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Increasing travel costs and remote work arrangements have transformed the corporate travel industry in recent years, prompting business leaders to recognize the need for travel policies that reflect these changes. 

A 2023 report from Mastercard revealed that 88% of travel decision-makers agree that business travel is critical for their organization’s growth.* However, another 87% of respondents also believe the industry is ready for an overhaul of existing systems to better support the needs of the modern business traveler. 

So whether you’re creating a corporate travel policy for the first time or revising the one you already have, taking your employees’ needs into account can help keep your policy relevant and useful for years to come.

Here, we’ll walk you through the purpose of a travel policy and the topics each one should cover, then leave you with a few tips to encourage the adoption of the policy in your organization. 

What is a travel policy?

A corporate travel policy is a document that describes a company’s policies and procedures for approving, booking, and expensing business-related travel. These guides typically cover topics like: 

  • Booking guidelines and preferred company vendors for transportation and lodging
  • Approved software for managing travel bookings and expenses
  • Guidelines and approval process for out-of-policy spend
  • Covered and non-covered travel expenses
  • Travel expense reimbursement process
  • Trip extensions for personal travel
  • Business travel insurance details
  • Duty of care procedures and emergency contacts

In doing so, a travel policy sets the standard for everyone in the organization—including executives, managers, finance teams, and business travelers—to follow regarding business travel.

Why should companies have a corporate travel policy?

An effective travel policy simplifies business travel for an organization.

Business travelers refer to this document when booking and managing their corporate travel plans to ensure they comply with company guidelines. The best policies encourage them to make cost-conscious booking decisions while still giving them some autonomy with their travel plans. 

A corporate travel policy also supports finance teams by curbing out-of-policy spend, streamlining the expense reimbursement process, and simplifying how they track and report on travel expenses.  

With more accurate data at their fingertips, leadership teams can make better informed decisions about the effectiveness of the company’s travel initiatives. 

What should you include in your company’s travel policy?

Since your business travel policy should reflect your company culture and travel program, the document you create will look different from another company’s. However, all comprehensive travel policies should include the following sections.

Travel booking procedure

This section should clearly explain how your employees should book travel for business purposes. Do they contact an in-house travel manager or your company’s preferred travel agent to start the booking process? Or are they allowed to self-book using travel management software and the corporate credit card

Walk them through the steps they should take and provide them with any resources they’ll need. If applicable, include the login credentials for your organization’s travel management tools or information for their point of contact. Mention any preferred vendors for air travel, accommodations, or ground transportation here as well. 

If you allow employees to self-book, encourage them to make responsible decisions with their travel plans. Some travel management platforms offer travelers rewards or loyalty points for choosing cost-conscious bookings—organizations using these tools should make the most of this incentive by describing the details of this program in their policy.

Air travel guidelines

Help keep your company’s travel expenses low by creating guidelines around how employees book and manage air travel. Consider adding a checklist for travelers to follow when they book flights for easier compliance with company policy.

If your company allows business class bookings or upgrades under certain circumstances, describe these policies here. For example, many organizations allow travelers to book business class for long-haul flights—just make sure to specify what conditions the traveler or flight must meet to qualify for this cabin class. Any exceptions your company makes for executives or senior employees should also be listed here. 

Lodging guidelines

This section explains your company’s policies and procedures for booking business travel accommodations. 

Are employees allowed to book rentals through Airbnb or Vrbo, or do you require them to book standard hotel rooms only? Will your company cover wifi, room service, dry cleaning, or minibar charges? Clearly state details here to avoid misunderstandings with disgruntled business travelers later.

Ideally, you want to give employees the freedom and flexibility to book accommodations that meet their travel needs as long as they stay within policy. You might set limits on hotel star ratings or nightly room rates, for instance, while giving them free rein over the other aspects of their stay.

Expense categories

Here, list what business travel expenses are allowed and which ones aren’t to reduce out-of-policy spend for your organization. Organize this section so it’s easy for business travelers to find the information they need at a glance. Also make sure to include the process employees must follow to request and get approval for out-of-policy expenses.

Below are some expense categories to consider adding to your travel policy: 

Entertainment

This category covers meals, drinks, and other expenses accrued while entertaining clients on business trips. An easy way to handle entertainment expenses is to give travelers a daily meal allowance or a limit to stick to and then offer specific guidance on whether your company covers the cost of alcoholic beverages under the travel policy.

Clarify what purchases employees can make for the purpose of entertaining clients. How much are they allowed to spend on business meals? When will the company cover tips and under what circumstances are they the employee’s responsibility? If your company requires approval for certain expenses or purchases above a specified limit, mention that here. 

Ground transportation

Describe your company’s stance and policies on reimbursing travelers for ground transportation costs. Can travelers expense Uber rides or rental cars? Are there any daily spending limits or restrictions employees should keep in mind? Do they need documentation to get reimbursed for expenses over a certain amount? The more details you can provide, the better. 

Phone use

Phone charges are another business expense employees often incur while traveling for work. Employees traveling internationally may incur roaming charges while making phone calls to clients or their managers, and even domestic travelers may need to pay for wifi to work effectively while on the road.

So, take this into consideration when writing your travel policy. If your company reimburses certain cell phone expenses or fees, specify which ones or—to make things easier for your finance team—set spending limits instead. Don’t forget that accidents can happen while traveling, so state whether damage to or theft of a traveler’s personal phone is covered under the policy.

Non-reimbursable expenses

Adding this list to your travel policy helps explain, in unambiguous terms, what unreimbursed business expenses the company won’t cover when an employee travels for business. Setting these expectations with travelers well ahead of time helps reduce misunderstandings and out-of-policy spend.

In general, companies typically don’t cover expenses like parking fees, late fees, personal grooming appointments, pet boarding, and travel expenses for spouses or other family members. Update this list annually with any other out-of-policy expenses that get flagged repeatedly by your finance team.

Expense reporting and reimbursement

Companies that reimburse employees for work-related travel expenses must also dedicate a section of their travel policy to explaining their expense reporting and reimbursement process.

Reduce employee questions and concerns by clearly describing every aspect of the process, including: 

  • What information employees must have when filling out an expense report
  • Whether they need to submit original itemized receipts along with their report
  • How much time employees have to submit expense reports 
  • Where to submit completed expense reports
  • When to expect to receive travel reimbursements and through what payment method

Travel safety and support

Companies that require employees to travel on their behalf have a duty to keep them safe and supported on business trips. In your travel policy, explain what safety measures you take to protect travelers and any actions they should take to reduce their risk while on the road. 

Don’t forget to include points of contact, procedures, and any other instructions business travelers should have in case of an issue or emergency. What should they do if they get into an accident abroad? What can employees expect if their flight gets canceled or their luggage gets lost en route? Provide specifics on your company’s business travel insurance policies, so employees understand what’s included in their coverage and what isn’t. 

This degree of support shouldn’t be available just for emergencies, though. You should encourage employees to reach out to you whenever they have questions about their trip or your company’s travel policy. Indicate who business travelers should contact for any concerns, how to reach them, and how quickly to expect a response.

Separate guidelines for domestic and international business travel

If your company books international and domestic business travel, consider creating separate guidelines for each. Doing so will allow you to fine-tune your policy terms to the unique needs of these types of business trips.

For example, airfare for international flights is generally higher than that for domestic tickets, so your budgetary restrictions for domestic air travel may not apply to international bookings. Alternatively, to avoid the steep price hikes that often accompany last-minute travel bookings, you may require employees to book international travel arrangements much further in advance than what’s allowed for domestic business trips. 

Considerations for remote and hybrid employees 

Now that more companies have adopted a remote-first, hybrid, or distributed work environment, it’s even more important to adapt your travel policy to the changing needs of your organization and workforce. 

According to a survey conducted by the Global Business Travel Association, 48% of travel buyers plan to revise or have already revised their organization’s travel policy to take remote and hybrid workers into account.** The top areas of focus for these survey respondents include: 

  • Types of meetings allowed for travel (40%)
  • Frequency of travel to an office (32%)
  • Permissible types of transportation (26%)
  • Per diems (22%)
  • Permissible accommodations (20%)

If you’re not sure how to adapt your travel policy for today’s way of working, the points above are a good place to start. 

And with many remote employees bringing their work with them as they travel the world, your company can even capitalize on this trend by turning business travel into a coveted company perk. After all, turning work trips into “bleisure” travel was the most popular work-life balance measure supported by business travelers in 2022, according to a Statista survey.*** Organizations that support this sort of arrangement should include guidelines for employees to adhere to in their corporate travel policy.

How to create an effective travel policy that’s easy for employees to follow

No matter how much effort you put into creating the ideal corporate travel policy, this guide is only as effective as the number of employees who follow it. The easiest and most effective way to increase compliance with your travel policy is to make it as effortless as possible for the people who use it. 

Start by making sure they can easily access the policy in different formats. In addition to storing it with your employee handbook and other company documents, give each employee a hard copy version and stash another copy in the cloud so travelers can access it on the go too.

Below are a few other easy things any company can do to increase compliance with their travel policy. For more tips, see our article on ways you can embed your travel and expense policy into your finance tools to improve control.

Include a comprehensive FAQ page

Even the most extensive travel policies won’t cover every possible scenario a business traveler might encounter—and besides, you don’t want to bog down your policy with irrelevant information anyway.

Still, you want to make sure your guide is helpful for its readers by addressing as many questions and issues as possible. Alleviate these concerns by dedicating a section of your travel policy to answering the most common questions employees have about your company’s guidelines and procedures. Then, you can direct any first-time business travelers to this section of your travel policy whenever any of these frequently asked questions come up.

Use travel management tools to support your employees

Modern-day corporate travelers and their employers can now take advantage of a wide range of tools designed to assist with nearly every aspect of corporate travel. Everything from booking flights and accommodations to tracking travel expenses to managing itineraries is now fair game.

Of course, the newest crop of travel management tools doesn’t just offer immediate benefits to travelers and their supervisors. These apps support all areas of your organization, from executives and travel managers to HR and finance professionals.

If you’re interested in upgrading your company’s travel management system, take a look at these top corporate travel tools designed to simplify business travel. 

Automate your corporate travel policy with Ramp for hands-off compliance

In practice, your travel policy simply serves as a set of guidelines to follow. Some of the questions you’ll receive are best answered on a case-by-case basis, so you likely won’t be able to eradicate out-of-policy spending completely. 

But one of the easiest ways to ensure employees adhere to the general guidelines outlined in your travel policy is by automating it through a comprehensive travel booking and expense management platform like Ramp. Attempts to book out-of-policy travel typically get rejected or redirected to a manager for approval, drastically reducing the number of non-covered expenses your finance team must address. 

See how else Ramp’s T&E software can simplify business travel for your finance team, managers, and corporate travelers by requesting a demo today.

Footnotes:

* According to 541 travel decision-makers in the US, Canada, Italy, Germany, Australia, and India surveyed by The Harris Poll and Mastercard Global Insights

** From a survey of 707 travel buyers, suppliers, and other industry professionals across North America, Europe, Latin America and Asia-Pacific 

*** Based on online survey responses from 875 English-speaking business travelers

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Freelance B2B Writer
Feli Oliveros is a B2B SaaS writer who has worked with companies like City National Bank, Ramp, Gusto, and FreshBooks. In her last full-time role, she led content strategy and development at a marketing agency specializing in fine jewelry and luxury watches. In 2015 she graduated from UCLA, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in English and minored in Anthropology. Read more of her work at FeliOliveros.com.
Ramp is dedicated to helping businesses of all sizes make informed decisions. We adhere to strict editorial guidelines to ensure that our content meets and maintains our high standards.

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