Advice for the Bewildered CPC Traveler

Advice for the CPC Traveler from Garrett Desorcie, CPC's Travel Coordinator

Federal, state, and university travel regulations are very complex.  The basics are provided below.  If you want further clarification on any travel related issue, please contact:

  • the travel coordinator for your project, or
  • , CPC Travel Coordinator.

How should I pay for my airline ticket?

You can use a personal credit card. Another option is to charge the airfare directly to a University account through the University Central Airfare Billing System (CABS). To purchase a ticket through CABS, first get a quote for your flight from one of UNC's authorized travel agencies.  Many CPC travelers use Travelink (919-942-4196, ext.2701) or Maupin Travel (919-967-8888).  Secondly, send (for domestic trips and international trips) a copy of the itinerary with the approximate cost and complete a CPC CABS Request Form.  Finally, after approval, Garrett will send a University Travel Authorization number (C#) to the corresponding travel agent and your flight will be booked.

Although you are not required to use an authorized agency, booking fees charged by other agencies and travel websites are not reimbursable. In addition, you'll miss out on the discounts UNC has negotiated with American, Delta, and United.  Airfare purchased using your own means will not be eligible for reimbursement until AFTER the trip.

Regardless of the source of your ticket, fees associated with obtaining a paper ticket when an electronic ticket is available are not reimbursable.

The rules allowing upgrades from base economy class depend on several factors.

  1. Medical exceptions for upgrades may be made with appropriate documentation.
  2. Domestic flights are limited to base ECONOMY CLASS only, regardless of funding source. 
  3. For international flights, upgrades may be allowed:
  • University travel policy allows upgrades (economy plus, economy comfort, or business class) for non-stop flights over 8 hours, but not for federally-funded travel.  But that’s not the full story.  Read on.
  • Only base economy class can be paid by federal funds; however, upgrades can be paid by non-federal funds, such as F&A or trust funds.
  • The rule is that the domestic leg of a business-class international flight must be economy class unless it is more expensive to change it. However, in practice, business-class makes the traveler eligible for 1st class on the domestic leg because a second ticket would have to be issued for the economy domestic leg and that would be more expensive.
  • First-class travel is not allowed.

Check with Garrett Desorcie to determine eligibility for upgrades for your specific circumstances.

I found a cheap flight on a foreign carrier. Is that a problem?

To comply with the Fly America Act, you must use an U.S. airline to travel whenever one is available if the flight is being paid for with Federal funds. Convenience and cost generally cannot be taken into consideration. If you use a foreign carrier instead of domestic, we cannot reimburse you.  However, there is arrangement with European Union carriers that does comply with the Fly America Act.

Another exception is when a U.S. airline sells a passenger a ticket and then puts the passenger on a foreign airline's flight. This is fine because you (and the government) are paying a U.S. company. However, the opposite is not true; you can't pay a foreign airline for a spot on a U.S. plane.

If you are unsure if you are complying with the Fly America Act, contact before you buy your ticket.

How much may I spend on my hotel?

If you are traveling within the U.S., any reasonable hotel rate is fully reimbursable. The University's business manual states that you are expected to behave as a prudent traveler spending his or her own money would while on a business trip. This means you don't have to stay in the cheapest place in town, but you also probably should not be staying at the Ritz.

Travel outside the U.S.

What's the deal on food? Why don't I have to keep receipts for meals?

The subsistence rates are different for in state and out of state trips. The rates are reduced for partial days and lunch is not reimbursable for a one-day trip. If the cost of a meal is included in the registration, you may not also ask for the standard allowance for the meal. Please include the time you left home (or the office) and the time you got back with your documentation. This information is needed to calculate your per diem.  Please refer to the University Policy and Procedures Manual for the per diem guidelines.

Please note that you are only allowed to receive up to 75% of a days per-diem on both the first and last day of your trip

Business meals (i.e., where the traveler pays for the meals of others) are not reimbursable as a travel expense; a separate payment request must be generated. Staff and students shouldn't pick up the tab for someone else without first clearing it with a supervisor.

Travel outside the U.S.

What about other travel expenses?

Obtain receipts for all expenditures to be reimbursed except for meals and taxi charges under $20. If you lose a receipt, please try to obtain a duplicate. For taxis under $20, provide purpose of the taxi rides and how much they cost. Mileage and parking are reimbursable. For the most part, all travel expenses incurred while in travel status are reimbursable. As long as you keep the receipts, you can be reimbursed. Exceptions:  personal items, laundry fees*, trip insurance, and collision liability insurance are never reimbursable; you can be reimbursed only for expenses directly relating to you; and if you’ve been given a travel allocation, you can be reimbursed only up to that amount.


* - Laundry fees are reimbursable on trips over 7 days in duration. please include with your other receipts if applicable

Travel outside the U.S.

Is there an alternative to paying for the trip myself and being reimbursed afterward?

Conference registrations: UNC prefers to pay your conference registration directly (via your travel coordinator), but you may also, under limited circumstances, be able to get an advance if you personally paid for the registration. To get an advance payment, send a copy of the registration form, indicating whether and by what method you paid,  (domestic or international), CPC, CB# 8120, 123 West Franklin St., 2165G.  In most cases Garrett will submit the payment request on your behalf.  If, however, you paid the registration yourself, you must include a memo detailing why the registration could not be paid directly by UNC (the conference only accepts credit cards or wire transfers, for example).  If you do not include proper justification, you will have to wait until after the conference to be reimbursed.

Permanent employees and postdocs who travel at least once a year are eligible for a Diner’s Club card. This University sponsored card is available so travelers do not have to bear the cost of business travel with their own funds; however, the traveler is responsible for all transactions. If you don’t have a card, you can apply for one. Print out your completed form, send it to Garrett and you should receive the card via mail, at your residence, within 3 weeks. Submission of travel receipts for reimbursement is imperative upon completion of the trip.

Students, predoc/postdoc trainees, and temporary employees, as well as any UNC employee traveling Internationally, can obtain a travel advance for lodging and per diem. Advances should be requested at least two weeks before the start of the trip. To obtain an advance, complete the CPC Travel Advance form.

Travel outside the U.S.

Before I leave, should I purchase trip insurance?

No, you cannot be reimbursed for typical trip insurance.  See International Travel FAQ for information about MedEvac insurance.

Travel outside the U.S.

I need to change my airline ticket. Can I be reimbursed for the change fee?

Yes, assuming that the rescheduling wasn't for your personal convenience. If you change the date of your trip because the conference/meeting date was changed, your collaborators request you come at a different time, or because of illness, UNC will reimburse you for the change fee and/or the cost of the different flight. Just include a signed memo or send an email to (domestic or international) stating the reason for the change. You cannot be reimbursed for changing flight times simply for your personal convenience.

Instead of flying, can I rent a car or drive my own car to my destination?

You can obtain an Enterprise rental car.  This process is new (as of Summer 2016).  Please contact for details.

If you drive your own car, you will be reimbursed for mileage. There are two scenarios that dictate the mileage rate: (1) $.58/mile for roundtrips that do not exceed 100 miles (such as 36 miles for each RDU/CPC roundtrip), and (2) $.17/mile if a state car is available but you choose not to use one (when roundtrips exceed 100 miles). Your reimbursement cannot exceed the cost of the average commercial airfare to that location.  Mileage should not be calculated from your home unless your home location is closer to the destination than CPC is.  As a general rule, mileage must be calculated with CPC (or official work base) as the point of origination.

If you are staff or student and your alternate means of transportation is slower than flying, you should get permission from your supervisor. Faculty using alternate means are encouraged to be prudent.

For short local trips, you can use a UNC Zip car for occasional business-related travel.  If you have anticipate extensive or repeated use, please speak with Garrett.

What about renting a car at my destination?

If your meeting is in the same city as your hotel, the University deems a rental car to be unnecessary. Use public transportation and/or taxis (keep receipts over $20). However, if you have to drive a substantial way to your meeting (for example, you fly into D.C. for a meeting in northern Virginia), you may be able to rent a car.  UNC will not reimburse you for the purchase of collision damage waiver or liability coverage.

The State provides liability, comprehensive, and collision coverage for commercial vehicles rented by UNC employees for fewer than 30 days in conjunction with official University business. When completing and signing the rental contract, your name should be signed "__________, in care of The State of North Carolina."  If you use a credit card, you may automatically get additional insurance coverage.  Please include a memo explaining why you are renting a car when you turn in your receipts upon your return.

Can I share my hotel room?

Sure. If you share a hotel room, please pay only your share, not more and not less.  For instance, if you share with one other CPC traveler, you should pay half of the cost of the room, plus any special charges such as phone calls.  If possible, have the hotel generate a separate bill for each person who stayed in the room.  If you share with a spouse or friend not traveling on business, you can only be reimbursed for the single room rate; please provide a statement of what the single room rate is.

Can I add personal travel time to my trip?


In order for a trip to be reimbursed via the University, the purpose of the trip must be primarily for University business. Travel that combines both University business and personal time requires extra attention. Prior to the trip, you should notify CPC Travel and describe the breakdown of business and personal components. 

Also, if personal time is attached to the trip, you must provide a comparison quote from the same airfare provider for a direct flight with the dates of the business trip, excluding the personal time. if the itinerary including personal time costs more, you will be responsible to cover the difference in the flight costs.

I'm back from my trip. What do I do now?

You must report your travel expenses. University requirements state that all travel reimbursement requests must be submitted no later than 30 days from the date of your return. This is necessary even if you got an advance for the same amount as your expenses. Complete the CPC Travel Reimbursement form. Send your receipts and other documentation to the travel coordinator for your project or to (domestic or international).  Their offices are located at 123 West Franklin St., Room 2165G.  You can generally expect to see your reimbursement 1 to 2 weeks after the reimbursement form leaves CPC for its trip through the University's central disbursement offices.

Will I get a check or electronic deposit?

Travel advances always come in the form of a check.  Reimbursements may be issued electronically, the method preferred by UNC, or by paper check.  If the deposit is made electronically, you should receive an email message saying it occurred.  (domestic or international) will notify you if one of them receives a check for you.

Do I need to know anything special for traveling internationally?

Assume the rules above apply unless there are exceptions noted for traveling internationally.

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