University of Washington Policy Directory

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*Formerly part of the University Handbook
Administrative Policy Statement

General Travel Policies

(Approved by the Executive Vice President by authority of Administrative Order No. 9)

1.  The Basis for the University's Travel Rules and Regulations

The University's travel rules, regulations, and procedures are based on state travel law, as provided in Chapter 43.03 RCW. The statewide requirements covering the general administrative practices to be observed by state agencies are described in the State Administrative and Accounting Manual, published by the state of Washington's Office of Financial Management. At the University of Washington, authority for this area rests with the Senior Vice President for Finance and Facilities as provided by Administrative Order No. 9, and is overseen by the Travel Office under the direction of the Assistant Controller for Financial Services.

The state of Washington holds the University accountable for the administration of all travel funds in accordance with state regulations and whatever internal rules the University may establish to assure the proper use of such funds. Accordingly, expenditures of grant and contract funds for travel are subject to the same regulations as expenditures from state general funds, except where specifically noted.

In addition, individual units within the University, as headed by a dean or vice president, may adopt departmental methods of complying with the University's travel rules and regulations. In general, these methods apply to approval procedures and reimbursement requirements.

2.  Accountability

The state of Washington holds the University of Washington accountable for the administration of all travel funds in accordance with state regulations and whatever internal rules the University may establish to ensure the proper use of funds. The University is held to be equally accountable for, and consequently must apply the same regulations and approval requirements to, the expenditure of grant and contract funds that it applies to general funds appropriated by the state.

3.  Authorization

All travel documents must be signed by an authorized person. Authorized persons may fall within any of the categories noted below.

A.   For a General Fund Budget

The head of the organizational unit to which the budget is assigned or the head's authorized designee.

B.   For a Grant or Contract Budget

The principal investigator or the departmental chair to whom the grant or contract was awarded, or the chair, or an authorized designee other than the claimant.

C.   When the Claimant Is the Authorized Person

When the claimant is the head of the organizational unit or the principal investigator, the approval signature must be that of the appropriate dean, director, chair, or an authorized designee other than the claimant.

4.  Responsibility to Minimize Travel Costs

Faculty and staff members are expected to exercise restraint in incurring travel expenses. Excessive or unnecessary expenses will not be reimbursed. Should a question arise regarding the method of reimbursement to be allowed an employee under these regulations, the University is obliged to select the option that is most economical to the state. The travel method selected is not to be influenced by the personal travel plans of the employee.

Departments are also responsible for adhering to the following policies:

A.   Elimination of Unnecessary Travel

The itinerary of an employee is to be planned to eliminate unnecessary travel in the performance of work assignments.

B.   Minimum Attendance Necessary

The number of University employees attending a particular meeting should be the minimum necessary, consistent with the benefit to be derived therefrom.

C.   Extended Regional Travel

Before placing an employee on travel status, the University may determine whether it is more economical to reimburse the employee for meals and/or lodging, or require the employee to return to the official station or residence daily or on weekends.

D.   Travel Between Residence and Official Station

Reimbursement is prohibited for expenses incurred between the employee's residence and official station or telecommuting site.

E.   Travel to a Temporary Duty Station

Travelers may be reimbursed for miles driven between their official duty station or official residence and a temporary duty station. Reimbursement may be authorized even if the traveler passes the official duty station on the way to and from the temporary duty station.

F.   Two or More Employees Traveling Together

Whenever it is feasible for two or more employees to travel on official business in one vehicle, they are to do so.

5.  Compliance With the Americans With Disabilities Act

All University employees are to be afforded equal opportunity to travel for official business even if the costs for a traveler who is disabled exceed what would normally be most economical to the University. For example:

  • When a traveler uses a wheelchair and it is necessary to pay more for an airline ticket to accommodate the wheelchair.

  • When a traveler has difficulty walking and it is customary to tip in order to use a wheelchair at airports.

  • When a traveler has hearing or vision impairment and there is a cost for providing auxiliary aids and services to enable the traveler to accomplish the purpose of travel.

Extra costs required to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act should be noted on all travel documentation.

For more information regarding accommodations for employees with disabilities who will be traveling, call Disability Services (206-543-6450/voice, 206-543-6452/TTY), a unit within the Equal Opportunity Office.

6.  Accounting for Travel Reimbursements

State regulations mandate the use of the state system to pay and account for travel and transportation expenditures of Washington State employees; individuals who serve on boards, commissions, councils, committees, and task forces; and volunteers and other individuals who are authorized by state regulations to receive travel expense reimbursements, such as prospective employees. Individuals not eligible to utilize the state travel reimbursement system must be paid by a contract for personal services.

7.  Travel Procedures and Additional Information

For all travel procedures use the Travel website. Additional information is available by contacting the Travel Office:

May 1, 2002; RC, January 27, 2014.