Is Zika Changing Your Travel Plans?

“Zika is avoidable. Especially for a vacation, why put yourself and your family at risk?”

I have friends who landed in Miami Beach a few days ago, just in time to find out about the Zika infestation in Wynwood, an inland area of Miami. Well past their childbearing years, my friends aren’t worried about any secondary effects of Zika. Long-sleeves and insect repellant will get them through their beach vacation as well as their Caribbean cruise departing from Miami.

Others are more concerned. Erin Lichtenwalter, 30, cancelled her family’s trip to Puerto Rico with Aviv, her young daughter, this summer because of Zika. “Much of my family is in Puerto Rico. My husband and I had plans to take Aviv for her first birthday, but we don’t want to risk it. We’d like another baby soon and we don’t want to worry about any diseases.”

For Michelle Connolly, 36, and her children ages 2, 4 and 6-years, the Caribbean is off-limits for now, even though she and her husband are not considering more children. “I wouldn’t bring the kids to the Caribbean. Before I would take them I would want more information on how Zika affects kids because their bodies are so little,” says the D.C. resident. “Zika is avoidable. Especially for a vacation why put yourself and your family at risk?”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Zika website advises pregnant women and those thinking about getting pregnant against travel to Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood. The CDC also advises those same travelers to be cautious about traveling to Puerto Rico and other Caribbean destinations with Zika outbreaks.

Refund or Change Travel Plans

Cruises

Many cruise lines, including Carnival, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International, depart from Miami for Caribbean voyages. The cruise lines, according to spokespeople, are working with passengers on an individual basis about refunds or rebooking their voyages.

Flights

Some airlines are allowing passengers to Miami and other Zika-impacted destinations to receive a refund or rebook their flights without a penalty.

JetBlue: passengers can receive or change their plans without a penalty for travel booked before August 1, 2016.

Delta: waives fees for changes for travel booked before March 1, 2016.

United: waives fees for changes for travel booked before February 29, 2016.

Check with your carrier as policies may change as the Zika virus spreads.

Accommodations

Hotels: Check your hotel’s cancellation policy. Many properties allow cancellations within 48 to 72 hours. If you have prepaid a portion of your bill, then discuss getting a refund.

Vacation rentals: HomeAway, Airbnb and other vacation rental companies typically allow the home owner to set the refund policy. Contact the property, explain your reason for canceling and hope for the best.

Travel Insurance

You are guaranteed refunds on travel through your travel insurance only if you purchased travel insurance that allows you to cancel for any reason. However, since Zika is a medical-related issue, if you are pregnant you might be able to receive an insurance refund, but it’s likely you will have to fight for it.