International Travel – Best Practices

Tips for Adhering to Sponsor’s Requirements

Before Departure

While Abroad

After Returning Stateside

What to do before you (or the SU employee) depart?

  1. Determine what will be unallowable and allowable travel expenses before you depart
  • Review the award’s terms and conditions for allowable expenses; some sponsors defer to the University’s travel policy
    • Common,ordinarily allowable expenses for international activities include travel, ground transportation, itemized receipts for meals, transcription or translation services.
  • The award document is the ultimate guide for determinations of allowability; if silent – SU policies ordinarily apply.
  1. Consider requesting a travel advance if you don’t have an SU credit card
  • Enroll in direct deposit for travel advances as well as reimbursements
    • GO TO: | Employee Services | Employee Reimbursement
    • SU matriculated students can sign up for direct deposit at (Yes – you might not be an employee but this should still work)
  • Request the advance at least two weeks before departure to ensure funds are available when needed
    • For travel expenses only, use the travel voucher.
    • For travel and research expenses, use the Employee Expense Reimbursement Request form located here.
      • Distinguish costs for travel advance and research activities (estimated amounts for each)
  1. Determine if your grant allows “pre-award expenditures” to facilitate essential travel expenditures.
  • Contact OSP for guidance (process similar to forward funding request).
  • Pre-award expenditures will not allowable for agencies/programs that require prior approval of international travel, e.g., Dept of Defense and associated services or US Dept of Education.
  1. Confirm you have sponsor prior approval for international travel prior to purchasing tickets.
  • Check the award’s terms and conditions, budget and budget narrative
  • NOTE: Some federal agencies have waived the need for prior approval, but for others i.e. defense agencies, prior approval is required even if written into the approved budget (see
    • Work with OSP well in advance; some agencies are notoriously slow in approving foreign travel, e.g. NSA
    • The cost of int’l travel will be disallowed if necessary approvals are not obtained.
  1. If travel will be supported by a federal agency, be sure to fly on a US air carrier or code share arrangement (US carrier is on the ticket stub) unless an exception or Open Skies Agreement applies.
  • Consider working with BTI – request expert in international travel
  • Use Travelocity, Expedia etc to use/identify US carriers.  Or book directly through a US carrier.
    • NOTE: There are some exceptions to “Fly America Act.”
    • Work with OSP before booking ticket to identify if applicable or for any questions.
    • Save all search results in your files to document; sort travel results by duration and print copy for your files.
  1. Check the state department for travel warnings and alerts

Warnings (long term) and Alerts (short term):

Country specific information

  • If the destination is listed under warnings or alerts, (i.e. “considered not suited for travel”) approval from the Vice Chancellor is needed.
    • Secure this approval before tickets are purchased; be sure OSP and OSA are copied on decision.
    • If circumstances change, please contact OSP for guidance.
  1. Have your department’s budget manager (or whomever is applicable) book travel-related expenditures on their University credit card. 
  • Reminder, only the card owner may make these charges.
  • Trip insurance etc only benefits the card holder

What to do when abroad to streamline reimbursement on return

Document expenses daily while you’re away

  • Record them in a little black note-book, a loose-leaf binder or similar aide
  • Bring along a 30 day expandable folder for receipts
  • Don’t tape over ‘thermal tape’ receipts, because the information will be lost
  • Note the purpose of the expenditure on receipts or in your log as memories fade
  • Bring a receipt book with you, for occasions where receipts not the norm.  At a minimum, keep your daily expenditure log current as that will be suitable means of documentation.
  • You must have an itemized folio for hotel lodging
    • There are no exceptions to this requirement

Facilitating reimbursement on your return

Submit the travel voucher, your corresponding and organized receipts and expenditure log in a timely manner (i.e. ideally within two weeks of your return).

  • Currency conversion: Convert international currency to US dollars
    • Plug in currency, date rate, and select CSV for format
    • Copy data to word,  replace spaces with tab, convert text to table,  copy to excel, copy again, past special, transposed

    When you have a range of dates:

    For extended travel aboard:

    • Document details on a single spread sheet; roll-up amounts in travel voucher categories and present on “University” travel voucher
    • Clarify in ‘notes’ that exchange rate applied is the rate in effect on date currency was exchanged.
    • For un-receipted currency exchange:  the rate in effect on the date of purchase will be applied.