310 University Travel Policy

UW-Madison Administrative Policy
Policy # 310
University Travel Policy

Effective Date: 10/5/2015
Last Updated:7/1/2020
Last Reviewed: 7/1/2020
Next Review: 1/01/2021

Functional Owner: Controller, Division of Business Services, Dan Langer
Executive Sponsor: Vice Chancellor of Finance and Administration, Laurent Heller and Associate Vice Chancellor, Division of Business Services, Dan Langer
Policy Contact: Travel and Card Manager, Rusty Haines, Rusty.Haines@wisc.edu

Policy Summary

The purpose of this policy is to establish the general parameters for conducting University-sponsored travel and accounting for expenses. University travel policies are designed to ensure:

  • University-sponsored travel and related activities are appropriately planned, approved, purchased and paid in accordance with policy
  • Budget or funding is available prior to incurring expenses
  • Productivity and safety of those traveling on University business
  • Fair and equitable compensation for all who travel on University business. Travelers neither personally gain nor lose funds as a result of University business travel
  • Compliance with external and internal requirements
  • Use of required contracts to consolidate purchasing volume, contain travel costs, achieve best pricing and offer the highest degree of services
  • Prudent and efficient use of University resources
  • Collection of data to support University decisions for future enhancements & efficiencies

Note: NCAA funded travel has specific requirements, some of which may be less restrictive than University policies or rates. NCAA funded travel will be governed by NCAA policy.

Note: Sponsored projects (e.g. fund 144 or 133) are subject to the terms and conditions of the specific award, as well as applicable program guidelines, which may restrict use of funds for certain types of expenses.  Please contact the RSP accountant for your award with any questions.

Who This Policy Applies To

This policy applies to all faculty, staff, students, and non-employees traveling on or arranging University-sponsored travel.


The University has a managed travel program. Travel policy is established to ensure prudent use of University resources while ensuring the safety of travelers and minimizing the administrative burden on travelers and support staff.

Policy Detail

I. Travel Status. Period during which an individual is traveling on official University business outside the vicinity of his/her normal work (headquarter) location or residence. Typically, travel status is less than 30 consecutive calendar days in one location.

II. Pre-Trip Approval. Pre-trip approval requirements vary by division/department. It is the traveler’s responsibility to know and follow internal travel approval procedures prior to making trip reservations. Travel reimbursement prior to employment, following employment contract end, or while on extended leaves (e.g. leaves with or without pay, sabbatical, research, etc.) is not guaranteed and must be approved in advance of incurring costs. Divisions have the authority to approve or deny travel during leaves or during periods of non-employment in accordance with the need for the traveler to represent the institution.

III. Exceptions to Policy for Reasonable Accommodation Needs. The University understands the need to accommodate travelers with health issues or physical limitations in accordance with State and Federal disability accommodation laws. Accommodating the specific need(s) may result in incurring expenses that are normally outside of policy or rate limitations. For policy exemptions, travelers who seek a disability-related travel accommodation should contact their Divisional Disability Representative (DDR).

IV. Non-Employee Travel. University employees making travel arrangements for non-employees are responsible for ensuring non-employees adhere to the University’s travel policies. Non-employee travel expenses that do not conform to University policy will be paid as a tax-reportable fee for service.

V. Ethics. Accepting items of value related to conducting University business is not allowed. Unless specifically noted, University travelers cannot personally benefit from travel related contracts, utilize negotiated discount rates or receive tax exemption for personal travel. Benefits or services from supplier rewards programs (e.g. airline frequent flier miles, hotel stay programs) earned from University-paid travel must be applied toward future University business travel. Benefits or services earned as a result of personal travel should not be applied to University business travel. Travelers will not be compensated for use of personal travel program rewards.

VI. Sales Tax Exemption. The University is generally exempt from the payment of Wisconsin sales and use tax. Travelers are responsible for providing tax exempt information to vendors when making tax-exempt purchases. See Policy 500 – Tax Exemption for more information.

VII. Personal Travel Preferences and Related Costs. The University will not pay or reimburse additional costs resulting from traveler preferences or changes in itinerary due to personal reasons, including:

  • Personal travel prior or subsequent to the required business travel dates
  • UsiOpting to use long-distance transportation methods that are not the most efficient or cost-effective for personal reasons (e.g. electing to drive versus fly when flying would be the most efficient and cost-effective option)
  • Electing to combine business and personal travel
  • Electing to take a travel companion(s) on a business trip

When combining business and personal travel, the University will not pay costs directly associated with personal days of travel, including additional days of lodging, M&IE per diems, parking, vehicle rental, etc. See Policy 311 – Air Travel for information on booking flights for combined business and personal travel.

VIII. Pre-Paid Expenses. The following policy-compliant expenses may be paid/reimbursed prior to travel:

  • Airline tickets and related charges
  • Conference and meeting registrations
  • Lodging, if required to prepay

IX.  Business Purpose. When paying with University funds or requesting reimbursement from University funds, documentation of a clear business purpose is required so an approver, auditor, site manager, or post-payment auditor may reasonably conclude and agree the expenditure is an appropriate business expense. Business Purpose is defined as one that supports or advances the goals, objectives and mission of the University. The stated Business Purpose must adequately describe the expense as a necessary, reasonable, and appropriate business expense. All expenses must have a University business purpose.

X. Departure and Return. The traveler should determine the necessary date for arrival and to allow sufficient time for business to be conducted. Arrival on the day prior to a morning start time for an event is acceptable. When business is concluded early enough in the day to allow the traveler to return to their home at a reasonable hour (e.g. by 10:00 pm), it is expected the traveler will return that day.

Consequences for Noncompliance

Any travel-related purchase that is not made in accordance with this policy will be deemed unauthorized and will not be reimbursed. Travel expenses pre-paid by the University, but subsequently deemed unauthorized, will be recoverable from the traveler. This may include deduction from the employee’s payroll check or working with General Counsel to recover costs from students or non-employees. Each Division’s Chief Business Officer will have responsibility for implementing processes to recover funds from travelers when travel expenses were pre-paid by the University but later determined to be unauthorized.

Supporting Tools

UW TravelWIse (including travel agency information): https://www.wisconsin.edu/travel/

Concur Travel Booking Tool: https://www.concursolutions.com/default2.asp

Lodging & Per Diem Calculator: https://portal.sfs.wisconsin.edu/psc/sfs/EMPLOYEE/ERP/c/UW_EX_CUSTOM.UW_EX_PDCALC.GBL

e-Reimbursement: https://portal.sfs.wisconsin.edu/psc/sfs/EMPLOYEE/ERP/c/NUI_FRAMEWORK.PT_LANDINGPAGE.GBL?&



  1. Approving Authority: individual(s) within a department or division with the authority to approve travel requests, non-employee setups, 90-day exception requests, etc. Different requests may require different levels of authorization within a department or division. Employees are responsible for knowing who their local Approving Authorities are.
  2. Business Purpose: documented justification which supports or advances the goals, objectives and mission of the University. The stated Business Purpose must adequately describe the expense as a necessary, reasonable, and appropriate business expense.
  3. Managed Travel Program: established policies, procedures, and best practices – universally applied to all travelers – designed to protect travelers, reduce costs, and allow for effective reporting while minimizing administrative burdens on travelers, travel arrangers, and travel approvers.
  4. Non-Employee: an individual traveling on behalf of the University who does not have a current employee appointment. Non-employees include contractors, volunteers, former employees and students, among others. Travel policies apply to non-employees the same as employees.
  5. Traveler: an individual (employee, student, or non-employee) who has been authorized to travel on behalf of the University on office University business or sanctioned purpose. All University travelers are required to comply with University policies and procedures.
  6. University-sponsored travel: travel which is either:
  • paid for in full or in part by the University
  • paid directly or indirectly by the University
  • organized by the University with participants or sponsors paying
  • organized by others outside the University and paid for by the University
  • sponsored by the University in the form of name, organization, communication, management, staffing, transportation, or space provision.


Traveler – A traveler conducting official University business is responsible for the following:

  • Understanding and complying with University travel procurement and payment policies.
  • Understanding and complying with the travel rate maximum(s) for the location(s) and date(s) of travel.
  • Securing pre-trip approval or authorization prior to incurring travel expenses.
  • Utilizing contracted suppliers when required.
  • Providing required travel information, including emergency contacts, prior to entering travel status.
  • Exercising the same care when incurring expenses that a prudent person would exercise for a personal trip.
  • Not incurring excessive or avoidable costs.
  • Personally paying any excess costs or additional expenses incurred for personal preference, convenience or additional expenses outside of University policies.
  • Obtaining receipts or other supporting documentation for expenses.

Travel Arranger – A travel arranger is responsible for the following:

  • Understanding and complying with University travel procurement and payment policies.
  • Understanding and complying with the travel rate maximum(s) for the location(s) and date(s) of travel.
  • Utilizing contracted suppliers when required.
  • Collecting and providing traveler information as required by policy.
  • Ensuring receipts and other supporting documentation are provided to the traveler.

Traveler’s Supervisor or Approving Authority – responsible for granting pre-trip approval with the departmental/divisional policies and ensuring funds are available.

Divisional Chief Business Officer – responsible for designing formal processes and internal controls to appropriately meet the audit and approval requirements at their institution.

Link to Related Policies

311 – Air Travel Policy

312 – Lodging Policy

313 – Meals and Incidentals Policy

314 – Vehicle Use/Rental Policy

315 – Ground Transportation Policy

316 – Registration Fees Policy

317 – International Travel Policy

318 – Payment for Services and Travel and Expense Reimbursement for Non-Employees

320 – Expense Reimbursement Policy

321 – Cash Advance Policy

322 – Non-Payable/Reimbursable Expenses

500 – Tax Exemption Policy


Link to Related Guides


Policy Number
Date Approved: 10/5/2015
Revision Dates
7/1/2019 – Reorganized to fit uniform structure.
4/14/2020 – Updated links to lodging and per diem calculator. 

07/01/2020 –

  • Updated language to allow for prepaid lodging, when necessary
  • Reorganized/reworded to better align with UW System Travel Policy
  • Updated/added definitions, responsibilities, and links to related guides and policies
  • Removed note on Travel Rates (informational, not policy)
  • Removed note on Payment Methods (informational, not policy)