How to write a travel policy

When it’s time to travel for business, employees need to know what’s allowed, when to book, what supplier to book – and most importantly, why. A well-crafted travel policy provides a consistent, safe, managed and cost-controlled framework that leads to wise travel decisions. Here’s the BCD Travel guide to writing a travel policy for your program.

The basics

What is a travel policy?

How to write a travel policy is the playbook for company travel. It helps travel teams control business travel costs and processes. It’s a set of guidelines that need to be respected by employees when they plan trips on the company’s behalf.

Why your managed travel program needs a travel policy

The main objective of an effective travel policy is to keep travelers safe while also supporting the company goals. When properly constructed, the travel policy sets a consistent framework for travelers and the various stakeholders involved in the travel program. It is a living document that should and will shift over time. Think of your travel policy as a brief but mighty document useful for:

  • Aligning business travel with company goals
  • Satisfying duty of care and legal obligations for the organization and its people
  • Supporting quality travel experiences for employees

Which stakeholders should get involved in developing the travel policy?

Travel programs often collaborate with a variety of departments or stakeholders, including finance/accounting, procurement, human resources, security/risk management, C-level, legal/compliance and technology/IT. At minimum, provide your collaborators with opportunities to review and provide feedback on the policy. 


Set goals – how to write a travel policy

Define what you want to achieve with your travel program. Are you going for cost savings, transparency, traveler satisfaction, wellbeing, sustainability or a combination?

Cover everything

Describe the entire booking process from A to Z. Organize it by relevant priorities as agreed with all travel program stakeholders. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach for writing a travel policy, but consider this non-exhaustive list as you outline yours: 

  • Introduction/objective – Explain the goals and sets expectations for all employees traveling for business
  • Approval/pre-approvals – Specify which travel requests require pre- or special approvals
  • Booking/reservations – Provide agent contact information (phone numbers and chat functionality), online booking tool links and instructions, and the step-by-step process for arranging air, ground and hotel accommodations
  • Bleisure policy – Detail how and when travelers can add personal travel days to a business trip and make clear who will be responsible for covering this expense
  • Definitions and terms – Explain or clarify all relevant keywords, terms and phrases within the documents
  • Travel and expense reporting (T&E) – Outline the rules and deadlines for reporting expenses, including links to expense tools, timing for expense reports and approver/approval information. Set per diems and minimum receipt amounts. Where applicable, a separate travel expense policy may be linked to the travel policy
  • Gifts – Include rules for accepting gifts from or offering them to business partners, suppliers or vendors
  • Guest travel exceptions
  • People risk management – Define and explain duty of care protocols, safety guidelines, emergency protocols, emergency contacts, etc.
  • Spending/T&E/expense guidelines – Clarify what is covered and what is not, e.g., reimbursable vs. non-reimbursable costs; this may be included as a separate document or policy that links to the travel policy
  • Transportation guidelines – This should cover expense parameters (encourage lowest cost options) and rules for rail trips, rental cars, personal vehicles, ridesharing, public transportation, insurance requirements, and accidents.

Write for your audience

Remember that travelers are busy consumers. Make sure the travel policy document is thorough, but keep it as short as possible. Use clear and easy to understand language. Don’t neglect the appearance of the document itself. It should be well designed with examples or illustrations of relevant documents and booking tools. Make sure it’s available digitally and can be downloaded onto any device.

Educate, inform, communicate.

Make sure everyone at your company (especially travelers) has access to the travel policy and knows who to contact with questions. Store the policy on the intranet or other central communication channel. Integrate traveler-friendly mobile apps, like BCD’s award-winning TripSource® platform, which simplifies business travel and keeps travelers organized, informed and within company guidelines. It puts users in control with instant access to trip details, booking options, check-in reminders, real-time flight notifications, risk alerts, itinerary sharing, the COVID-19 Information Hub and more. For travel and security managers, the new BCD Alert™ mobile app, provides 24/7 coverage of active travelers against destination risk and incidents, allowing managers to monitor and respond remotely.

Measure your success.

What does a successful travel program look like for you? Define the parameters you’ll measure. If saving is your goal, you should measure total travel spend. Other things you can measure are compliance or traveler satisfaction.

Plan regular reviews.

With your travel program stakeholders, decide on a comfortable cadence (quarterly, annually or other) for reviewing, auditing and revising the travel policy. As part of this plan, decide how interim policy changes will be communicated to your organization.


How to write a travel policy

BCD clients: For questions or help devising or reviewing your travel policy, contact your program manager. Not a BCD client? Contact us.


How-to guides

Get more done with our How-to series for people who work and manage travel.

Questions? Email: [email protected]

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