Travel & Transportation

Travel, Entertainment, and Business-Related Expenses

This policy is intended to be used as a guide for college-related travel, entertainment and business-related expenditures.  It supports our belief that all business-related expenses for the College should be undertaken in the most economical way consistent with achieving the objectives of the College.  

Internal Revenue Service regulations state that ordinary and necessary business expenses are reimbursable. The IRS defines ordinary as “common in your field of trade, business or profession”; and necessary as “helpful and appropriate for your business.” The IRS states that meal and entertainment expenses cannot be “lavish or extravagant.”

  • The Meals and Incidental Expense (M&IE) rates for federal government employees provide a guide by location to determine what is reasonable. View the rate for different locations around the United States as well as international locations. In order to avoid additional payroll taxes, Carleton reimburses employees under an “accountable plan,” which requires that employees:
    • document expenses by costs, dates, and purchase descriptions for expenditures
    • describe the business purpose of meals, providing the name and professional position of meal attendees
    • return to the employer, on a timely basis, any amount advanced in excess of the substantiated expenses
    • submit to the employer requests for reimbursement within 60 days of purchase or event. The College does not reimburse on a per diem basis, however, when itemized receipts are not readily available per diem guidelines may be utilized along with the same accountable plan documentation to fulfill IRS business expense reporting requirements. When an employee uses a Carleton purchasing card, no receipt is required for transactions less than $25, as long as the cardholder provides the business purpose and attendee descriptions.

Departments may choose to have employees complete a Spend Authorization to pre-approve travel expenses.  When traveling on behalf of the College please leave your itinerary and emergency contact information with your department chair or manager.

This is an evolving document. Updates will be made as regulatory (IRS) and industry standards change. Employees should review the Travel Policy at least annually to be sure that they are in compliance with the guidelines.

Travelers should monitor the safety conditions associated with each trip prior to departure. 

Travel and Reimbursement Payment Requests

The IRS requires that reimbursements must be processed within 60 days following the event or trip or they are subject to taxation. 

These policies apply to Carleton VISA transactions and items submitted for reimbursement through Workday Expenses.

Reimbursements will be automatically deposited into your chosen bank account.

Spend Authorization Cash Advance

A Spend Authorization – including a cash advance can be issued to a traveler by the Business Office if it has been approved by an authorized supervisor and is received at least two weeks in advance of the trip.  Advances are made to Carleton personnel only.  The IRS requires that advances must be cleared within 120 days or they are subject to taxation.

Business and Personal Travel

In instances where a traveler interrupts business travel for personal convenience, travels by an indirect route, or is accompanied by his/her spouse/companion not on College business, the traveler must submit accurate records to substantiate official business travel. The College will reimburse the cost of comparable air travel, whichever is less. Employees seeking to combine business and personal travel should document the cost comparison information prior to travel, typically at the time of airfare booking as this information cannot be obtained in retrospect. You can edit the Business and Personal Travel Worksheet to help you document your travel decision.  The College does not reimburse any expenses incurred on behalf of the spouse/companion/children or for their personal travel.

Charter and/or Private Aircraft

For the safety of travelers, Carleton does not recommend flying on charter and/or private aircraft.  The College assumes no liability for death, personal injury, or property damage in connection with charter/private aircraft travel.  Contact the Risk Manager for any requests concerning chartered or private airplanes. 

Group Travel

Travel by a group of employees in the same aircraft, automobile, or other mode of transportation is discouraged when the employees’ responsibilities are such that an accident could seriously affect the functioning of the College.  Key employees, such as the President, Vice Presidents, Deans or a substantial number of employees from the same department should consider this risk when making travel arrangements. Any reward points/tickets received from the purchase of group travel must be used for Carleton travel and not for personal benefit.

Spousal or Companion Travel

The payment for spouse traveling on business is closely regulated by the IRS.  The IRS requires a “bona fide business purpose” for the spouse to be on the business trip for the expenses to be reimbursable.  The business purpose must be clearly documented on all travel forms.  In the specific circumstance where non-business spousal travel is approved it will be treated as taxable income to the employee.

  1. Air/Rail Transportation

    Domestic Air Travel

    The standard domestic or North American airline accommodation is coach class. Airline industry pricing structures are evolving to include more choices which will increase travel costs.

    Service selections that increase travel costs including elections for comfort seating, early bird check in, advance seat selection and preferred or first class are considered a personal expense.

    Travel reservations for domestic trips should be made 2-3 weeks in advance, and the best time to book international journeys is 5-6 months in advance. The more flexible your schedule, the easier it is for you to find the lowest fare.

    Carleton will reimburse for one checked bag per person. If an additional bag fee is being claimed, justification for the additional bag must accompany the travel expense.

    Special accommodations due to extenuating circumstances such as a medical hardship must be approved by a supervisor in advance of purchase.

    Frequent Flyer Programs

    Participation in frequent flyer programs is encouraged. All incentives are for your benefit and use.  Air carrier selection cannot be biased by the traveler’s frequent flyer affiliation. The lowest cost air travel should take precedence. Carleton will not reimburse travelers for tickets purchased with frequent flyer miles.

    Carleton participates in the Delta SkyBonus corporate loyalty program. If you use Delta for your business-related travel, please add the Carleton SkyBonus account number on your travel information. Employees who are members of the SkyMiles program continue to accrue miles while Carleton earns SkyBonus points. You enroll in the SkyMiles program.

    The Carleton SkyBonus account number is US268432682.  You can help Carleton earn SkyBonus miles in three ways:

    1. If you have a SkyMiles account, add the Carleton SkyBonus account number in your frequent flier profile under the Flight Preferences section.
    2. If you do not have a SkyMiles account, add the Carleton account number on the “Passenger Information” screen.
    3. If you are booking a ticket with a travel agent, request that they place the SkyBonus number in your reservation.

    SkyBonus points cannot be earned on tickets booked through discount travel websites to include, but not limited to: Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, or any tour wholesaler/consolidator, such as Delta Vacations®

    International Air Travel

    The standard accommodation on transoceanic flights is “lowest coach available fare.”  Airfare costs in excess of the lowest available commercial discount airfare are not allowable except when it causes undue hardship (i.e. physical limitations, scheduling challenges, etc.).  Allow adequate time to arrange the most cost effective airfare for your international destination.

    Faculty and staff traveling internationally on College business and students on rostered Off-Campus programs are covered for emergency assistance through Cultural Insurance Services International. CISI provides medical referrals, evacuation assistance, and a wide range of travel assistance.  Please notify the Purchasing and Risk Manager, X4178 before leaving.  Faculty traveling with students must include student information in their communication. For more information please visit the International Travel Risk Management section of the Business Office website.

    The College’s Travel Insurance carrier does not provide coverage in “war risk” countries.  Risk Management should be contacted to verify that the country in which you are traveling is afforded coverage.

    Ticket Purchases

    Employees are expected to use their Carleton Purchasing card to purchase airline tickets. Use of the Carleton purchasing card ensures the college maximizes rebates for the institution and earns airline credit for both the traveler and the institution. When an individual chooses to use a personal credit card to purchase an airline ticket, the college will reimburse for business travel expenses after the trip has occurred. Documentation must include the boarding pass.

    Airfare Cancellation

    Employees are responsible for reimbursing airfare change fees and cancellation fees due to personal reasons or poor planning. If airline credit is received due to a cancellation, it should be used on future business travel before the date of expiration.

    Unused Tickets

    When an unused ticket purchased with a Carleton purchasing card creates an airline credit, the credit should be used for a subsequent business trip. If an employee or departing employee is not able to use the credit for a business trip, they must reimburse the college and use the credit for personal purposes. Credits on a personal credit card are not eligible for reimbursement.

    Lost Items

    Lost baggage, clothing, or other personal items are the responsibility of the traveler. Recovery for such personal losses may be available through the employee’s homeowner’s insurance.

    Travel Insurance

    Faculty and staff traveling on business, either domestically or abroad are covered by the College’s insurance policies. This coverage applies only to trips on College business, not for a traveler’s personal travel. The cost of any additional travel insurance is not reimbursable.

    Airport Parking

    Carleton employees can take advantage of discounted parking rates with EZ Air Park. Employees must show their Carleton ID badge, Carleton purchasing card, or some other proof of employment to get the discounted rate from the cashier upon exiting.

  2. Other


    Employees who suffer injury or illness by an accident arising out of and in the course of their employment, whether on or off campus, are provided medical care and other benefits under Worker’s Compensation.  If injured while on College business, travelers should contact Human Resources for guidance

    Currency Exchange and ATM Fees

    The College will reimburse employees for currency exchange fees.  Employees are encouraged to pay for meals, hotels and other expenses on their Carleton Purchasing VISA Card as the cards often offer the safest and most economical exchange conversion. 

    The College discourages employees from carrying large amounts of cash while traveling.  In most cases, using an ATM machine will provide an appropriate rate and will reduce the amount of cash the employee has on his/her person.  ATM fees for cash withdrawals will be reimbursed. 

    Registration Fees

    Advance registration fees for seminars and conventions should be paid using your Carleton Purchasing VISA Card.  Original receipts or proof of payment are required documentation.

    Tip Guidelines

    Tips for meals and transportation at the standard 15%-20% are reimbursable with receipt documentation.

    Telephone and Other Communication Charges

    Cell Phones

    Any use of a cell phone or other personal electronic devices is prohibited while driving or using other equipment or machinery such as forklifts, gators, golf carts, etc. Please have another person in the vehicle use the cell phone/device or pull over prior to using a cell phone.

    Employees operating any motor vehicle while working or in a company vehicle must always follow governing state, federal and local laws regarding the use of cell phones and other personal electronic equipment.

    Internet Charges

    Carleton does not provide reimbursement for cell phone coverage or internet connectivity used in the course of performing job-related business. Charges incurred while traveling on behalf of the college for research or other professional activities are considered the traveler’s own expense. 

    Citations / Arrests

    Drivers are responsible for payment of fines for all citations, including moving violations or parking tickets. All citations for moving violations must be reported to the Risk Manager at (507) 222-4178.

    If you are arrested at the scene of an accident (e.g., for drunk driving, reckless endangerment, etc.) you are responsible for any legal costs you may incur including attorney fees, bail, court costs, towing, impound fees, etc.  The College is not responsible for any unlawful acts of its employees or students, and will not defend or indemnify them for alleged wrongful acts involving the use of its vehicles or vehicles rented on college business.

  3. Lodging

    Lodging Expenses

    Travelers should use standard accommodations at reasonably priced mid-market hotels or motels. The College does not approve accommodations at up market or luxury hotels (Ritz, Four Seasons, etc.) However, an exception is made for a conference or workshop.

    Request the minimum rate available, educational discount or corporate rate, whichever is lower.  When the reservation is made, the only available room may be in a higher category.  Therefore, at check-in, you should always double-check to ensure you are getting the lowest rate. Original itemized hotel receipts are required for reimbursement. 

    Airbnb, VRBO or other Alternative Lodging

    Travelers may use services such as Airbnb or VRBO, but it is important to note that the College is not the contracting party for any agreements (electronic or otherwise). Instead, the agreement will be between the service and the individual, since it is the individual choosing this method of service, and the individual is responsible for any and all liability associated with the use of such services.

    Hotels and other commercial properties offer insurance that cover their guests in case of injury or property loss. The type of properties offered via Airbnb and similar services vary widely in the type of coverage available for guests. Because of this, we do not recommend their use for college business. However, if you choose to utilize these services, please be aware that you are accepting personal responsibility for any incidents that may occur during your stay.


    Hotel reservations are typically guaranteed for late arrivals, travelers are required to cancel these reservations in a timely manner to prevent no show charges.  If you need to cancel, be sure to note the hotel time, and get a cancellation number or the name of the person with whom you talked.  Except under extenuating circumstances, the College will not reimburse expenses due to a traveler’s failure to cancel guaranteed room reservations.

    Gratuities For Hosts

    When staying with a friend rather than in a hotel, a “meal or gift in lieu of” hotel costs is reimbursable.  The gift or meal should be reasonable and not exceed the cost of acceptable accommodations.  You must provide receipts for the expenses incurred.  Cash payments to a host are not allowed.  The gift/meal must be purchased and presented to the host during the trip.  Explanation of such items should be submitted in the Expense Report expense line memo.

    Miscellaneous Hotel Expenses

    Miscellaneous expenses must be itemized and documented. Examples include:

    • Limited laundry and dry cleaning charges for trips of more than five days.
    • Business telephone calls.
    • Meals taken at the hotel.
    Room Service

    The College discourages use of room service or the hotel mini-bar for meals due to the high markup on these services.

  4. Meals

    Meals for employees while away on College business or entertaining on College business will be reimbursed.  Entertainment Expenses are those expenses incurred while entertaining guests of the College and include events such as social and recreational activities, when a business discussion takes place immediately before, during or after the event.  Meal costs for business-related participants will also be reimbursed.  The IRS requires that all requests for meal reimbursement must document the following information (most of the information is already printed on the receipt):

    • Who attended (self, if alone)
    • Business purpose of the meal
    • Cost
    • Where the meal was taken
    • The date

    Original itemized receipts must be submitted for any meal or entertainment expense regardless of cost

    Note:  In situations where a receipt is not readily available (i.e. international travel where meals are purchased at a market), you are asked to provide the information listed above.

    IRS regulations state that expenditure for meals cannot be lavish or extravagant.  The College does not reimburse on a “per diem basis”. However, the Meals and Incidental Expense rates for federal government employees provide a reasonable guide. 

    The Meals & Incidental Expense rates differ by travel location. View the rate for your primary destination to determine which M&IE rates apply, and view international travel destinations.

    Meals provided in conjunction with seminars may not be claimed as part of the meal allowance. 

    If an employee is dining out with a travel companion, only the cost of the employee’s meal may be charged.  Shared items must be prorated.


    Tips at the standard 15%-20% on meals are reimbursable with receipt documentation.   


    The College will reimburse for one alcoholic beverage chosen as your beverage with a meal.  Alcoholic beverages consumed by travelers between or after mealtimes are not considered meals and are not reimbursable, except when they qualify as reasonable entertainment for college or professional business.

    The federal government has mandated that no alcohol may be charged as either a direct or indirect expense of federally sponsored projects.  This mandate means that under no circumstances should alcohol be charged directly to a federal grant or contract.

  5. Ground Transportation

    Travelers should use the least expensive method of ground transportation that meets the traveler’s schedule and business needs (for example, airport shuttles, taxis, car rentals, app-based ride services (such as Uber or Lyft), train or bus travel).

    Travelers should rent vehicles only when necessary, or when doing so reduces overall transportation charges to the college. Additional ground transportation expenses will not be reimbursed during the time a traveler has rented a vehicle (for example, cab fare or app-based ride services).

    Car Rental

    Policy and Guidelines

    Authorized Carleton Drivers can rent cars if it is economical and a business necessity.  To determine if you are an authorized driver, please refer to the college Drivers List.  Rental of 15 passenger vans is strictly prohibited.  Employees renting large vehicles holding 8-12 passengers must complete the large vehicle training by contacting the Risk Manager.

    Rentals should be limited to situations where other means of transportation are not practical, economical or available.  Travelers are encouraged to choose compact or mid-sized cars whenever possible.  Travelers are highly encouraged to rent hybrid and fuel efficient vehicles when available and rental costs are similar to those of conventional vehicles.  All rentals should be at the Corporate Rate or the lowest possible rate per day.  When traveling in groups, sharing of cars is encouraged to reduce costs.  Exercise good judgment prior to renting an automobile.  At today’s rates, cabs may be more economical when traveling in cities. Collision damage or personal accident insurance should not be accepted for business travel rentals since the College carries insurance on hired autos; however, insurance should be accepted when traveling outside of the United States and Canada. Claims should be reported to the Risk Manager as soon as possible. When working with a travel agency, car reservations should be made at the same time your airline reservations are made.  


    Advise the car rental company or the travel agency if you decide to cancel a car reservation.  Automobile rental companies also appreciate it if you advise them in the event you plan to keep a car longer than you originally planned.  This allows them to keep a current status of their cars.


    Travelers should be aware that refueling fees often exceed the pump price of gas available in the community.  Travelers should refuel before returning the car to the agency.  Fuel costs associated with refueling a rental vehicle will be reimbursed based upon actual fuel purchased, not mileage.

    Rental Car Contracts

    The College recommends the E&I contract through Enterprise/National for rentals using contract number 19A2193 to obtain the contract pricing. Approved drivers between the ages of 18-20 would use contract number XZ78763 and are restricted to renting the following vehicle classes: Economy, Compact, Midsize/Intermediate, Standard, Full size vehicles and Minivans. When renting a vehicle for College business, it is important to familiarize yourself with the rental company’s accident reporting procedures. The accident procedures are often printed on the rental agreement. If you are involved in an accident with a rental vehicle, please adhere to the agency’s reporting requirements. If you are renting outside of the Enterprise/National Contract you should provide the name of the College’s insurance company, Selective Insurance Company, and direct the owner of the other vehicle to the Carleton website for our certificate of insurance.  They may also contact the Risk Manager for additional assistance.

    College Vehicle

    College vehicles are available for business travel to authorized College drivers.  Requests for College vehicles should be arranged through Campus Services.

    College owned or leased vehicles are to be used for business use.  Employees may not use College vehicles for personal purposes.

    Carleton College maintains a limited number of fleet of shared vehicles that are available for use by pre-qualified drivers of the College conducting official Carleton College business.  Smoking is prohibited in Carleton College fleet vehicles. Pets are not allowed in College vehicles unless they are properly kenneled and restrained.  The use of Cell phones (including texting) is prohibited while driving College vehicles or while you are driving on College business.

    1. The driver of a College vehicle is responsible for the vehicle and its occupants. The driver should be familiar with the principles of safe and lawful operation of a motor vehicle and must obey all traffic laws. Failure to assume proper responsibility (safe and lawful operation) for the vehicle and its occupants will result in loss of driving privileges.
    2. College vehicles and rental vehicles being used for College business are to be driven only by “pre-qualified” Carleton College employees or students per the Driving Privileges policy.
    3. If an authorized driver is involved in a motor vehicle accident or receives a moving violation, he or she may be required to attend additional defensive driver training. Students may be asked to provide new MVRs upon a qualifying event such as receiving a moving violation ticket or being involved in an accident either in a personal vehicle or a College-owned vehicle. 
    4. The list of authorized faculty and staff drivers is maintained by the College’s Risk Manager and may be found on the Business Office Reference page.  
    5. College vehicles are not to be used for personal business. Refer to the Fleet Services policy for additional guidance on business travel.
    6. The use of rooftop carriers or similar externally mounted storage containers on College-owned/leased passenger vehicles is prohibited. The College has one cargo mini-van, which can be used in place of trailers and/or rooftop carriers. Trailers containing a boat or other such apparatus that cannot easily fit in the cargo space may be towed using the cargo minivan. The College has purchased a utility trailer which may also be used behind a cargo van when more storage is required. Only authorized faculty and staff who have experience towing trailers are allowed to tow a trailer of any kind behind the College-owned vehicles. STUDENTS ARE PROHIBITED FROM USING A TRAILER OF ANY KIND. All drivers are encouraged to use the space in a cargo van in place of a trailer whenever possible.
    7. When there is a state-issued traveler advisory in effect due to a storm warning, no travel will be allowed. Keys will not be issued for reserved vehicles and everyone traveling in College vehicles should seek shelter until driving conditions improve and all traveler advisories have been lifted.
    8. Accidents that occur on campus property should be reported to Carleton Security immediately. Accidents that occur off campus property must be reported to the local police at the time of the accident and to Carleton Security immediately upon return to campus. If there are injuries or if the vehicle is not in “drivable” condition–either due to an accident or mechanical difficulties–contact Fleet Vehicle Services (Carleton Security at 507-222-4444 after hours) for assistance. Insurance information is kept in the glove compartment of each vehicle. The College will review all accidents involving College vehicles. Determination of future eligibility for drivers involved in accidents will be made on a case-by-case basis.  Refer to full College policy for Accident Procedures.
    9. Any parking or moving violation citations are the driver’s responsibility. The College will not pay any fines. Negligent or other damage costs not covered by insurance are the driver’s responsibility.

    Insurance information is located in the glove compartment of all fleet vehicles.  If a fleet vehicle is damaged and cannot be driven, have the vehicle towed to the nearest dealership or repair facility and make alternative arrangements to return to campus or continue to your destination (taxi or rental vehicle).

    Personal Vehicles

    Employees are encouraged to use a College owned vehicle for business travel by auto.  It is important for employees to be aware that when using a personal car for Carleton business use, the employee’s personal car insurance carrier provides liability coverage. It is the obligation of the owner of a personal vehicle being used for College business to carry adequate insurance for his or her protection and for the protection of any passengers. In the event of an accident, the employee is responsible for his/her own auto insurance deductible.

    Travelers will be reimbursed for business use of personal cars based on mileage. Business mileage is the travel an employee incurs beyond normal commuting mileage (from home to the office and home again) on a normal weekday. The following information must be documented to claim business mileage reimbursement:

    • Date of the trip
    • The purpose of the trip
    • Google map type documentation or mileage log

    An employee who uses transportation methods other than their own vehicle to attend local meetings may be reimbursed for actual transportation expenses up to the amount they would be reimbursed if they claimed mileage and parking at the meeting site. The college mileage rate is updated annually each July, based on the then-applicable IRS mileage reimbursement rate.

    Employees will not be reimbursed for the following, even if these costs are incurred during business travel:

    • Car repairs
    • Rental car costs during repair of personal car
    • Tickets, fines, or traffic violations

    Air travel is recommended when time is a factor or when the cost of other methods of transportation is substantially higher or when the length of the trip is so long that it is the most practical means of transportation. Refer to the Use of Personal Vehicle Form when analyzing the most cost-effective method of transportation.

    Vehicle Accident Reporting Procedures

    For All Accidents:

    1. Pull out of the driving lane on to the shoulder and turn off the ignition.
    2. Activate the four-way flashers on the vehicle.
    3. Immediately contact the local police (911) to advise them of the accident and to get medical assistance if there are any injuries.  Fleet vehicles contain emergency items including a first-aid kit.
    4. Do not admit fault or give written statements.
    5. Exchange driver’s information listed on your certificate of insurance. At a minimum, write down:
      • Driver’s name
      • Driver’s license number and state
      • Phone number
      • Address
      • Insurance Company and policy number
      • License plate number — be prepared to also provide the following additional information when you return to campus:
        • Make, model and year of vehicle
        • Damage to vehicle
        • Injury to driver (if any)
        • Date, time, road and weather conditions
        • Names and phone numbers of any passengers
        • Injuries to any passengers
        • Names and phone numbers of any witnesses
        • Copy of any photographs
      • When local police respond to the accident, request the investigating officer’s name, badge number, phone number, and report number. Ask for the accident report form. If the local police will not file a report (because damage is minimal and there are no injuries), ask them to make a note in their records that you called in the accident.

    Phone Numbers

    • 911 – Contact local police immediately.
    • 507-222-4444 – Contact Security within 24 hours for fleet vehicles.
    • 507-222-4178 – Contact the Risk Manager/Business Office within 24 hours for rental vehicles.



    • Dues for personal memberships
    • Lifelong professional memberships
    • Airfare purchased with frequent flyer miles
    • Elective trip insurance
    • Insurance on domestic rental cars – the College’s insurance provides coverage on employees for accidents involving rental vehicles.  Employees should decline additional travel insurance.
    • Lost baggage or purchase of baggage.
    • Personal apparel
    • Extra baggage charges for personal items (i.e. golf clubs)
    • TV rental movies.
    • Alcoholic beverages, except for a single drink as the beverage with a meal.
    • Gasoline, if mileage reimbursement is used.  Mileage reimbursement must be used when using your personal vehicle.
    • Oil, insurance premiums, maintenance, towing charges and repair costs to personal vehicles.
    • Fines for vehicle violations (speeding or parking tickets, etc.) or for personal misconduct.
    • Spa or health club fees.
    • Dry cleaning or laundry service if you are staying for less than one week.
    • Costs for meals, travel or lodging for spouse or personal guests.
    • Costs of commuting between an individual’s home and place of work.
    • Personal entertainment or excursions.
    • Personal phone calls.
    • Toiletries, medicine, magazines, etc. purchased while traveling.
    • Costs for child care, pet care or lawn/home maintenance.
    • Charitable or political contributions.

    Expenses that are of a personal nature, or expenses that would be incurred whether or not the employee was on College business, are not eligible for reimbursement. The College requires employees to document and request reimbursement for such expenses in accordance with the following guidelines and the regulations of the United States Internal Revenue Service. In addition, if federal grant funding is used, employees must adhere to all regulations as outlined in the grant.

Last Revised: March 19, 2021

For: Faculty, Staff, Students

Last Reviewed: March 19, 2021

Maintained by: Business Office