CSTE Travel Policy

Effective February 1, 2024


This policy, along with CSTE Guidelines and Procedures, is intended to provide standards for authorizing travel, determining covered travel expenses, and completing the reimbursement process for those traveling domestically and internationally for CSTE related business. All travel expenses must meet funding requirements and the IRS definition of an accountable plan. Travel should adhere to this policy, guidelines, and procedures unless the sponsoring funder imposes greater restrictions. A complete expense reimbursement form is required within 60 days of the trip completion or expenses may result in a portion or all of the reimbursement being treated as taxable income or not approved.  

General policy guidelines: 

  • Sponsored travelers should demonstrate integrity in making travel plans.  
  • The personal safety of the sponsored traveler and efficient use of the traveler’s time are considered and must be planned to ensure responsible use of resources. 
  • Business related expenses must be separated from personal expenses and ensure all business travel expenses are within policy, guidelines, procedures, clearly documented and accurate.  
  • All travel expenses will be reviewed and reimbursed uniformly. 
  • CSTE assumes no obligation to reimburse a sponsored traveler for expenses that do not comply with the principles of this policy, guidelines, and procedures (see the corresponding links below).  

Sponsored Travelers are responsible for reviewing additional CSTE guidelines and procedures before travel occurs: 

  • CSTE Sponsored Traveler guidelines and procedures (Other than CSTE Staff and Fellowships)
  • CSTE Staff guidelines and procedures 
  • CSTE Fellowships guidelines and procedures (including on-the job training and leadership programs) 

Questions regarding this policy, guidelines, and procedures should be directed to a CSTE authorizer or contact [email protected] before travel occurs or costs are incurred.  


Allowable Expense – Necessary, reasonable, and appropriate expense incurred for the benefit of CSTE related business and therefore permitted to be reimbursed or directly charged based on the permission of CSTE.  

Authorizer – Travel that is consistent with this policy and approved by the CSTE staff project lead, manager, or director with budget authority. Invitation letters will identify this person to the sponsored traveler or contact [email protected] for authorizer contact information.  

Domestic Travel – Travel within the continental United States, Alaska, and Hawaii.  

Exceptions – Reasonable expense not specifically outlined in policy, guidelines, or procedures, as not every situation encountered by a sponsored traveler can be defined but is preapproved by CSTE authorizer.  

International Travel – Travel outside the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, and US Territories.  

Reasonable Expense – An expense that is ordinary, not extreme or excessive, and reflects a prudent decision to incur the expense.  

Receipt – Legible image of the original merchant receipt or invoice issued by the supplier or service provider to document the transaction. When the original receipt is not available or contain adequate information, an electronic image of a cancelled check, credit card receipt, supplier statement, or paid notice may be substituted.  

Sponsored Traveler – An individual who is engaged in business related travel for which CSTE is covering expenses as a result of the authorized travel.  


CSTE is committed to ensuring accessibility for all sponsored travelers to support services and welcome an open dialogue to understand individual needs. All sponsored travelers are afforded equal opportunity to perform travel for CSTE related business even if the travel costs exceed policy for an accessibility accommodation. Refer to the above links to the CSTE Guidelines and Procedures for services and contact details.  

Air Travel   

Airfare is to be purchased through the official travel agent for CSTE. Booking flights independent of the official travel agent must be approved by the CSTE Travel Office prior to incurring the expense. Personal travel may not be booked through the official travel agent for CSTE. Refer to the above links to the CSTE Guidelines and Procedures for air travel details.  

Domestic federally funded trips must be traveled on U.S. carriers at coach rates. Airfare exceeding the lowest available or customary standard (coach or equivalent) airfare on a U.S. carrier are not allowed except when such accommodations would:   

  • Require circuitous routing;   
  • Require travel during unreasonable hours;   
  • Excessively prolong travel;   
  • Result in increased costs that would offset transportation savings; and   
  • Be inadequate for the medical needs of the traveler.  

Sponsored Travelers are expected to book the least expensive, coach class airfare on any airline available that is within two hours of (prior to or after) desired flight time; to use alternative airports serving the destination city; and/or the use of multiple stop flights that may include layovers. Travelers are not required to take low-cost or no-frills airline. Travelers choosing an airline for its amenities or frequent flyer programs will be responsible for the difference in cost. CSTE awards the benefits of frequent flyer clubs and hotel programs to its travelers; however, it reserves the right to change this policy. CSTE will not reimburse travelers for tickets purchased with frequent flyer miles or for domestic travel insurance.  

For the complete federal travel regulations please refer to OMB Circular A-21.   

Ground Transportation   

Taxis, shuttle services, ride share services, and local public transportation may be utilized for travel to and from airports in the originating and destination city. CSTE will only reimburse ground transportation expenses to and from airports, bus, and train stations. Additional ground transportation fees within a destination city are not reimbursable unless the traveler receives prior approval from a CSTE authorizer, and the expense is business related. Documentation of approval is required and must be submitted with an expense reimbursement form. While the use of personal vehicle or rental vehicles may be allowable in certain circumstances, restrictions may apply. Refer to the above links to the CSTE Guidelines and Procedures for ground transportation details.  


Lodging expenses may not exceed the single occupancy rate unless two or more sponsored travelers are staying in the same room. CSTE does not expect sponsored travelers to share a lodging room. An itemized lodging receipt is required for reimbursement. No reimbursement will be made for overnight lodging within fifty (50) miles of the sponsored traveler’s residence. CSTE will only reimburse for lodging night and applicable taxes per night unless prior documented approval from a CSTE authorizer is submitted with the expense reimbursement form. Refer to the above links to the CSTE Guidelines and Procedures for lodging details.  

Sponsored travelers are expected to stay in a standard room where costs should not exceed the most expensive rate listed in the federal per diem rate for that city without prior approval from a CSTE authorizer. Please see U.S. General Services Administration for current per diem rates. Upgrades, suites, and concierge-level rooms are not reimbursed, unless CSTE has negotiated for these rooms at no additional costs. Many hotels have frequent guest programs that reward travelers with free accommodations in exchange for a specified number of paid room nights at a hotel. CSTE will not reimburse travelers for the value of free accommodations used for business travel. For your safety and security, always investigate security measures for your hotel room (e.g., door locks, fire exits, and alarm systems) and ensure it is a fire safe facility 

Meal & Incidental Expenses (M&IE)   

The federal per diem for Meals & Incidental (M&IE) is the maximum dollar amount allowed for the destination city of the trip for meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) and incidentals. Please refer to the U.S. General Services Administration for a listing of federal per diem rates. Sponsored travelers are not required to document each meal expense unless they are CSTE staff and utilize a CSTE company credit card for meals. Sponsored travelers must validate that the trip occurred with a receipt that indicates dates and city of travel (airline ticket or lodging receipt). Refer to the above links to the CSTE Guidelines and Procedures for meal expense details.  

If meals are provided as part of lodging, conference fees, by host, or provided to the sponsored traveler at no cost, it is the sponsored travelers’ responsibility to note and not include in M&IE reimbursement for meals. On the first and last day of travel, sponsored travelers receive 75% of the daily M&IE per diem rate, regardless of departure or arrival times. Sponsored travelers, within fifty (50) miles of their residence, are allowed reimbursement for the actual cost of meals with itemized receipt.  

Non-Reimbursable Travel Expenses 

CSTE will periodically review and determine associated travel expenses that are not considered business related and will not be reimbursed. If a sponsored travelers has a question about a particular expense, they should refer to the CSTE Guidelines and Procedures for non-reimbursable travel expenses or email the CSTE Travel Team at [email protected]. Refer to the above links to the CSTE Guidelines and Procedures for non-reimbursable travel expenses.  

Medical / Personal Emergency  

If you need emergency medical or security services, contact 911 domestically or the proper first responder or law enforcement agency. In the event of any injury requiring medical care, the sponsored traveler or the sponsored traveler’s personal health insurance will be responsible for payments of all medical costs. 

Expense Reporting    

All requests for travel reimbursement must be submitted as soon as possible after completion of travel, but no later than 60 days after the travel occurred, using the CSTE Travel Reimbursement Request Form, and accompanied by required receipts or documentation. If the reimbursement request is not submitted and accepted as complete by the CSTE Finance Department within 60 days, then the reimbursement is considered taxable income or not approved unless unforeseen or extenuating circumstances are provided. Also see IRS Publication 5137 for tax information details. Travel reimbursement requests submitted more than six (6) months from the incurrence will be denied. If funding is not available due to year-end closing of projects, then the expense will not be paid under any circumstances. Refer to the above links to the Guidelines and Procedures for expense reporting details.