Planning 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 organized in part or whole by student groups comply with specific procedures for Columbia-supported travel. These procedures vary based on the type and nature of travel.
Student groups must prepare at least eight weeks before the planned departure date to discuss domestic or international travel and travel cash advance requirements with their adviser. Once your trip is approved by your adviser (and your governing board for ABC groups), you may begin taking the appropriate steps outlined below based on your travel location.
New York City Travel
For travel that takes place within the five boroughs of New York City (Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island):
- Submit a financial transaction form (FTF) for any associated costs of the trip or event
- Learn about MetroCard requests for approved programs and events
For travel that takes place outside of the five boroughs of New York City but within the United States:
- Have your adviser contact Administration and Planning with the below mentioned information to have the trip added to the domestic travel form:
- Group name
- Trip name
- Trip Dates
- All travelers must fill out the domestic travel form before booking travel.
- For travelers under 18 years old at the time of departure, your parent or guardian must sign a travel agreement form, which you will upload with your travel form submission.
- Work with your adviser to book travel through the appropriate method.
For travel that takes place outside the United States (including travel to Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands)
International travel is a multi-step process that requires coordination between Columbia University - Undergraduate Travel Review Committee - and the Undergraduate Student Life department.
- The destination must be verified on the Global Travel Website to determine your location's highest level of risk and Elevated Evacuation Status; then, develop an itinerary with your adviser.
- Once the itinerary is finalized, coordinate with your adviser to register the trip with the Undergraduate Travel Review Committee as a new program.
- Work with your adviser to book travel through the appropriate method.
To ensure Undergraduate Student Life student groups have completed the required steps, a comprehensive Travel Checklist for Students covers everything that a student group will need to do. This checklist provides a step by step breakdown of the travel process.
Students can register for a conference by submitting a financial transaction form (FTF) for the registration to be paid by a P-Card. If the student group was not assigned a P-card, their adviser may issue payment on the student group's behalf.
Travel Cash Advance and Reimbursement Requests
When expenses for travel cannot be covered by other available and preferred University payment methods, your group may be able to qualify for a cash advance or reimbursement after review and approval by your adviser and travel arranger. Students traveling must be informed of the University’s travel expense policy in advance of their travel. Expenditures that do not comply with the University’s policy will not be reimbursed and advanced.
Travel Cash Advance
Travel cash advances are generally available to faculty, staff, and students of Columbia University to assist in defraying out-of-pocket cash while traveling for an extended time. Travel cash advances cannot be used for hotels, airfare, or registration.
To request a travel cash advance, your group must elect one trip coordinator from your student 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. Groups cannot request more than one travel cash advance at a time or have more than one trip coordinator per trip. Upon approval, the travel cash advance will be sent directly to the trip coordinator.
Common expenses covered by a travel cash 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. For further guidance regarding travel-based advances, please contact your adviser and/or the Administration and Planning Travel Coordinator.
Repayment of a Travel Cash Advance
- When the student uses less than the travel cash advance amount, the student must submit a check for the difference to return the unused portion of the advance.
- When the student exceeds the advance amount, the student will be reimbursed the difference.
Travel Reimbursement (for Out-of-Pocket Expenses)
Per Undergraduate Student Life's reimbursement policy, students should only make approved out-of-pocket purchases for travel or travel-related expenses with the expectation of reimbursement. Approval is given on a case-by-case basis. To be considered for travel expense reimbursements, it must occur under the following circumstances:
- Your student group needs to purchase tickets that can only reasonably be procured outside of the available Columbia direct payment mechanisms (e.g. Metro-North Railroad, Uber).
- Your group needs to purchase meals and supplies that can only reasonably be purchased on site during travel.
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. For further guidance regarding travel-based reimbursement, please review the University’s travel expense policy with your adviser.
Supporting Documentation Requirements
- Documentation must support the business purpose for which the individual’s travel is being reimbursed
- Gratuities cannot exceed 20%.
- Original itemized receipts are required for ALL expenses you are claiming for reimbursement.
- Note: Failure to keep receipts will result in the trip coordinator being personally liable for the expenses.
Receipts for reimbursement must be submitted to Administration and Planning within 10 days of return from travel.
Travel Cash Advance and Reimbursement Workflow
The eligibility to receive a travel cash advance or reimbursement is determined by the Adviser & Travel Coordinator. The trip coordinator must be able to do the following:
- Complete the vendor setup.
- Approval of financial transaction form (FTF)
- For travel cash advance only: Completed cash advance form with budgeted agenda that outlines the advance planned expenses (e.g., $100 for food, $30 spent on taxis between sites)
- Once steps 1-3 are completed and approved, book a travel appointment with the Administration and Planning Travel Coordinator.
- Confirm understanding of and agree to the University and Undergraduate Student Life cash advance & reimbursement terms and policy with the Adviser and Travel Coordinator.
Visitor Travel Expenses
If your student group plans to invite a guest to campus to participate in one of your events, you may wish to cover the cost of the guest's flight, hotel, or car service. Your group's adviser should discuss and approve this type of compensation.
Note: All other travel expenses are the guest's responsibility. Student groups who want to use their funds to help offset the travel costs of their guests must adhere to all travel booking procedures.