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1000 DFPS Travel Policy Overview

1100 Terms and Definitions

Travel Policy June 2021

Alternate Preparer

An agency employee authorized by the traveler to complete the travel request and claim processes in the eTravel System on the traveler’s behalf; also referred to as the traveler’s proxy. An alternate preparer is not able to submit an advance request to the supervisor for approval.


The individual charged with the responsibility to care for a physically disabled agency employee.

Authorized Traveler

An individual who may be reimbursed under the agency travel handbook, including but not limited to, the following people:

  • Employees
  • Former employees (for authorized travel while at DFPS)
  • Prospective employees
  • Board, committee, and council members


A board, commission, committee, council, governing body, or similar entity in the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of state government that is composed of two or more members.

Texas Government Code Section 660.002(2)

Business Day

Any weekday except a weekday on which a national or state holiday occurs.

Business Unit

A logical element or segment of an agency representing one or more specific business functions.

Cancellation Charge

A fee, charge or payment that a provider of travel services assesses because of the cancellation or change of a travel reservation or other travel plan. For example, a nonrefundable purchase of an airline ticket becomes a cancellation charge when the ticket becomes unusable because of changed travel plans.

Texas Government Code Section 660.002(3)


An alleged victim who has been determined in a validated finding to be in need of protective services. The alleged victim does not have to meet financial eligibility requirements.

Commercial Lodging Establishment

This is defined as either of the following:

  • A motel, hotel, inn, apartment, or similar entity that furnishes lodging to the public for pay.
  • A person or establishment that provides lodging for pay that the Comptroller determines to have a sufficient number of the characteristics of a commercial lodging establishment for the purposes of the Travel Regulations Act. and Texas Government Code Section 660.002(5).

The term includes lodging provided by any of the following:

  • A governmental entity on property controlled by that entity.
  • A religious organization on property controlled by that organization.
  • A private educational institution on property controlled by that institution.

Compensatory Per Diem

A rate set per day for a committee or council members meal reimbursement as defined by Texas Government Code Section 659.031.


The Comptroller of Public Accounts (CPA).

Contracted Vendor

Vendor under contract with the State Travel Management Program (STMP) to perform specific activities.

Designated Headquarters (HQ)

The area within the city limits of the incorporated area in which a state authorized traveler’s place of employment is located. If an authorized traveler’s place of employment is located within an unincorporated area, then the area within a five-mile radius of the place of employment is the designated HQ. If a city, town, or unincorporated area is completely surrounded by the city or town in which an authorized traveler’s or legislator’s place of employment is located, then the designated HQ includes the surrounded area.

Texas Government Code Section 660.002(7)


An electronic certification acknowledged by the traveler that certifies that the expenses claimed on the travel claim are true, correct and unpaid. It further authorizes the Travel Section to make any necessary corrections to unallowable charges.

Direct Billing

Term refers to a vendor submitting invoices to the agency for payment rather than charging the traveler.


A physical or mental impairment of a person that substantially limits one or more of his or her major life activities.

Texas Government Code Section 660.002(8)

Divisional Travel Policy

An agency-approved internal travel policy implemented at and for a region, division, unit, or program area. The divisional travel policy could be more restrictive than travel policy.

Duty Point

The destination other than a place of employment to which a state employee travels to conduct official state business. If the destination is outside the employee’s designated HQ, then the duty point is either of the following:

  • The incorporated municipality in which the destination is located.
  • The area within a five-mile radius of the destination that is located in an unincorporated area.

Texas Government Code Section 660.002(9)

Electronic Signature

An electronic identifier intended by the person using it to have the same force and effect as the use of a manual signature.

eTravel System

An online travel application that records all business-related travel reimbursement expenses. This system does the following:

  • Automatically calculates mileage between locations or duty points.
  • Allows traveler to document duties performed.
  • Allows traveler to record the following:
    • Lodging
    • Meals
    • Incidental expenses
    • Associated expenses for clients

A user who plans travel in advance can launch and print interactive maps and driving directions from this application.

Executive Level Management

This represents all assistant associate commissioners, deputy commissioner, chief financial officer, chief operating officer, the commissioner, chief of staff, internal audit director, general counsel, and accountability and consumer relations director.

Extraordinary Circumstance

An event that threatens public health or safety, or causes or threatens to cause damage to public property.

Force Majeure

A common clause in contracts that essentially frees both parties from liability or obligation when an extraordinary event or circumstance beyond the control of the parties or an event – described by the legal term “act of God” – prevents one or both parties from fulfilling obligations under the contract.

Texas Administrative Code Section Title 34, Part 1, Subchapter E, Rule §20.407(3)

Foreign Travel

Travel within a country other than the United States of America.

Foster Children

A person under the age of 18 in DFPS’s managing conservatorship or a young adult in DFPS’s Extended Foster Care Program.

Incidental Expense

A necessary and reasonable expense incurred by a state-authorized traveler while traveling on official state business. The term includes the following:

  • Luggage fees for flights.
  • Parking and toll charges.
  • Fuel for rental cars.
  • Applicable taxes and fees incurred on incidental charges.

This term does not include:

  • Expenses for reimbursable meals, lodging, or transportation.
  • Personal expenses that an authorized traveler would incur regardless of whether the authorized traveler was traveling on official state business.
  • Tips and gratuities.

Texas Government Code Section 660.002(10)

Lodging Expense

A charge imposed by a commercial lodging establishment as consideration for providing lodging. The term does not include money paid as a donation, gratuity, or tip to the establishment.

Texas Government Code Section 660.113(a)

May Not

Imposes a prohibition and is synonymous  with “shall not.”

Texas Government Code Section 311.016(5)

Meal Expense

The cost of a meal plus any tax that is based on the meal’s cost; including service charges that cannot be refused (delivery, restocking, etc.). The term does not include a tip, a gratuity, alcoholic beverages, or a non-mandatory service charge paid or imposed in conjunction with a meal.

National Travel Systems (NTS)

NTS is a state contracted travel agency for the State of Texas and is currently the travel agency used by DFPS.

Nonworking Hours

All hours in a calendar day outside working hours.


An authorized traveler’s receipt of a reimbursement that exceeds the limits established by law or the amount of travel expenses actually incurred.

Personal Emergency

A personal emergency is an unplanned event that is impossible to anticipate and would reasonably prevent a traveler from completing business travel. Examples include emergency 9-1-1 situations or family illnesses. A personal emergency does not include a matter that would be a personal choice. 

Place of Employment

The office or location at which a state-authorized traveler most frequently conducts official state business.

Texas Government Code Section 660.002(15)

Pre-Pay/Pre-paid Receipt

Gasoline receipt issued by the fuel vendor to the traveler before the completion of the pumping of fuel that does not detail the total price paid, number of gallons purchased, and the price per gallon. This type of receipt is not reimbursable.

Prospective State Employee

A person who is being considered by a state agency for employment with the agency. The term includes an employee of a state agency who is being considered for employment by another state agency.

Texas Government Code Section 660.002(16)

Public Transportation Company

A company or individual that transports people or goods at a cost.

Texas Government Code Section 660.002(6)


Documentation submitted as proof that a state employee has incurred an allowable travel expense to conduct state business.

Rental Vehicle vs. Mileage Reimbursement Calculator

An online tool provided by the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts to assist travelers in determining the most cost-efficient travel means by comparing the cost of renting a vehicle to the cost of reimbursing employees for business-related mileage.

Rented or Public Conveyance

A rental car, taxi, Uber/Lyft, bus, train, aircraft, boat, bicycle or other form of transportation that a state employee rents or pays a fare to use for a period of less than one month.

Texas Government Code Section 660.002(18)


Regional Operations Support Administrators

Small Claims Travel Voucher

Accounting document used to reimburse a state-authorized traveler for travel expenses incurred during the discharge of official state business. Small claims relates to services, goods, or travel expenses, in this case, that would be paid out of State Appropriations and are closed at the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts.

State Agency

A unit of state government that uses appropriated funds to pay for or reimburse a state employee’s travel expense.

Texas Government Code Section 660.002(19)

State Employee

A person employed by a state agency, including a key official.

Texas Government Code Section 660.002(20)

State Travel Charge Card

A charge card issued to an eligible agency employee by the contracted charge card company for the purpose of paying travel-related expenses; also referred to as the “State Corporate Card.”


The State Travel Management Program (STMP) at the comptroller’s office helps state agencies manage travel expenses by providing discounted travel services through vendor contracts and by monitoring state travel activity. These measures ensure that state agencies use taxpayer dollars more efficiently.

Supplemental Claim

A paper travel claim that may be filed to claim an expense that was omitted or reduced from a previous travel claim.


Telework is a work arrangement in which an employee regularly performs officially assigned duties at his or her residence.

Tollway Fees

Fee assessed when driving on a tollway — road, bridge, or tunnel.


The state employee approved to travel to conduct official state business.

Travel Advance Fund

The Travel Advance Fund is a petty cash fund allowed by the Comptroller of Public Accounts (CPA). Texas Government Code Section 403.248 authorizes use of the Travel Advance Fund.

Travel Advance Settlement Claim

Settlement of Travel Advance Funds occurs within 14 calendar days following the final day of the trip through submission of the Settlement claim in the eTravel System.

Travel Authorization (TA)

Supervisor grants approval of a TA in eTravel for the employee’s and client’s travel to be direct billed or for personally paid public transportation to be reimbursed.  The approved authorization is required to make reservations for public transportation (air, rental car, bus, etc.) or to travel out-of-state.

Travel Claim

A claim represents travel expenses submitted for reimbursement. This term will be used in conjunction with eTravel and represents the online submittal of travel expenses.

Travel Expenses

Transportation, meals, lodging, or incidental expenses incurred while conducting official state business.

Texas Government Code Section 660.002(21)

Travel Section

The administrative unit under the CFO that is responsible for the review, approval, and processing of employee-related travel requests and documents.

Travel Status

Current status of a travel request for Travel Authorization, Advance, Settlement, or Claim reimbursement found in the eTravel System.

Travel Voucher Form

A paper form that is submitted by the traveler for reimbursement of travel expenses incurred while conducting official state business. This form is used when the traveler does not have access to the eTravel system.


A day on which a state- authorized traveler is regularly required to conduct official state business.

Working Hours

The hours during which a state-authorized traveler is regularly scheduled to conduct official state business. See HR Manual Chapter 5, B Work Time.

1200 State Travel Legislation

Travel Policy June 2021

Policies and procedures governing state business travel are based on legislation, and so are the many conveniences that have been arranged for travelers. The DFPS Travel Policies explain in detail how to arrange, document, and request reimbursement for travel so authorized travelers can be assured of the following:

  • Reimbursements will be timely and accurate;
  • The privilege of state-arranged billing and charging is protected for travel required in the future.
  • DFPS is in compliance with the law.

State travel legislation includes the following:

In order to conserve state funds, some of the DFPS travel policies listed in the following sections may be more restrictive than those contained in the Texas Administrative Code, Texas Government Code, STMP, and General Appropriations Act.

1300 Conveniences for State Travelers

Travel Policy June 2021

STMP allows participating vendors to offer an array of services to authorized travelers. The program has negotiated annual contracts as part of its mission to reduce costs and keep agency management informed about how its authorized travelers travel and at what costs. Those contracts provide for the following:

  • Travel agency services
  • State travel charge cards
  • Airlines
  • Rental cars
  • Hotels

The state contract offers the following conveniences for authorized travelers:

  • Multiple options in choosing things such as flights, hotels, rental cars, and billing services.
  • State contractors who are familiar with agency needs, saving travelers time and worry.
  • The ability to avoid spending personal funds for state travel by using the agency’s central billing account. This allows airline and car rental charges to be billed directly to the agency

DFPS requires all employees to obtain prior approval for public transportation (airfare, car rental, bus ticket, and train reservations) and out-of-state travel through the Travel Authorization (TA) process in eTravel.

1400 Authorized Travelers

Travel Policy June 2021

DFPS reimburses travel expenses in accordance with the comptroller’s guidelines for official state business conducted by any of the following people through the Travel Section:

  • Employees, prospective employees, former employees for travel while at DFPS, and other authorized travelers.
  • Committees, councils, and key officials.
  • Attendants to authorized travelers with disabilities requiring assistance.
  • Volunteers and interns.

DFPS reimburses travel expenses in accordance with the Comptroller of Public Accounts guidelines for official state business conducted by any of the following people through DFPS Accounts Payable:

  • Non-employees.
  • Temporary Employees.
  • Foster parents.
  • Clients, including minor clients.
  • Witnesses.
  • Contracted Employees.

1500 Travel Inquiry and Contact Information

Travel Policy June 2021

Link to the DFPS Intranet Travel Claims and Services Contact Information

Travel Claims and Services Contacts (Claims, Settlements, Advance Travel, and Direct Bill), on the DFPS intranet.

eTravel Claim and Request Status

The status of each Travel Claim can be found in the Status History tab in the eTravel application.

Email Addresses to Travel Mailboxes

Travel Policy Inquiries

The DFPS Travel Policy mailbox is for inquiries regarding the DFPS Travel Policy – regulations, auditing, “how to” questions, and so on.

Travel Claim Status

The DFPS Travel Status mailbox must be used only to inquire on a claim that has been in “audit received” status more than 20 work days.

Advance Travel Inquires

The DFPS AT EXTRA mailbox is for Advance Travel and EXTRA card inquiries.

Direct Bill Transportation Inquiries

The DFPS DIR BILL SUPPORT mailbox is for Travel Authorizations (TA), rental car, airline, and bus ticket inquiries.

Travel Training Inquiries

The Travel Training mailbox is for travel presentation and specialized training inquiries.

State Travel Charge Card (STCC) Inquiries

The STCC mailbox is for state travel charge card inquiries and submittal of the Statement of Responsibility (SOR).

eTravel Support Inquiries

The eTravel Support mailbox is for issues and error messages in the eTravel System.

1600 Reimbursements

Travel Policy June 2021

An authorized traveler who uses direct deposit for payroll will receive his or her travel reimbursements, via direct deposit, to the same account. If a traveler does not use direct deposit for payroll, the warrant is mailed to the traveler’s mail code or office physical address as indicated on the travel claim. If an authorized traveler uses the TexPay Card for payroll, a warrant will be issued for the travel reimbursement because the TexPay Card is used only for payroll.

DFPS shall reimburse an employee for travel expenses no later than 45 days after the employee submits a correct and complete travel voucher.

Texas Government Code Section 660.019

An employee is required to wait 20 working days (not including weekends or holidays) after the submittal of a travel claim before inquiring about the claim’s status. The message board on the Travel Claims tab in eTravel details the claim received date the auditors are processing. The objective is to reduce the number of inquiries so that travel staff can focus on processing travel claims. Most travel claims pay within 20 working days, and any inquiries before that will only delay the process further

The state comptroller has advance notification available for travel reimbursements. To opt-in for Advance Payment Notification (APN), a payee must first set up an account and submit either an uncashed warrant or direct deposit number for authentication in the Search Payee Payments application. A payee manages his or her own APN options. After receiving an APN, the payee can go back to the application to securely access their payment details online.

For further information, go to the Comptroller of Public Accounts (FMX) webpage titled State Payee Payment Resources.

1700 Overpayments

Travel Policy June 2021

An authorized traveler must reimburse DFPS for any overpayment of travel expenses, whether the error is made by the agency or the authorized traveler. An overpayment is defined as an authorized traveler’s receipt of a reimbursement that exceeds the limits established by policy, or the amount of allowable travel expenses actually incurred. An employee who does not submit the payment in a timely manner will be placed on Comptroller Payee Hold. The employee may be subject to adverse personnel action up to and including dismissal. Any subsequent travel reimbursements will be applied to the outstanding overpayment.

1800 Responsibilities

1810 Agency Head Responsibilities

Travel Policy June 2021

The DFPS Commissioner is responsible for ensuring that policies and procedures are in place to allow employees and other authorized travelers do the following:

  • Plan travel for maximum economy and efficiency.
  • Be reimbursed only for travel that is clearly official state business.

1820 Manager and Supervisor Responsibilities

Travel Policy June 2021

Management is responsible for reviewing and authorizing travel that is economical and efficient, and for ensuring that only authorized travel is reimbursed. Management is required to do the following:

  • Eliminate unnecessary travel, either in-state or out-of-state.
  • Minimize the number of staff traveling both in-state and out-of-state.
  • Limit the number of employees attending conferences and training not required by DFPS, the federal or state government.
  • Ensure coordination of travel when two or more authorized travelers are going to the same location to conduct the same business.
  • If public transportation is requested, ensure it is the most economical travel option available considering all relevant circumstances.
  • Verify travel trips through sign-in and sign-out sheets, shared Outlook folders, or other means in order to certify that travel claims are true, correct, and unpaid.
  • Review and approve eTravel claims, settlements, travel authorizations, and advance travel for accuracy, compliance with travel policy and procedures, and submitted in a timely manner.
  • Ensure the appropriate travel claim forms were used for additional expenses or to correct an error after the original eTravel claim was submitted and processed are approved and completed. A manager follows the Supervisor Travel Checklist portion of the Travel Reimbursement Claim. See 3700 Attachments Required for details of required attachments.
  • Submit internal “Divisional” travel policies to the director of accounting for review and approval.
  • Ensure that “Divisional” travel policies are enforced. This consists of monitoring for specific “Divisional” policy and auditing the travel claim based on those specific policies before submitting to the Travel Section. “Divisional” policy is defined as an agency-approved internal policy implemented at the region, division, unit, or program area.

1830 Traveler’s Responsibilities

Travel Policy June 2021

A traveler is responsible for securing appropriate approvals to travel, ensuring his or her authorized travel is economical and efficient, and for following all policies and procedures. A traveler is required to do the following:

  • Choose the most economical option available (such as sharing a ride, using public transportation, and/or completing the Rental Vehicle vs. Mileage Reimbursement Calculator provided by the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts to determine the most cost-effective mode of transportation).
  • Complete the appropriate online Computer-based Training (CBT) module before accessing the eTravel System.
  • Receive appropriate pre-approvals as required before traveling.
  • Coordinate travel when two or more authorized travelers from the same office are going to the same location to conduct the same business (4 per car rule).
  • Submit travel claims and all supporting documentation within 90 days from the date the travel occurred. Each claim can cover no more than three consecutive months of travel.
  • Obtain pre-approval for travel through the Travel Authorization (TA) process in eTravel for all public transportation (airlines, rental car, train and bus ticket reservations) and any out-of-state travel.
  • Use state-contracted hotels, airlines, and rental car vendors established by STMP unless a cheaper alternative exists or provide a valid exception. See 1920 Exceptions to Use of Contract Travel Services.
  • Comply with all DFPS travel policies.

1840 Direct Bill Unit Responsibilities

Travel Policy June 2021

The Direct Bill Unit performs the following responsibilities:

  • Reconciles all out-of-state and in-state air travel, car rental, and other public transportation charges by dates of travel, destination, and purpose of trip for vendors and charge card company invoices.
  • Ensures charges are valid and appropriate and that payment was processed in accordance with the Prompt Payment Act Texas Government Code Section 2251.
  • Oversees policy and procedures for direct billing and ensure they are consistently applied.
  • Collaborates in developing and overseeing travel policies and procedures specific to the agency.
  • Makes reservations for client bus travel.
  • Consults with and monitors the travel vendors regarding the specific needs for the agency.
  • Resolves situations that occur between the travel vendors and DFPS employees.
  • Train and assist employees with questions and problems regarding employees’ Travel Authorizations

1850 Advance Travel Responsibilities

Travel Policy June 2021

The Advance Travel Unit performs the following responsibilities:

  • Reviews and processes the Advance Request to assign the EXTRA card.
  • Reconciles the Advance Travel EXTRA card expenses to the contracted vendors invoice.
  • Oversees policy and procedures for Advance Travel to ensure they are consistently applied.
  • Collaborates in developing and overseeing travel policies and procedures specific to the agency.
  • Resolves situations that occur between the contracted vendor and DFPS employees.
  • Trains and assists employees with questions and problems regarding employees’ Advance Travel.

1860 Travel Claims/Settlements Unit Responsibilities

Travel Policy June 2021

The Travel Claims/Settlement Unit performs the following responsibilities:

  • Audits and reimburses all employee travel and settlement claims in a timely manner.
  • Notifies travelers of required corrections for his or her returned Travel and Settlement claims.
  • Manages State Travel Charge Cards.
  • Collaborates in developing and overseeing travel policies and procedures specific to the agency.
  • Ensure all policy and procedures for travel reimbursement claims are fairly and consistently applied.
  • Trains and assists employees with questions and problems regarding employees’ travel.

1870 State Contracted Travel Agency Responsibilities

Travel Policy June 2021

The agents for the contracted travel agency will assist travelers by coordinating the traveler’s airline and rental car and suggesting economical arrangements based on a given destination, intended arrival times, and any special accommodations needed.

1900 Using State Contractors

1910 Requirements for Use of State Contractors

Travel Policy June 2021

Travelers must use state-contracted vendors for hotels, airlines, and rental cars established by STMP, unless a less expensive alternative or another approved exception exists. See 1920 Exceptions to the Use of State Contractors for the approved exceptions and documentation requirements.

If a traveler uses a travel agency, it must be the contracted travel agency established by STMP. DFPS uses NTS as its official state contracted travel agency.

The following are the state contractors from the comptroller’s website:

DFPS has specific Direct Bill links set up with the car rental vendors. See 2630 Rental Cars.

1920 Exceptions to the Use of State Contractors

Travel Policy June 2021

"The Comptroller of Public Accounts (Comptroller) is statutorily required to audit travel vouchers for compliance with the Statewide Procurement Division's (SPD) rules for contract travel services."

Texas Administrative Code §20.411

Below are the exceptions to utilizing contracts negotiated by the State Travel Management Program (STMP). These exceptions are a citation of the Texas Administrative Code §20.408 with STMP's clarification in italics (clarification does not supersede or alter the original rule). These exceptions apply only to the use of contract travel services and not specifically to reimbursement rates and policies as outlined in Textravel. Justifications related to reimbursement policies/guidelines must also be documented.

Exceptions to use of contract travel services: In accordance with these rules and applicable statutes, state agencies may allow employees to use travel services other than contract travel services only if one or more of the exceptions in subsections (b) through (j) of this section apply. Nothing in this section affects or alters the authority of the comptroller regarding travel reimbursement or audit of travel transactions.

Approved exceptions are listed below. The letter and abbreviated wording (in bold) must be used entered on the claim.

B – Lower overall cost of travel

The state agency obtains lower-priced travel services through the use of 14-day or other advanced reservations programs, promotional price reductions, or any method that provides a lower overall cost of travel. When a state agency uses any travel services obtained at a lower overall cost than the contract travel services price, the exception must be documented by the agency. The agency should document and follow a consistent cost comparison methodology.

C - Unavailability of contract travel services

Reasons contract travel services would be unavailable:

  • The contract travel services are not available during the time or at the location necessary for the business purpose.
  • The contract travel service does not provide for the service required.
  • The contractor is unable to provide the contract services due to a force majeure event.

D - Special needs

The traveler’s health, safety, physical condition, or disability requires accommodations, including medical emergency or other necessary services, not available from contract travel service contractors.

E - Custodians of persons

The traveler has custody of a person pursuant to statute or court order, and the traveler is required to provide a degree of security and safety that is not available from contract travel service contractors.

F – In travel status

The traveler is in the course of travel and changes in scheduling render the use of contract travel services impractical or the appropriate travel services are not available. The traveler shall make reasonable efforts to secure rates equal to or lower than the contract travel service rates.

G - Group program

The traveler is using a group program in which reservations were made through a required source to obtain a particular rate or service.

H - Emergency response

The traveler is responding to a public health or safety emergency situation and the use of contract travel services is not available or would result in an unacceptable delay.

I - Legally required attendance

The traveler is required by a court, administrative tribunal, or other entity to appear at a particular time and place without sufficient notice to obtain contract travel services.

J – Lodging reimbursement exceeding General Services Administration rates

If a state agency reimburses lodging at a rate exceeding the maximum set in the regulations issued by the United States General Services Administration for a particular location, the agency must document its determination that local conditions necessitate the higher rate for that location. The exception is when a state employee may claim less than the maximum meal reimbursement rate for a duty point and use the amount of the reduction to increase the maximum lodging reimbursement rate for the duty point.

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