Proposing Travel

When, Where, and How Many?

When proposing costs of travel, first, for each trip, project a best estimate for all of the following:

  • The city from which travel will start
  • The destination city
  • The number of travelers
  • The month(s) of travel

Best Estimate

As with any proposal calculation, only the best 51% guess is needed; if actual travel ends up using different cities, travelers, and months – no harm. The proposal submitter need only be able to support that the information forming the basis of the cost estimate is reasonable – and that it is not true that the submitter knew or should have known that the information was in error.

3 business people proposing travel on laptop


In order to show calculations to customer-reviewers, using an electronic spreadsheet is the best way to set up Travel costs that feed into a Cost Summary (or any higher-tier spreadsheet). Use a column for each item of information listed above.

For each trip (row) and for each (one) traveler, use a column for each of the following types of cost:

  • Privately Owned Vehicle Mileage and/or Taxi
  • Parking (which includes airport parking, if applicable)
  • Airfare (See instructions, below.)
  • Extra Baggage Fees (for any trip longer than three days)*
  • Rental Vehicle (Economy Class or smaller, unless shared by more than one traveler)* supported by lowest of three prices (See Airfare.)
  • Lodging (at GSA per diem for city and date)
  • Meals & Incidentals Expense (See instructions, below.)

* Can be increased for bulky items required for the purpose of the trip

Additional columns can be used for “multipliers.” For example, the GSA POV mileage rate can be shown in a column and used in the formula that multiplies that rate times the number of POV miles, shown separately. Often, the GSA Lodging per diem rate and the M&IE per diem rate used must be shown separately, then used in a formula that results in the (separately shown) Lodging column and Meals & Incidentals column.


To support proposed Airfare, search the Airfare on a multiple-source site (such as Expedia, Kayak, Orbitz, Priceline, etc.). Sort by price, using search criteria that includes:

  • Lower than First or Business Class (such as Coach)
  • Allowance for up to one stop for each “leg” (not non-stop, only)
  • Reasonable schedule (long-delay changes not required; lodging during flights not required)

Capture or print-and-scan a copy of the supporting documentation showing the top three (least expensive) airfares that meet all (above and any reasonable, additional) criteria. Use the lowest fare of the three in the proposal.

Meals and Incidentals Expense

The Meals and Incidentals Expense (M&IE) is proposed at the GSA per diem rate for the applicable city and dates. Use 75% of the daily rate for the first and last days of travel, regardless the time when travel begins and ends. For example, a five-day trip costs the per diem rate times (.75 + 3.00 + .75 =) 4.5 days. If significant, deduct meals provided to the traveler. For example, if all lunches during a 4-day conference are provided by the venue, deduct lunch per diem for each of the four days. See the M&IE Breakdown on the GSA per diem website for the meal amount for the applicable city/rate. (Lunch is approximately 25% of the full-day M&IE rate.)

Meals provided during a commercial airline flight and continental breakfasts provided by a lodging establishment need not be deducted.

Note that the M&IE rate includes incidentals, such as bottled water. Additional costs for incidentals are not allowable. Entertainment, such as rental movies, and alcohol are also unallowable.


Use formulas to calculate each type of cost for all days for all travelers during each trip. No more than one trip should encompass one row. If milestones or Task Orders or other segregation is required, subtotal the travel costs for each. If multiple contract-years are proposed, subtotal the travel costs for each.

If carried forward, total the travel costs for all trips under the proposal.

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