Authorization:

  1. The business reason for travel (i.e., attending a conference)
  2. Dates of travel and fiscal year
  3. Destination(s)
  4. Primary transportation method (i.e., airline, train, rental car)
  5. Secondary transportation – while at Destination(s), including transportation to/from hotel or airport
  6. Lodging requirements including per night cost, tax and surcharges (Must be with per diem)
  7. Registration fee(s) for event
  8. Meals and no-cost meals provided at the event
  9. Other anticipated requirements and expenses (i.e., mileage, baggage fees, etc.)

All travel costs must be estimated before the proposed trip is made. These estimates should include expenses to be billed directly to Mason on a P-Card (such as airfare and registration fees) as well as expenses to be reimbursed to the traveler.

Authorization to Travel

All travel must be approved in advance. The level of approval required varies with nature and estimated cost of the trip. The chart below provides details on the required approval(s).

Trip Type - Determining FactorsRequired Approvals
The following Domestic trip types require ORAL APPROVAL prior to trip start date.
Standard Overnight ; Where overnight travel cost is less than $1,000 AND lodging is at the Basic rateAuthorized Approver/Supervisor AND Fund/Org Approver
One Day Trip: Where no overnight accommodation or per diem is used AND cost is less than $1,000Authorized Approver/Supervisor AND Fund/Org Approver
Transportation Only: Where only transportation cost(s) are being requested AND travel is less than $1,000Authorized Approver/Supervisor AND Fund/Org Approver
The following trip types require ELECTRONIC APPROVAL prior to trip start date. A Travel Authorization must be submitted and approved in TRS prior to the trip start date.
Extended Trip: Domestic trip where cost is $1,000 or more AND/OR Lodging is above basic rateAuthorized Approver/Supervisor AND Fund/Org Approver
International Trip Travel to Hawaii, Alaska or other location outside of contiguous U.S.Authorized Approver/Supervisor AND Fund/Org Approver
International Trip: Travel to comprehensively embargoed country, a military embargoed country when working with ITAR data, countries or areas under US State Dept. Travel Advisories or CDC Level 3 & 4, or countries under comprehensive economic sanctionsAuthorized Approver/Supervisor AND Fund/Org Approver AND Office of Research Integrity and Assurance (RDIA) AND/OR University Travel Advisory Committee (UTAC)
Traveler is a non-immigrant VISA holderAuthorized Approver/Supervisor AND Fund/Org Approver AND International Tax Office
Domestic trip includes the contiguous United States only and does not include Alaska or HawaiiOvernight travel at ANY dollar amount (more than, less than or equal to $1,000) that includes lodging costs over the basic rates requires electronic approval in advance of travel

Complete a Travel Authorization

Travelers are required to utilize the George Mason University Travel Request System (TRS) to generate a “Request and Authorization to Travel”. This form will include all cost estimates and will be approved electronically through Banner Workflow by required approvers.

The “Request and Authorization to Travel” (Travel Authorization) form must be fully approved prior to travel by the traveler’s Authorized Approver/Supervisor and Fund/org Approver. Note: If a Travel Authorization is required (as noted above) but not submitted for electronic approval then a Travel Reimbursement may not be generated.

Advance Approvals for Conference Lodging
A traveler requesting lodging exceptions up to 100% above the basic or standard rate must submit a Travel Authorization signed by his/her Authorized Approver/Supervisor and the Fund/org Approver for the fund/organization being charged in advance of the travel. An explanation for the higher rate must be noted in the Justification field under the Lodging information in the TRS.

Lodging at rates in excess of 200% of the basic or standard rates is not allowable for individual travel. In circumstances where more than one Mason traveler is staying in the same room, an exception may be requested at least 14 days prior to the trip start date. Please see the Use Lodging page for instructions on how to request approval for lodging above the basic rate.

Advance Approvals for Foreign Residents Travel
Departments intending to invite residents of foreign countries to travel at the university’s expense must arrange with the International Tax Office before inviting the individual to travel or making any travel preparations on the visitor’s behalf.

Obtain Required Receipts

Travelers are required to obtain original receipts for all expenses except for: meals, transportation expenses under $75 and incidental expenses reimbursed on a per diem basis. Receipts must be uploaded and attached to the corresponding travel document in order to be reimbursed to the traveler. Original documentation/receipts should be retained by the traveler until after reimbursement has been received. The Travel Office may request original receipts if the uploaded document is illegible. For additional information please see the Document Upload Guide

Lodging Receipts

Lodging reimbursement requests must be supported by an original itemized hotel bill. Hotel ledger receipts may be used to annotate business telephone calls, facsimiles, and data transmission charges. The annotation should include points and parties involved.

Other receipts that may be required include the following:

  1. Airline ticket receipts and credit card statements
  2. Airline checked baggage receipts
  3. Public transportation receipts– taxi, limo, etc.
  4. Rental car, including gasoline receipts
  5. Parking and toll charges
  6. Business meals with outside parties
  7. Registration fees
  8. Internet access receipts

Although receipts for actual transportation costs under $75 are generally not required, if the maximum reimbursable amount is claimed on a consistent basis, the Travel Office may require receipts to be presented.

Travel Charging Sponsored Project Funding

The dollar limitations on lodging, meals and incidental expenses in conjunction with an overnight trip, and transportation also apply to travel conducted in support of grants and contracts sponsored by outside agencies unless the underlying grant or contract specifically provides different reimbursement policies or rates.
Review the award document for any restrictions related to travel, as some sponsors may not allow foreign travel or any travel not approved in the budget. In some cases, prior approval may be needed and this request would need to come go through the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP). Any air travel charged to federally funded, sponsored project must be taken on U.S. flag air carriers, unless an exception applies as noted in the Federal Travel Regulation.

Fly America Act

When federal funds are used, provisions of the Fly America Act are applicable and foreign travel is restricted to a U.S. flag air carrier unless extenuating circumstances apply and are approved in advance by the Office of Sponsored Programs. Use the Fly America Act Decision Tree to help determine if there are exceptions.

Exceptions may be made when using a U.S. air carrier rather than a foreign carrier would:
  1. Increase the number of aircraft changes made in route by two or more,
  2. Extend the travel time by six hours or more, or
  3. Require a connecting time of four hours or more at an overseas interchange point.

Principal Investigators and unit administrators must document the reason for the exception on the Certification of Exception to Fly America Act and submit the form to OSP for approvel. The approved form must be uploaded and attached to the Travel Reimbursement in the Travel Request System.

Cost is Not an Exception and is not considered a reason for exception under this federal regulation. Travelers will not be reimbursed for any transportation cost when there is improper use of a foreign air carrier. Travelers are required to indicate the name of the air carrier for international travel when federal funds are charged.

For Additional Questions

Questions regarding travel to be charged to sponsored projects should be directed to the Office of Sponsored Programs at ext. 3-4806.

Booking Travel Online

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