3.00 Planning and Booking Your Travel

  • Travelers should obtain approval from their department, lab, or center prior to booking a trip. Travelers cannot approve travel on their own behalf.

Travelers are encouraged to use the Concur Travel Booking and Expense Reporting Tool and The Travel Collaborative, MIT's preferred travel agency.

  • Travelers should use MIT’s preferred carriers in order to maximize savings. Travelers may use other carriers, but are encouraged to be mindful of maximizing savings for MIT.
  • It is strongly encouraged that reservations for airline tickets be made as soon as possible (at least 14 days) so travelers can obtain advance purchase discounts.
  • MIT will not reimburse travelers for airfare, hotel, rental cars or any other travel purchased with frequent flyer miles or other rewards points. Frequent flyer memberships and other rewards memberships should not influence a traveler's decision to select a vendor other than the lowest priced or MIT Preferred Supplier available.
  • The Institute strongly discourages travel by groups of more than three faculty or staff members on the same aircraft or on extended automobile trips, for which catastrophic injuries to the group could seriously impair the operation of an Institute activity. Departments planning trips with student groups are discouraged, whenever feasible, from booking travel arrangements for more than 20 students on the same flight or vehicle.

Required Documentation for Business or First-Class Travel

  • The difference in the cost of business class (or first class if business class is not offered on a flight) may not be charged to sponsored projects unless the sponsor explicitly allows such expenses.
  • The airfare difference must be itemized in travel expense reports regardless of whether the flight is charged to a non-sponsored cost object or to a sponsored account that does not allow business/first-class travel. For business/first-class travel allowed by the sponsor, it is not necessary to itemize the airfare difference.
  • Travelers booking directly with airlines, non-Concur online travel services, or travel agencies that are not MIT’s Preferred Travel Agencies must document the lowest available coach fare at time of booking to the destination traveled and submit this information with the completed travel expense report for proper reimbursement.
  • Travelers using MIT’s Preferred Travel Agency are automatically provided this documentation for fare justification.


  • MIT travelers may fly business class (or first class if business class service is not offered) for all international travel (excluding Canada; see below).

U.S. and Canada

An MIT traveler may fly business class if the trip meets any one of the conditions below. (Note: travelers may only fly first class if business class is not offered.)

  • The traveler’s scheduled in-air flying time of a one-way direct or non-stop flight exceeds six hours.
  • The traveler’s scheduled in-air flying time of a flight with multiple legs totals more than six hours from origin to destination.
  • For roundtrip travel, one of the above requirements must apply to at least one way of travel in order to fly business class in both directions.  For example, business class is allowed for a roundtrip Boston-Los Angeles flight even if only one way exceeds six hours.

All Air Travel

  • Travelers may fly business class (or first class if business class service is not offered on a flight) for medical purposes by providing proper documentation of a medical condition and receiving approval from the MIT Office of Disability Services.   
  • Federal regulations prohibit the charging of Business Class or First Class to federally sponsored research projects unless it is specifically approved by the sponsor and is documented in Kuali Coeus.
  • Travelers who fly Business Class (or First Class) must follow the requirements for documenting the lowest available coach fare (see 3.03 above). They must itemize the difference between the Business Class (or First Class) fare and the lowest available Coach fare. When travel is charged to a sponsored cost object the airfare difference must be charged to a non-sponsored discretionary cost object. If Business Class (or First Class) is allowed by the sponsor it is not necessary to itemize the airfare difference.
  • Federal regulations require that individuals whose travel is supported by federal funds use U.S. Flag Carrier Airlines. In some cases, the use of airlines whose countries participate in the Open Skies Agreement is allowed.  For clarification on this issue, please refer to Section 7.1 Use of U.S.-Flag Air Carriers.
  • The US Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Uniform Guidance provides further guidance and defines allowable direct and indirect costs for reimbursement under federal contracts and grants at universities. See RAS Uniform Guidance for more information.

The use of non-commercial aircraft owned, rented, operated, or chartered by a Traveler on Institute business is strongly discouraged. When contemplated, it is subject to prior permission from the MIT Office of Insurance.

  • Travelers are encouraged to book lodging whenever possible with MIT preferred hotels using Concur, MIT's Online Booking System (where adopted).
  • Travelers are encouraged to use standard accommodations in hotels and motels at competitive rates.
  • Travelers should feel safe in their accommodations. They are encouraged not to stay in a facility at which they question the safety of the environment.
  • MIT has volume-based contracts with local (Cambridge and Boston), national, and international hotels. DLCs should take advantage of these contracts whenever possible for events and for hosting visitors whose lodging expenses will be paid for by MIT. For such visitors, DLCs should pay for lodging and all other covered expenses using a Department Travel Card (where adopted). In cases when the visitor makes arrangements at MIT's preferred local hotels directly, the visitor should make sure to ask for the MIT rate at the time of booking.

Traveling on the ground also requires adherence to MIT travel policies, on rail, by car and van, by public transportation, and taxi services.

Rail travel may be used when the Traveler finds it convenient. Rail travel is reimbursable as long as the total cost of the trip is comparable to, or less expensive than, the lowest available coach airfare.

  • When travel by private automobile is desirable to save time or to reduce costs because a number of persons are traveling to the same destination together, reimbursement is based on the prevailing IRS rate, rounded down to the nearest whole penny. This mileage allowance is intended to cover all transportation and operating costs, including fuel.
  • When a private automobile is used primarily for the convenience of the Traveler, the reimbursement will not exceed the lesser of the cost of the appropriate round trip coach airfare between the nearest commercial airport serving the origin and destination cities or the prevailing IRS mileage reimbursement rate. The 2019 rate is 58 cents per mile. The 2020 rate is 57.5 cents per mile.
  • In order to use a personal vehicle for MIT business, the Traveler must maintain a current operator’s license and registration on the personal vehicle and procure and maintain Massachusetts' minimum statutory insurance liability limits of $20,000 per individual injury and $40,000 per accident. MIT’s commercial automobile liability insurance will serve as excess coverage above the Traveler’s personal automobile liability limits.
  • No reimbursement will be made for the cost of repairs to the private vehicle, replacement of the private vehicle, or insurance deductibles or surcharges, whether they result from the Traveler's acts or the acts of others.
  • MIT will reimburse for the cost of ferry transportation, tolls, and reasonable parking charges, in addition to the mileage allowance. Under no circumstances will the Traveler be reimbursed for traffic tickets due to parking or motor vehicle violations.
  • The transport of equipment in a private vehicle is strongly discouraged, due to the potential exposure for property damage or loss.
  • MIT strongly encourages Travelers to use MIT's partner car rental agencies, which provide volume-based discounts and insurance on vehicles for MIT Travelers. The use of these agencies will serve to mitigate MIT’s financial risk associated with automobile accidents and losses, including the theft of the vehicle. If a Traveler rents a car from an agency other than Avis or Budget, (MIT's partner car rental agencies) and is involved in an at-fault accident, an internal deductible of $1,000 will be placed on the insurance claim.  See MIT Office of Insurance for details on this policy.
  • All changes pertaining to car rental reservations should be confirmed prior to picking up or dropping off the vehicle – e.g., changes to the rental period, or the return location. Making such changes at the rental counter may negate the MIT discount.
  • When traveling domestically, Travelers should NOT purchase insurance offered by car rental agencies when booking a rental car (One exception: MIT Travelers should purchase rental car insurance when renting in Alaska).
  • When traveling internationally, including Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean islands, Travelers SHOULD purchase insurance under all circumstances. Travelers either may pay for such insurance using the MIT Travel Card (where adopted) or pay out of pocket and obtain reimbursement from MIT.
  • When booking a rental car in conjunction with other travel services (airfare, hotel), Travelers are encouraged to book through Concur, MIT's Online Booking Tool.
  • Rental car arrangements made on behalf of or by MIT business invitees, whose travel expenses are reimbursable under MIT’s Travel Policy, are only covered for automobile comprehensive, collision, and liability insurance to the extent such coverage is extended by MIT’s partner car rental agreements. MIT does not extend any insurance to, nor indemnify business invitees, for claims arising from their travel activities.

The use of 12 and 15-passenger vans is not an approved travel expense unless authorized by the MIT Office of Insurance.

  • Travelers are encouraged to pay for miscellaneous transportation expenses with the MIT Travel Card.
  • MIT will reimburse Travelers for shuttle service to and from airports and train stations, plus tips, to the extent that such service is not included in air and rail fares.
  • MIT will reimburse Travelers for taxi fares, including tips, when public transportation or shuttle service is not practical or available. This includes taxis between hotels and train stations or airports, between appointments, or between hotels and places of temporary duty.

Attendance at conferences or seminars is an integral component of MIT business travel. When booking for a conference, Travelers should consider the following:

  • Registration fees should be paid using the MIT Travel Card if attendance at a conference or seminar requires air travel or overnight lodging. Registration fees for local conferences or seminars may be paid using the MIT Procurement Card.
  • Travelers are encouraged to take advantage of preferred rates for hotel accommodations that are often available in connection with conferences.
  • Attendees should check with conference organizers to ascertain the preferred ground transportation method for traveling between conference locations.
  • When air travel is involved, Travelers are encouraged to book airline tickets as far in advance as possible (at least 14 days) in order to obtain advance purchase discounts.

Receipts are critical to post-trip expense reporting and reimbursement. Prior to embarking on a trip, Travelers should be aware of the following:

  • Travelers must keep itemized receipts for any business expense greater than $75. DLCs may impose stricter guidelines on Travelers.
  • Travelers must keep itemized receipts for air and rail fares, hotel costs, and car rentals, regardless of cost.
  • When alcohol is purchased as part of a meal or business-related meeting, Travelers must keep the original receipt to ensure proper segregation of the alcohol expense to a discretionary cost object in the post-trip expense report.

Certain travel expenses are reimbursable by MIT but not covered by sponsored research projects. For information on processing expenses under a sponsored research project, see Section 5.00 Post Trip Expense Reporting.

  • Because the MIT Travel Card is widely accepted and will satisfy the majority of the Traveler’s expenses, cash withdrawals are issued on an exception basis. VPF Travel may make exceptions to this policy upon the request of an Administrative Officer/Primary Authorizer (or equivalent) representing the DLC for which the travel will be undertaken.
  • Exceptions will be limited to trips to areas designated by VPF Travel as remote locations, where the MIT Travel Card is not accepted and the banking infrastructure prevents other means of payment. Other unusual travel needs may also exist where it would be appropriate for VPF Travel to approve cash withdrawals.
  • The cash obtained through an approved Travel Card cash withdrawal must be used for MIT business purposes, and any unused funds must be returned to MIT after the trip ends. Any unused cash not returned within 120 days will be treated as taxable income, in accordance with the U.S. Tax Code.
  • It is the Traveler's responsibility to arrange for cancellations in a timely manner, as stipulated by the terms of reservation.
  • In some cases, an unused ticket may be refundable and a cash-value credit may be issued to the previously charged cost object. Tickets are often non-refundable, however, and in such cases, a travel credit will be issued for future travel. Travelers should check with the issuing agency for details prior to booking travel.
  • As soon as Travelers determine that travel arrangements must be canceled, Travelers should:
    • Contact the issuing agency (at least 24 hours ahead of travel/departure date).
    • Arrange for either an appropriate refund or credit to be used within one year from the booking date.
    • Submit an expense report through the Concur, MIT's Online Expense Reporting System (where adopted).

The MIT International Travel Risk Policy is maintained and updated by the Program Manager for International Safety and Security.