Peer Review Travel Policy

Effective 11/15/14

The Travel Policy covers travel activities, expenses and reimbursements associated with site visits for the American Alliance of Museums’ (AAM) Museum Assessment (MAP) and Accreditation programs, and other assignments carried out on behalf of the MAP and Accreditation programs (including travel for Accreditation Commission meetings).

The Travel Policy aligns with the Alliance's overall corporate travel and accounting policies, as well as policies governing federal employee travel since MAP is federally funded (through a Cooperative Agreement between the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and AAM).

The Travel Policy is also informed by who ultimately pays for the actual costs incurred by a peer reviewer:

  • Accreditation site visit costs are paid for by the museum (AAM reimburses the peer reviewer and then bills the museum for the costs)
  • MAP site visit costs are underwritten by the federal government (and supplemented by the museum if necessary)
The site visit is a professional business trip that includes transportation, hotel accommodations, and meals. All reasonable and approved expenses directly related to a site visit (outlined below) are reimbursable. It is the peer reviewer’s responsibility to report his/her actual travel and related expenses in a timely, responsible, and ethical manner. Peer reviewers are expected to use good judgment regarding travel-related expenses and only incur expenses directly related to their MAP or Accreditation assignments.

I. Travel Planning

It is mandatory for the peer reviewer to communicate with the museum about the site visit dates before making any travel arrangements. The museum and peer reviewer should discuss all travel arrangements in advance, particularly if any unusual or high expenses are expected, to ensure that the plans and costs are reasonable, appropriate, and acceptable to both parties. Before making any travel arrangements (e.g. buying plane tickets), the peer reviewer and museum must confirm the dates and any specific parameters of the trip with each other in writing.

The host museum has the option of directly paying a vendor for a peer reviewer expense (e.g., having the hotel or airfare directly billed to the museum).  Again, these details should be discussed between the museum and the peer reviewer as part of the travel planning.

When making travel arrangements, peer reviewers should keep the reimbursement policies below in mind.

II. Expense Reimbursement

All travel reimbursements must be requested by the peer reviewer using an AAM-provided form and will be issued by AAM. Museums should not reimburse the reviewer but may pay for meals, flights, or hotel costs directly. AAM does not cover expenses for any guests that accompany a peer reviewer on an assignment.

A. Timing

  • Request for reimbursement of travel expenses, with the appropriate documentation (see below) must be submitted within 30 days of the site visit. This timing is very important to comply with the Alliance’s financial management and standard accounting practices.
  • The Alliance will issue a check or electronic funds transfer approximately 30 days from the time the reimbursement request is received. 
  • Overdue or incompletely documented travel reimbursement requests may result in a delayed or denied payment to the peer reviewer.

B. Pre-Visit Reimbursement

  • The Alliance may reimburse a peer reviewer for expenses that are paid in-full before the visit, such as airfare, hotel or rental car, upon receipt of appropriate documentation of actual full payment. 
  • After the visit the peer reviewer must provide documentation of use of the service (e.g., boarding passes, hotel statement, car rental agreement and detailed receipt, etc.).
  • No pre-visit reimbursement will be given for estimated expenses, reservations held with or without a credit card, or expenses such as food, fuel, or taxis.
  • If pre-paid arrangements were not fulfilled (e.g., visit was cancelled and not rescheduled), the peer reviewer is responsible for repayment of funds to AAM.

C. Documentation

  • The Alliance will only reimburse expenses that are documented with an itemized receipt.  
  • “Itemized” is defined as a list of all the items purchased /description of the service provided. 
  • Receipts must also bear the date, name of the service provider/vendor, and payment method.
  • Cash transactions where receipts are not traditionally provided (e.g., vending machines, tips, subway fares, etc.) are reimbursable to a maximum of $15 each; they must still be described and listed with actual amount.
  • Original receipts can be submitted by mail or email to AAM and must be accompanied by a completed AAM Travel Reimbursement Form.

Acceptable documentation:

  • Itemized receipts (date, service description/list of items purchases, provider, and proof of payment).
  • Credit card swipe receipts plus the associated itemized receipt.
  • For mileage: a printout of the route taken with mileage listed (from Google Maps, MapQuest, etc.).

Unacceptable documentation:

  • Receipts that do list items purchased / itineraries without documentation of payment 
  • Credit card receipt that only shows amount charged (must be submitted with the associated itemized receipt)
  • Credit card statements/bills
  • Hotel portfolios for meals charged to room without an accompanying itemized restaurant or room service bill

D. Transportation

Reimbursable transportation expenses are those based on the most economical mode of transportation that is practical and reasonable, and a commonly traveled route consistent with the authorized purpose of the trip.

Air or Rail Travel

  • Air travel should be arranged at least 30 days in advance in order to take advantage of more advantageous fares. Non-refundable tickets are preferred due to lower costs.
  • AAM will reimburse for the cost of coach/economy class tickets only.
  • Any upgrades or enhancements (e.g., seating, boarding, early check-in) are considered personal expenditures and will not be reimbursed. If upgrades are combined into the fare rather than itemized out as add-ons, the Alliance will reimburse the documented cost of a coach/economy class ticket for the same trip purchased at the same time. Peer Reviewers must provide documentation that shows this.
  • If personal or other business travel is combined into the fare, or if transportation arrangements include segments or start/return destinations unrelated to the site visit (e.g., personal or other business), the traveler should discuss with MAP or Accreditation staff how to determine, calculate, and document the portion that will be reimbursed. Usually the Alliance will reimburse the documented cost of a round-trip coach/economy class ticket to/from the peer reviewer’s home airport and the museum purchased at the same time.

Private Vehicles

  • Travelers may use their private vehicle as the primary mode of transportation if it is less expensive than using alternative transportation, if it saves time, or if flying is not advised for health reasons.
  • The Alliance reimburses for mileage at the current standard federal mileage reimbursement rate. Refer to the Travel Reimbursement Form for the current rate.
  • The cost of meals and lodging, parking, mileage, tolls, and ferries incurred while in transit by private vehicle transportation are reimbursable.
  • Mileage should be documented by submitting a printout of the route taken with mileage listed (from Google Maps, MapQuest, etc.).
  • Costs shall not exceed the cost of airfare, based on the regular coach fare available for the location of travel from a standard commercial air carrier.
  • If use of a private vehicle as the primary means of transportation is necessary or more appropriate but more expensive than flying, the peer reviewer must  inform the museum and the Alliance to ensure this is an acceptable and mutually agreed upon expense.
  • Costs associated with extended stopovers or out-of-the-way mileage for personal or other business is not reimbursable by AAM.

Rental Cars

  • A vehicle may be rented when it is a necessary and appropriate means of transportation.
  • Rental car costs are inclusive of mileage; therefore mileage is not separately reimbursable.

Other Ground Transportation

  • Public transportation, taxis, shuttles, shared cars, supplementary rail, etc. costs are reimbursable expenses.
  • Limousine transportation is not reimbursable.

E. Lodging

  • The costs of a room and taxes in a commercial lodging establishment (hotel, motel, inn, B&B) are reimbursable.
  • AAM will reimburse an additional night if it allows the reviewer to get a less expensive plane ticket and net an overall cost savings for the trip.
  • In-room pay-per-view entertainment and other personal or hospitality services are not reimbursable (e.g., laundry, movies, gaming).  The exceptions to this policy are Wi-Fi/internet connection and room service. 

F. Meals

  • AAM uses GSA “Meals & Incidentals” (M&I) per diem rates for the destination city as a guideline for total reimbursable daily meal expenses.
  • AAM will not reimburse any meal expenses in excess of the cumulative M & I per diem for the entire trip (number of days x per diem rate) unless the museum or AAM staff has previously approved the expenditures.
  • Please look up the rate for the city where the museum visited is located at http://www.gsa.gov/portal/category/21287 and write the amount in the designated space on the reimbursement form.
  • Tips are included in the meal reimbursement rate.
  • The exception to this per diem rate is for visits with two peer reviewers when one pays for the meal for both reviewers. In this case, expenses should not exceed twice the relevant per diem rate.
  • Within this limit, all reasonable food expenses for the peer reviewer and directly related the reviewer’s site visit are reimbursable. This includes meals and snacks during travel and at the final destination for the peer reviewer.
  • AAM will not reimburse meal costs for spouses or guests.
  • AAM will not reimburse alcoholic beverage purchases.

G. Other

  • Parking (including airport and hotel) is reimbursable.
  • Standard airline checked baggage fees for up to two bags are reimbursable. Fees for additional luggage and/or oversized/overweight bags are not reimbursable.
  • Reasonable tips for service providers like valets, housekeepers, etc. are reimbursable.
  • Wi-Fi charges assessed by the hotel are reimbursable.
  • Museum admission to conduct comparative surveys or make a “secret shopper” visit the day before the visit is reimbursable. 

H. Alterations, Cancellations and Last Minute Changes

If travel has to be changed or cancelled the peer reviewer must contact AAM staff immediately to discuss options. Alterations to travel tickets usually result in a change fee, an additional fare, or forfeiture of payment. Who is responsible for the cost and how it will be handled differs based on the nature of the situation (fare restrictions, airline policies, peer reviewer emergency vs. host museum change request, weather, etc.).

I. For MAP visits only:  Withholding Honoraria

MAP reserves the right to withhold a Peer Reviewer’s honorarium if the Peer Reviewer:

  • Fails to submit confirmation of payment or itemized receipts after prepaid travel reimbursement request has been processed, and/or
  • Does not submit a Form W-9 to the Alliance (if one is not already on file; MAP reviewers need to submit a Form W-9 only once).

I. Summary of Reimbursable Expenses

Yes:

  • Coach/economy class air, rail, or bus fare 
  • Mileage for use of personal vehicle
  • Rental car
  • Ground transportation (airport shuttles, taxis, public transportation, etc.)
  • Lodging in a commercial establishment (hotel, motel, inn, B&B)
  • Airline standard checked baggage fee for up to two bags
  • Meals en route and at destination
  • Standard tips
  • Parking (airport, hotel, on site)

No:

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Personal / hospitality services (e.g., dry cleaning, in-room movies/games, etc.)
  • Personal travel
  • Travel upgrades
  • Expenses related to spouse/family/friend accompanying the peer reviewer on the trip
  • Expenses related to other business (personal or museum business) en route to the site visit destination or when at the destination
  • Overweight/oversized checked baggage fees
  • Unreasonable or unsubstantiated expenses 

III. Questions

Accreditation site visits: accreditation@aam-us.org or 202-289-9116

MAP site visits: map@aam-us.org or 202-289-9118