As worries about Zika virus mount, pregnant travelers may find they have limited leeway to reschedule, relocate or cancel vacation plans.
Last week the World Health Organization declared Zika a public health emergency, noting the virus’s suspected ties to microcephaly and other neurological complications in newborns. The Centers for Disease Control have issued Level 2 warnings for 30 areas where the disease is being actively transmitted — including Puerto Rico, Mexico, Jamaica and the U.S. Virgin Islands — urging travelers to take extra precautions.
Pregnant women in any trimester, the CDC warns, should “consider postponing travel to any area where Zika virus transmission is ongoing.”
Changing babymoon plans, however, isn’t always easy or cheap.
Travelers’ first step should be to check the cancellation and change policies for hotel, airfare and other travel components, said Jason Clampet, co-founder of travel site Skift.com. You may not even need to mention Zika fears; many hotels, for example, still allow penalty-free cancellation with just a few days’ notice, he said.
No luck? See if there’s a Zika-specific policy in place.
Most major domestic airlines and several cruise lines have said they are relaxing change policies for pregnant travelers with existing reservations to an affected region. Eligible travelers may be able to reschedule a trip, pick a new destination or receive a refund.
Call customer service to plead your case even if a travel provider doesn’t have a waiver on offer and the return policy seems ironclad. Reps may have some leeway to offer a refund or change waiver on a case-by-case basis, Clampet urged.
“Humans can always make choices at these travel brands,” he said.
If you bought travel insurance, check to see if your policy will kick in to cover nonrefundable costs of rescheduling or canceling your trip — but don’t count on it. “In general, policies don’t cover something that would just be a fear of travel,” said Megan Freedman, executive director of the U.S. Travel Insurance Association.
Worries that you’ll contract Zika aren’t covered, even with the CDC’s travel warning.
There are a few exceptions. Travelers who paid extra for cancel-for-any-reason coverage are likely to find they can still back out. A few policies also allow for trip cancellation if you became pregnant after purchasing the insurance and, as a result of the pregnancy, no longer want to take the trip, said Rachael Taft, a spokeswoman for comparison site Squaremouth.
Keep all those considerations in mind if you’re planning a trip and think Zika could at some point be a concern for you, such as if you’re trying to become pregnant or are taking a babymoon to a destination where Zika could soon spread.
Check to see how far in advance and under what circumstances you can cancel, said Clampet, and keep in mind that a particular company’s policy may vary based on whether you booked directly or through a third-party travel site.