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Student Travel

This section provides information on the different types of student travel, how to book travel and other travel-related policies.


How to Plan Your Trip

Student groups who wish to participate in Columbia-supported travel must plan all travel arrangements with their adviser. Approval to travel depends on your ability to meet required timelines, the availability of funding, the method(s) of payment, the appropriateness of the travel and the accuracy of your student group's itinerary. Individual travelers must also meet specific criteria, as outlined by your adviser.

Undergraduate Student Life requires that all individuals who participate in travel that is organized in part or in full by student groups comply with specific procedures for Columbia-supported travel. These procedures vary based on the type of travel.

To travel, your group must prepare at least two months in advance of departure to discuss the requirements of domestic or international travel with your adviser. Once your trip is approved by your adviser (and your governing board for ABC groups), you may begin to take the appropriate steps as outlined below.

New York City Travel

For travel that takes place within the five boroughs of New York City (Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island):

  1. Submit a financial transaction form (FTF) for any associated costs of the trip or event
  2. Learn about MetroCard requests for approved programs and events

Domestic Travel

For travel that takes place outside of the five boroughs of New York City but within the United States:

  1. Have your adviser reach out to Administration and Planning to have your trip added to the domestic travel form
  2. All travelers must fill out the domestic travel form prior to booking travel
  3. For travelers under the age of 18 at the time of departure, your parent or guardian must sign a travel agreement form, which you will upload with your travel form submission
  4. Work with your adviser to book travel through the appropriate method

International Travel

For travel that takes place outside the United States:

  1. Have your adviser register the trip with the Undergraduate Travel Review Committee as a new program
  2. Work with your adviser to book travel through the appropriate method

Meals and Supplies

Prior to departure, students may purchase food and supplies related to their approved business purpose through an approved vendor or via P-Card with the assistance of their adviser. 

If you need to purchase meals and supplies on site during your travel, you may request travel appointment six weeks prior to your departure to see if a member of your group is eligible for a travel advance or reimbursement. To make these purchases, you must demonstrate that the meals and/or supplies are required to fulfill the mission of your student group and the purpose of the Columbia-supported travel.


Conference Registrations

If your student group needs to register for a conference, please email your adviser. Your adviser can register you with their P-Card after you submit a financial transaction form (FTF) for the registration payment. 


​Travel Advance and Reimbursement Policy

When expenses for travel cannot be covered by other available payment methods, your group may qualify for a cash advance or reimbursement per the restrictions below.

Travel Advance

Travel advances are a type of cash advance exclusively for Columbia-supported travel. The distinction between a standard cash advance and a travel cash advance is that all expenses must have a clear business purpose that directly relates to the mission of the trip.

To request a travel advance, your group must elect one trip coordinator from your group to be responsible for the advance. This person must collect all receipts for expenses so that the advance can be reconciled upon the group’s return. Failure to keep receipts will cause the trip coordinator the become personally liable for the expenses. Groups cannot request more than one travel advance at a time or have more than one trip coordinator per trip. Upon approval, the travel advance will come in the form of a check or direct deposit directly to the trip coordinator. You must receive approval six weeks before your trip, so plan ahead.

The approval process depends on following factors:

  • Eligibility to receive a cash advance (determined by Administration and Planning)
  • Successful vendor setup for the trip coordinator
  • Approval of your financial transaction form (FTF)
  • Completed cash advance form with budgeted agenda that outlines how the advance will be used and the dollar amounts for each expense (e.g. $100 spent on food, $30 spent on taxis between sites)
  • Travel appointment with Administration and Planning
    • At least one executive board member must attend, along with the trip coordinator 
  • Confirm understanding of and agree to the cash advance policy
  • Agree to terms and date of cash advance reconciliation

Common expenses covered by a travel advance include meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) and transportation between sites via taxi or shuttle. Ineligible expenses include snacks, alcohol, entertainment, personal items and loss or theft of money/tickets. See a full list of ineligible expenses.

Travel Reimbursement

Per our reimbursement policy, students should not make out-of-pocket purchases for travel or travel-related expenses with the expectation of reimbursement.

Travel reimbursements may only occur under the following circumstances:

In both instances, to receive reimbursement, you must demonstrate that the purchase(s) were required to fulfill the mission of your student group and the Columbia-supported travel. Please reach out to your adviser for additional guidance on non-reimbursable expenses.


Visitor Travel Expenses

If your group plans to invite a guest to campus that will participate in one of your events, you may wish to cover the cost of the guest's flight, hotel or car service. This type of compensation should be discussed with your group’s adviser in detail to determine what makes the most sense to offer, as only one type of payment can be processed. All other expenses related to travel are the responsibility of the guest.

Student groups who use their funds to help offset the travel costs of their guest must adhere to all travel booking procedures.

Note: Be sure to review all hotel policies carefully.

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