Travel on Sponsored Projects

Tufts University faculty, staff, and students routinely travel in support of sponsored activities. The University reimburses travelers for necessary and reasonable business expenses incurred while traveling.

Reimbursable expenses must conform to university policy, federal and state law, if applicable, and the restrictions placed upon sponsored awards.Domestic and foreign travel charged to sponsored projects should follow the guidelines set forth in this document, unless federal regulations or the funding agency imposes greater restrictions.

General Guidelines

Travel is allowable as a direct cost when such travel will provide direct benefit to the award. If federally funded, sponsored awards are subject to certain federal laws and the guidelines set forth in the Uniform Guidance, 2 CFR Part 200—uniform administrative requirements, cost principles, and audit requirements for federal awards. All awards are subject to specific agency restrictions, as well as Tufts University’s Travel Policy. The terms and conditions of the individual agreement should be reviewed prior to incurring and/or submitting any travel cost for reimbursement. When there is a conflict between University policy and award requirements the more restrictive policy applies.

The following list highlights some common sponsored travel restrictions. Some awards may:

  • Prohibit foreign travel
  • Require pre-authorization by Sponsor for each trip
  • Restrict the number of trips that can be taken
  • Restrict the number of travelers on an authorized trip
  • Set a maximum dollar value per trip
  • Allow attendance to a conference to present research, but not for the purpose of “staying current in the field”
  • Limit travel to a specific destination or purpose
  • Specify maximum meal, mileage or other cost rates.

Sponsored travel must be justified, well documented, in compliance with the sponsor requirements, and incurred within the period of the award. If this travel is either a requirement stated in the call for proposals, or clearly documented in the budget justification, no further documentation is required. Please see Allowability of Costs for additional guidance.

Travel documentation must provide sufficient clarity so that anyone reviewing the transaction can verify that it is allowable, allocable, and reasonable. Charges that are split between two or more projects must demonstrate how the trip specifically benefited each project respectively. Please refer to Allocating Expenses to Sponsored Awards for additional detail.

If you are booking a flight with more stops or a longer duration than required for the business trip due to personal travel, then you should provide as documentation a comparable itinerary (including price, dates, and air class) based on the business portion of the travel. The comparison itinerary must be obtained at the time of purchase or within one business day of booking the flight. Only the allocable business portion of the travel can be charged to the sponsored award.

Types of Travel

Between the US & Another County

  • If a U.S. flag air carrier offers nonstop or direct service (no aircraft change) from your origin to your destination, you must use the U.S. flag air carrier service unless such use would extend your travel time, including delay at origin, by 24 hours or more
  • If a U.S. flag air carrier does not offer nonstop or direct service (no aircraft change) between your origin and your destination, you must use a U.S. flag air carrier on every portion of the route where it provides service unless, when compared to using a foreign air carrier, such use would:
    • increase the number of aircraft changes outside the U.S. by 2 or more
    • extend travel time by 6 hours or more
    • require a connecting time of 4 hours or more at an overseas interchange point.

Travel Between Two Points Outside the US

  • You must always use a U.S. flag carrier for such travel, unless, when compared to using a foreign air carrier, such use would:
    • increase the number of aircraft changes outside the U.S. by 2 or more
    • extend travel time by 6 hours or more
    • require a connecting time of 4 hours or more at an overseas interchange point.

All foreign travel reimbursements are reviewed and approved by Central Post-Award prior to processing by the Finance Division. In addition, a post audit of domestic travel is conducted on a monthly basis.

Foreign Travel

The definition of foreign travel may differ from sponsor to sponsor and therefore each award must be reviewed for this definition. For example, many agencies do not consider travel to Mexico and Canada to be foreign travel. The award must also be examined for any applicable prior approval requirements.

Under the Fly America Act (see link below) travelers are required to use United States (US) air carrier service for all travel funded by Federal agencies. An exception to this requirement is the Open Skies Agreement (see link below). Currently, there are four Open Skies Agreements with the US in effect: European Union (EU), Australia, Switzerland, and Japan. Excluding the EU, check to ensure there is no city-pair contract fare (see link below) in effect in order to use a foreign carrier. If there is a city-pair contract in effect, a US carrier must be used.

The Open Skies Agreement exception does not apply to travel funded by the U.S. Department of Defense.

Please see the Fly America, Open Skies and City Pair Matrix and Fly America Act and Open Skies Agreement Decision Diagram for additional guidance.

There are other exceptions to the Fly America Act which may be appropriate as well. A list of exception criteria may be found in the Federal Travel Regulations. Please note that lower cost and personal convenience are not acceptable criteria for justifying the non‐utilization of a U.S carrier.


For all sponsored travel the following steps must be completed in Apptricity travel and business expense system:

  • Indicate how the travel directly benefits/relates to the project (this is a required field when any part of the travel report allocates expenses to a sponsored award).
  • Detail the methodology for the allocation of costs to more than one project.
  • When a traveler uses a non-U.S. flag air carrier for travel to be charged to federally sponsored awards, the Fly America Act Exceptions Form and any relevant supporting documentation is required as an attachment to the travel report.

It is the responsibility of the Principal Investigator to ensure that the expenses follow applicable policies for allowable costs and that the proper authorizations have been made. User approval in the Apptricity travel and business expense system signifies compliance with university policies & procedures, federal cost principles (if applicable), sponsored agreement guidelines, and confirmation that no unallowable costs are included on the report (i.e. alcohol, entertainment, etc).

Please use the Receipts Reconciliation Spreadsheet if you are requesting a reimbursement for international travel with multiple conversion rates. Please also add a screenshot from the website you used for each of the conversion rates showing the date of the conversion that matches the date on each receipt.

Please refer to the Post-Award Travel Audit Checklist to ensure that all questions that will be considered by the reviewer and approver of travel reimbursements are addressed.

Please contact your Post-Award Specialist for questions concerning travel requirements and restrictions on specific sponsored agreements.

Links and Resources