Sponsored Travel

When traveling on federal funds and other sponsored awards, including federal capacity funds, such as Hatch or Smith-Lever programs, you must follow the procedures for traveling on sponsored funds as well as the requirements in the travel policy and the procedures found on this website. Where regulations conflict, the more stringent one applies.

A sponsor is any government or private organization providing funding for a sponsored project, a grant, contract, or cooperative agreement under which the university has agreed to perform a certain scope of work for the sponsor.

Some sponsored awards do not allow travel or may require pre-approval for any trips taken using sponsored funds. Consult your sponsored agreement for details.

To be allowable on a sponsored award, travel costs must be reasonable, necessary to perform the project, conform to the terms of the award, and be allocable (i.e., the costs directly benefit the project in proportion to the amount charged).

To demonstrate the allowability of a project’s costs, you must substantiate each of these requirements by providing the business purpose along with other materials that provide complete expense documentation.

Documentation for sponsored travel lodging includes a paid, itemized receipt or other proof-of-stay, when obtainable, and for sponsored air travel, comparative airfare costs obtained at the time of booking, for any travel with premium-class or personally paid components. While electronic documentation is acceptable for most Cornell travel expenses, some sponsored agreements may have more restrictive requirements.

What’s Not Allowed

In addition to the already prohibited non-reimbursable expenses, you may not charge or claim these federally unallowable expenses on sponsored funds unless specifically approved in the award documents:

  • Alcoholic beverages, including associated tax and tip
  • Premium class airfare (e.g., business or first class)
  • Honorarium payments
  • Meals on single-day or local travel, except on certain NYS awards
  • Entertainment expenses

Air Travel on Sponsored Funds

Travel on federal funds is subject to the Fly America Act and Open Skies Agreements. Using the preferred travel agent does not automatically ensure Fly America Act compliance. Department of Defense-funded travel is not eligible to use the provisions of Open Skies Agreements.

Change or cancellation fees may only be charged to awards in limited circumstances when the fees meet all federal allowability criteria. If you have questions or need a medical exception, contact Sponsored Financial Services before traveling.

Premium airfare (e.g., business or first class) is not allowed on sponsored awards unless an award specifically provides for it.

Also see Air Travel.

Lodging Expenses

Some sponsored awards limit actual cost reimbursement to government rates or lodging per diem, regardless of whether those rates were available when you incurred the expense.


You must obtain a proof-of-stay (itemized receipt indicating you stayed there and there is a zero balance) for all lodging expenses charged to sponsored awards. When lodging is paid through an online service like Expedia or Priceline, it is not paid directly to the hotel, so they generally cannot provide a receipt at checkout. However, the hotel should be able to provide you with some sort of proof-of-stay. Examples include a zero-balance folio for the room showing your name on the room or even a note on hotel paper with the dates of stay and your name, signed by the hotel representative.

Also see Hotels and Lodging.

Meal Expenses

Per diem costs are federally allowable on most sponsored awards. However, awards from New York State use a different allocation for federal per diem amounts, excluding reimbursement for lunch.

Most sponsored funds cannot be used to pay for meals during local and single-day travel, except for certain NYS awards that invoke NYS travel regulations.

Also see Meals on Sponsored Travel and Mileage and Per Diem.