Travel

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) – Marine Mammal and Turtle Division (rev. July 2012)

General
What is needed to initiate a domestic travel request?
  • Submit to Lynn a travel request form that has been signed and approved by your supervisor. If someone other than NMFS is paying for part or all of your travel (Gift and Bequest travel), also submit a completed NOAA Travel Gift Questionnaire and CD210; also see Gift and Bequest travel below.
Do I need a travel request?
  • If you are traveling greater than 50 miles or if travel will be longer than 12 hours you will need to submit a travel request form.
How do I contact ADTRAV to make a flight, Amtrak, lodging or rental car reservation?
  • ADTRAV (5am – 5pm PST): 866-430-8929

    Note: if traveling by Amtrak your ticket must be booked through Adtrav. If traveling by Coaster, Metro-link, subway, then you may purchase a ticket directly and provide the receipt to Lynn when vouchering to be reimbursed.
Is there a website where I can maintain frequent flyer numbers, travel preferences, passport and travel card numbers, and similar information for my official travel?
  • www.rezdesk.com (please be sure to add Lynn’s contact information in your profile so she will receive copies of itineraries reserved through Adtrav)
Are there instructions to help me set up a profile with REZDESK?
Is there a website that provides government per diem rates?
What is the SWFSC policy on use of Government vehicles?
  • Use of government vehicles must be for an official purpose and may not be used between an employee’s duty station and residence. In addition, unless approved by the Director’s Office in advance, government vehicles may not be used for more than 3 consecutive days and they may not be taken to a personal residence the night preceding GOV travel. The entire policy can be found here.
Fully refundable / changeable airline tickets cost so much – if non-refundable tickets are less expensive may I book those instead?
  • Yes, if you believe your travel plans are unlikely to change or be canceled and a non-refundable ticket represents a better value than a fully refundable one then non-refundable tickets may be purchased. Note: a non-refundable itinerary must be ticketed within 24 hrs after the itinerary is created or it may be lost. If your travel authorization will not be approved within 24 hrs it is best to hold a fully refundable itinerary through Adtrav until such time as your tickets can be issued and then work with Lynn and Adtrav to change the ticket to non-refundable considering the price and other factors above. The traveler will need to sign acknowledging acceptance of the non-refundable fare in order for Lynn to have the ticket issued.
Is there a way to hold a reservation until my authorization is approved and tickets can be issued?
  • Yes, prior to submitting a travel request you can call ADTRAV and hold a contracted rate fare that fits your travel needs. If you book a non-contract fare the airlines may at any time cancel your reservation. The ticket will only be issued, and MMTD charged a fee, when your data-linked authorization is submitted to Adtrav and your e.ticket is issued. Particularly if you are concerned that your authorization may not be approved until just before travel or if you are traveling to a difficult-to-get-to destination, you should hold a reservation with ADTRAV as soon as you know your probable schedule. This itinerary can also be changed to a non-refundable ticket at the time of ticketing if pricing and the relative certainty that your plans won’t change make getting one a better value than a refundable ticket.
Are there restrictions on authorized size of rental car, class of seating on flights, etc?
  • In general, travelers who need a rental car will be authorized for one in the compact size class. However, exceptions may be made on a case-by-case basis if a justifiable need exists. Please state if there will be multiple travelers using one vehicle or if there are physical limitations. Justifications will need to be stated within your travel request in order for the extra expense to be approved.

    Airfare reservations will be made for the Coach cabin unless agency approval is granted because certain exceptions are met (generally due to medical disability or other special need, because the total travel time exceeds 14 hours, or because doing so would result in overall cost savings).
Can I use my travel card to pay a meeting registration fee if I will be in travel status while attending the meeting?
  • No. Registration fees require prior approval and should be paid on a Government purchase card or on a purchase order. If you have purchase card questions please consult Jeremy or Robin. In some cases you may also pay registration fees personally (cash, check or personal credit card) and then be reimbursed through your travel voucher; however, registration fees paid in this way should be specified as part of the travel request so they can be approved in advance of payment.
Can I be reimbursed for local expenses (e.g., parking) when attending a meeting or training but not officially on travel?
  • Yes, please provide your receipts and mileage to Lynn so she can process a local voucher.
What do I need to submit in order to file a claim for costs incurred while on travel?
  • Provide Lynn with original receipts for all non-food items and a summary of your travel (in an email or spreadsheet) showing dates, locations, types of expenses and costs. In general, receipts will be required to be reimbursed for any amount over $25.
After I turn in all travel claim information when should I expect my voucher to be prepared and payment to be received?
  • Once all claim information and receipts have been submitted your travel voucher should be prepared for your signature and approval within 5 business days. Most reimbursements will be issued within two weeks. However, in some cases (e.g., if selected for audit) payment may take slightly longer. In cases where specific travel expenses were not originally requested and authorized an amendment to the authorization may be needed before a voucher can be processed. Amendments can add significant time to reimbursement wait times, so they should be avoided whenever possible by ensuring that any probable expenses are included in the original travel request.
Is any “extra” approval needed when a group of NMFS employees is attending the same meeting or event?
  • Yes. In general, approval at the agency level is required for groups (usually at least 10 travelers for domestic and 5 travelers for foreign) of NMFS employees (or NMFS-funded non-employees) who are on travel orders.

International Travel
What is needed for an international travel request?
How far in advance must I submit an international travel request?
  • All foreign travel request packages should be complete and submitted to Lynn Evans at least 7 weeks prior to start of travel.
  • Late requests must be accompanied by a late memo from Cisco to Gary Reisner, NMFS CFO.

  • Exceptions:
    • At least 9 weeks prior to travel for China, Russia, India and Vietnam
    • At least 4 weeks prior to travel in the Western Hemisphere travel to Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas and the Virgin Islands.
    • At least 7 weeks prior to travel for any Gift and Bequest* travel, including a copy of issued ticket provided by donor, if applicable.
Do I have to wait until my travel dates are completely finalized before I can submit a travel request?
  • No, but when possible include dates of travel in your request that are certain to bracket your actual travel dates.
Who maintains my Government passport when I am not using it for official travel?
  • Passports are now retained in Headquarters. Please turn in government passports to Laura Tezer or Lynn Evans upon return from travel.
When does my Government passport expire?
  • Lynn Evans and Laura Tezer will be able to tell you when your passport expires. Please note your passport must be valid for a period of at least 6 months beyond the end of any planned international travel. Renewal of your passport can be coordinated through Laura, allowing 6 weeks for receipt of the new passport.
Can I claim for reimbursement foreign transaction fees charged to my credit card or debit card account?
  • Yes.
Is it true that I need to complete the Defensive Travel Briefing annually in order to travel internationally?
Do I need Mexican car insurance for GOVs operated in Mexico?
  • Yes, and policies can be purchased online or crossing the border for the specific dates needed.

Gift & Bequest Travel (i.e., travel funded by a non-NOAA source)
Can I request a potential donor support all or part of my travel?
  • No. Travel support may only be accepted when it is offered unsolicited by a donor. If possible, include an email, letter or other invitation with submission of other gift and bequest paperwork.
Can any entity support my travel costs?
  • No, the donor must not be receiving support from NMFS – a grant or contract – because accepting a gift from a donor receiving support from NMFS gives the appearance that a conflict of interest may exist even if one does not.
Can I accept and deposit a check from the donor for any expenses (e.g., airfare, lodging, per diem, etc.)?
  • No. However, the donor may make a reimbursement check out to DOC/NOAA. Also, if you receive a traveler’s check made out in your name rather than DOC/NOAA you must endorse the check over to DOC /NOAA. You will be reimbursed through the normal voucher process, and whatever account is used for that payment will be credited back once the traveler’s check is processed by NOAA.
Can I pay for my own airfare with personal funds (using Expedia, Travelocity, etc.) or mileage awards?
  • No. The donor may purchase an itinerary for you, or if the donor prefers to reimburse airfare costs you can purchase your ticket through Adtrav using normal procedures and NOAA funds. The donor may then reimburse NOAA by issuing a check made out to DOC/NOAA.
Is it OK to accept cash from a government or entity outside of NOAA who is already paying for my travel?
  • Travelers are not authorized to accept cash from donors even if the amount does not exceed that which would normally be authorized for taxis, lodging, per diem, etc. Please see Lynn for additional guidance or specific questions.

Rental Cars
Can I be reimbursed for rental car navigation systems, extra insurance, “tank refill” and charges associated with other optional features?
  • No. By virtue of being on travel orders the Federal Government automatically provides all needed insurance for car rentals in the United States; no additional coverage is needed. If you choose to have the rental agency refuel your vehicle, you will be personally responsible for this expense except for very specific exceptions, such illness or physical limitations. Likewise, reimbursement for GPS/navigation systems will not be authorized.