Travel expense management

Your guide to streamline your travel request approval workflow

January 28, 2020
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According to The Global Business Travel Association, U.S. employees take an average of 405 million business trips annually. 

That's a lot of travel request forms and financing to coordinate and track. An efficient travel request approval workflow can help streamline this process and simplify your life. The traditional methods of handling this leave room for mistakes, delays and loss of revenue.

Here, you'll learn everything there is to know about creating travel request approval workflows, including the benefits, best practices, and the steps needed to implement one. Let's dive in!

What is a travel request approval workflow?

All employees travelling for work need to fill out a travel request form. This form is then approved and signed-off by supervisors and other members of the finance team.

By completing a travel request form, all of the employee's expenses are covered by the company. After all, the entire purpose of the trip is to conduct company business.

But when discussing company finances, it's essential to have detailed and thorough reporting. Using the workforce to document these details would result in a waste of time and resources. Therefore, modern businesses are proactively shifting towards expense management software to help address this challenge. 

The downside of not having a travel request approval workflow in place

With so many people involved in the travel request approval process, mistakes happen, and information often gets overlooked. Here are a few of the other downsides to using a traditional system.

Key information doesn't reach the right team members

Too many cooks spoil the broth. Likewise, having too many people involved in the travel request approval process can muddy the waters. This leads to lost information and a significant slow down in the approval process.

Also, Excel sheets and emails are difficult to scale. This can delay the approval process, costing you precious time and money. This is especially true if your employee's travel plans are time-sensitive.

With an automated workflow system, all the relevant parties are alerted to the request in real-time. Some systems can even prioritize requests so that urgent travel plans are approved first. 

SUGGESTED READ: When should your business move out of Excel?

Limited control over expenses

To protect your company's finances, you need to have strict control over business and travel expenses. Traditional travel request forms make it difficult to adhere to budgets and effectively implement spending limits.

When several employees are involved in the approval process, and the approved travel costs for a specific trip are unknown, it can create confusion and overspending. A travel request approval workflow simplifies the process by creating a universal standard and guidelines for team members to follow.

Manual processes take longer

The significant difference between a manual travel request approval and an automated workflow system is time. And, in business, time is money. 

Not only does it take countless hours to weed through business expenses and gain approval, but it also allows for human error. It's difficult to track every single expenditure manually, which could cause unauthorised expenses and lost revenue.

SUGGESTED READ: How to detect and prevent expense report fraud

Best practices for creating a travel request approval workflow 

Understanding the challenges of not having a travel request approval workflow is only half the battle. Now, you need to create your own system. Here are some things to consider before creating a travel request approval workflow.

Understand what you want to achieve through your travel request approval workflow?

  • Like with any new work policy, before its creation, you need to identify what you want it to achieve through it. 
  • What elements of your current travel request approval process needs improvement? 
  • What's working, and what needs an overhaul? 

Most goals that businesses strive for include improved efficiency, time management, and creating a more transparent process. It might help to give your new workflow policy a name and a detailed purpose. This benefits all employees to stay on the same page and fully understand the process and its required steps. 

Map out the process of your travel request approval workflow

  • To make sure you cover all your bases, map out the travel request approval workflow before putting it into practice. 
  • What steps does a traditional travel request approval go through? 
  • How can you automate this process?
  • Next, include all relevant parties in the planning process. 
  • Identify each individual's specific role and what part they play in executing the new plan.

Choose which line items to include in your travel request approval workflow

One of the essential components of any travel request approval workflow is the specific line items you include. These small details often get overlooked during the manual approval process. Hence, all employees filling out a travel request form are required to detail expected expenditures. 

Common line items to consider in your travel request approval workflow:

  • The purpose of the business trip
  • The location of travel
  • The duration of the business trip
  • The overall cost of the trip (including airfare, rental car, accommodations, meals, and all other expenses)
  • Any additional team members joining them and the corresponding cost

Some travel request forms are more detailed than others. You can ask employees to provide flight and hotel pricing beforehand, as well as a travel itinerary, project details, and receipts

Also, an automated workflow system allows you to add and delete different fields. For example, if the employee is travelling a short distance, you can remove the "airfare" line item for that request. The same goes for hotel accommodations.

Implement a travel request approval workflow and continuously tweak it 

The truth is, you may not get things right the first time – and that's okay! Once you feel it's time to implement your new travel request approval workflow, you'll need:

  • A set of permissions for specific team members. 
  • Determine who needs access to which part of the approval process. 
  • To ensure confidentiality, you can also hide particular data and information. 
  • Allow employees to submit requests and test out the new approval process. 
  • After a few runs, ask team members what's working and what needs improving on.
  • After some weeks, you'll have a more detailed picture of how the system is running. 
  • An automated system will show the average time it takes to approve a request and how long it takes each team member to perform their task. 
  • Further, use this data to tweak and optimise the process.

SUGGESTED READ: How businesses are leveraging Fyle’s expense analytics

Implement an effective travel request approval workflow 

If business trips are a big part of your company's success, you need a travel request approval workflow to simplify your life. Not only does an automated expense management software save time and money, but it also reduces the risk of human error and helps employees stay compliant.

Are you ready to welcome the benefits of an automated expense approval workflow? Fyle can help. Schedule a demo today and witness how Fyle can put an end to all your pre-accounting and accounting woes!


Effortless expense management for all business spends. Earned time, saved costs, improved productivity, happy employees - achieve it all with a single software.

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