Grad Travels for Dummies!

So your supervisor is sending you on a trip to a conference, collaboration meeting, or data collection in some exotic location.  That’s cool!  You might be thinking “Maybe grad school was worth it after all!”.  But wait, there’s paperwork… here is a breakdown of the various stages you need go through.

1) Apply for supplemental funds.

First of all, you shouldn’t be paying a dime out of pocket. There is money set aside for this and, generally speaking, your advisor should not be sending you if the expenses can’t supported by their grant.  In order to ease the cost on them, there are various supplemental funding sources. The best time to apply for the various awards is a few months before your travel. You may apply at the last minute, however, the funds have typically already be allocated to other grad students (CUPE/FGS). 

1) FGS/GSS Travel Award

  • Can be used once per year, resets on April 1st (UVic fiscal new year)
  • Valued at $200 for conference on Vancouver Island, $400 for conferences within BC, and $600 outside of BC
  • Must be submitted 1-4 months before the conference
  • FGS generally deposits your confirmed funding amount into your bank account 1 month ahead of your conference
  • More details here

2) CUPE Travel Award

  • Can be used once per year, resets on September 1st (academic new year)
  • Valued at up to $450
  • Must have been a TA within the last 12 months to qualify
  • Submit before you leave (more than 1 month recommended, minimum two weeks)
    • CUPE take 2 weeks to process the application so you know if you have received funding or not

3) Criswick Award

  • Department-specific award for astronomy grads
    • John Criswick, an engineer by trade, took ASTR 120 at UVic and after accruing a significant amount of material wealth as an entrepreneur donated to UVic with the intention of supporting astronomy graduate students travel.
  • The value of the award varies from year-to-year depending on the number of graduate students in the department, usually around $100
  • Email the administrative officer ( before you leave and say you want the Criswick award
    • Pro-tip: this can be done after the conference if you forget
  • Can be used once per year, resets on April first (UVic fiscal new year)

2) Pre-pay/Advance some of your expenses.

International airline tickets can sometimes cost as much as Victoria rent (ouch!). For those operating a tight budget, there are a few options available for managing your expenses: pre-processed and advance payments.

Pre-processed Reimbursement

So it’s a month out from your travel departure and you’ve spent a lot (maybe all) of your money on plane tickets, conference registration fees, and a hotel room. You look at your credit card bill and impending rent and realize you can’t wait four weeks for your conference and then another 4-6 weeks to get your reimbursement…!

You can apply for a pre-processed reimbursement, including the cost of the purchases you’ve already made. Fill in the travel reimbursement form as discussed in Section 4) and submit it as soon as you can. Just to be clear, yes it seems this is the same form as regular reimbursements. For more details on where you can find these forms, visit the UVic Financial Services forms site.

Drawback: The only flaw in this system is that you often come across unexpected purchases and fees during your travels that would not be taken into account in your initial pre-processed reimbursement. The good news is you can double dip.

Double dipping: You can submit two travel reimbursement forms (see Section 4 for more details): one before you go and one when you get back. This allows you to to get reimbursed for some of the big ticket items earlier and account for unexpected purchases incurred during your travels.

The drawbacks of double dipping: The first is that you have to do double the paperwork (yeesh!). The second is that this can be complicated if you have several streams of funding that may cover too much or too little of the claims made on one of the forms. If you have the financial ability to wait until you’re back to process the reimbursement, it is definitely the simpler route.

Advance Payment

So your supervisor recommends that you attend a really great conference on the other side of the world. The plane tickets are going to be very expensive, the registration fee is surprisingly high, and not to mention the hotel! You know that if you pay for all of these things that you will be reimbursed in full, but how are you going to pay for all of these things (and rent and bills, etc, etc, etc, etc)?

Well, if you don’t have that kind of cash laying around and your credit limit is too low (or maybe don’t have a credit card!), you can apply for an advance payment before you make these purchases by filling out the advance payment form!

The process appears (I haven’t done this myself…) to include the following steps:

  1. Estimate the expected costs of your journey including flight costs, hotels, and a per diem.
  2. Submit a request for an advance payment explaining why you need the advance, signed by your supervisor, using the advance payment form.
  3. Wait… Normally, accounting will try to issue payment prior to the departure date…
  4. Use the advance payment to make your purchases.
  5. After your trip, fill out an advance clearing form. If the actual expenditure is lower than the advanced payment amount, you will need to pay the University back. If there’s remaining expenditures that need to be further reimbursed, you will need to fill out a separate TER form (see below).

Definition: A “per diem” is an allowance for purchasing meals during your travels. As of April 2023, the per diem amount is $14/16/30 for breakfast/lunch/dinner. Note that according to the last update of this page, this amount has not changed since at least July 2019. (“[A]s of July 2019 [the per diem amount] is $14/16/30 for breakfast/lunch/dinner.” – previous PAGSA editor of this page.)

Attention: Some supervisors will instead ask you to keep all food/meal receipts and submit them along with your Expenses Report. Be sure to ask your supervisor before you leave so that you know which system you will be using.

3) Go on your trip!

First of all, don’t miss your flight! Rebooking fees the day of is an added expenditure. While this can be claimed as a travel expense, it could put you in a difficult spot explaining that cost to your supervisor!

Remember to keep ALL of your receipts. You don’t necessarily need food receipts, as that will be covered by your per diem, which is a predetermined amount (see above). Remember to ask for itemized receipts, showing what cost what, not just the total. The exception is that taxis, gas, parking, and/or shuttles can be claimed with only the receipt from the credit/debit machine. That way you can be sure to recoup all of your expenses and, most importantly, not have to fill out more paperwork! If you happen to lose a receipt, you’ll have to fill out a lost receipt form.

Pro-tip: Conferences are a great opportunity to see places of the world you otherwise might not go to! In this sense, it is often a great idea to plan a personal vacation around the conference (although expenses accrued during this time will be out-of-pocket). In general, if part of a receipt you are submitting has a personal travel expense make sure to make a note of it. If you book personal flights on the same ticket, make sure to find a quote for the business portion of the flight. This will be attached with your expense report, and you will only claim this amount.

4) Submit the paperwork.

Now that you’ve made it back safely, and haven’t decided to run off to join a band of pirates and take your chances rising through the ranks on a ship at sea, you can submit the last bit of paperwork to settle your claim.

The main form you need to fill out is referred to as the travel expense reimbursement (TER) form. Here are some helpful tips for filling out this form:

  • In DETAILS or PURPOSE OF TRIP, include a summary of your trip that gives the claims below context. You may also wish to discuss how the trip is necessary to your supervisor’s NSERC-funded research project. “Required for thesis/dissertation/Ph.D.” is NOT acceptable, as these are considered education expenses (and thus ineligible on NSERCs). You must explain how the research itself relates to your supervisor’s research project – be specific.
  • In TRIP and RECEIPT DETAILs, report the date, description and amount of each of the receipts you are submitting. Some receipts can be clustered (e.g. “Two ferry tickets” with the cost being twice as much as each of the individual receipts may explicitly say).
    • Submit all original receipts with the form (this was once done physically with a vanilla envelope from the office, but now can be done electronically via scans of the receipts and over email).
    • Include per diem for all the days you were traveling, including travel days, but not including personal time off. This way you don’t need to submit food receipts but if there was a conference dinner, or was in some way a social/work-related dinner, submit the actual receipt for it if it costs more than the allotted per diem. 
    • Make sure you use the currency exchange rate (you can look up the specific exchange rate on the day of the purchase on the Bank of Canada website) or submit a screenshot of your credit card payment (will be in CAD). It is important that you claim the right amount and that all your final costs are in the same currency (CAD!).
    • DO NOT deduct your GSS/FGS travel grant as an “advance.” Instead include it as a negative value purchase in the receipt details.
  • In EXPENSE ALLOCATION, allocate the expenses to different funding streams (e.g. your supervisor’s grant, the department (for Criswick), CUPE, or FGS). If you got supplemental funds, distribute that money first to them and then allocate the remaining costs to your supervisor’s grant. The lower this number is the happier your supervisor will be (and the more conferences you and your group can go to, papers you can publish, etc!).
    • In “Description,” you should include your name, date and conference (if you can fit it!): e.g. “B. Obama – Jan. 2008 – Atlantis Conf.”… the purpose is so that the fund(s) you are expensing this to (e.g. your supervisor) can track why the money was spent.
    • The fund # should be the first five digits of your supervisors grant account number (usually starts with a 3 or 5)
    • The ord # is second five digits, probably 57500 (which tags it as phys/astro)
    • The acct # is the subcode describing the reason for the expense. The most popular one here is 7011 (code for student travel).
  • In “Who to contact about this claim,” it is recommended that you put your own personal details.


  1. Sign it yourself.
  2. Have your supervisor sign it (as account holder).
  3. If you have the Criswick Award, have the Chair of the department sign it (ie. send it to the Chair’s assistant at
  4. If you have the CUPE Travel Award, send it to CUPE (and ask them to submit the form for you) –> DONE!
  5. Send the fully signed and completed form to:
    •, if fund your supervisor’s grant fund # starts with a 3 or 5.
    •, if If fund your supervisor’s grant fund # doesn’t start with a 3 or 5.
    • –> DONE!

Note: You often do not need a “One-over-one” approver signature, as long as it’s your supervisor’s grant!

Some things you should remember to claim!

  • Per diem (see above)
  • Conference registration fees (including the conference dinner, if there is one)
  • Flight tickets
  • Hotel or AirBnb accomodation
  • Taxi, uber, train, bus required for conference travel
  • Poster printing

Some things you may want to think twice about claiming…

  • Per diem dinner on the day of the conference dinner
  • The superfluous quantities of beers you may have consumed
  • Souvenirs

5) Twiddle your thumbs for 4-6 weeks!

Now you can wait for the exorbitantly long time it takes to get reimbursed. In the summertime especially, expect it to be the full 6 weeks.  One day, you’ll wake up to a email and rejoice at receiving a large lump sum of money you already spent!

Update: My most recent travel expense reimbursement was submitted on May 31st and payment to my account was received on June 9th totalling about 9 days and 2 hours… not so bad!

Example TER Form

For reference, here is an example of a Travel Expense Reimbursement form (TER).

Context: Luke Skywalker, a student of Obi-Wan Kenobi, went on a trip to Dagobah to visit and learn from Yoda. Luke took an extra week of personal time after the conference to save his friends and fight with his dad, which means his flight back from Dagobah will have a later date than the end of the conference. Yoda provided lunch for each day of the five day conference, but Luke was on his own for breakfasts and dinners (except for the conference dinner!). Luke also received FGS, CUPE, and Criswick funding.

If the Fund numbers 12345 are replaced with the appropriate grant numbers, **A** is signed by the department chair, **B** and Account Holder’s Signature is signed by Obi-Wan, and Claimant’s Signature is signed by Luke himself, this form is ready for submission to CUPE who, if asked to do so, can send it to If CUPE funding is not received for this trip, this form (with signatures, minus the CUPE allocation) is ready for direct submission to (or if Obi-Wan’s grant number doesn’t start with a 3 or 5).

Example travel expense reimbursement form (TER) for Luke Skywalker.

If you have any information you think should be added to this page for the benefit of all, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the PAGSA executive team. Thanks for reading!