Q. How can an expectant couple best arrange for a refund if they’ve paid for a trip to an area affected by the mosquito-borne Zika virus and now don’t want to travel there?
A. “Things are changing so quickly,” says Lois Howes, a former president of the Long Island chapter of the American Society of Travel Agents and an agent with Baldwin-based Superior Travel. She says she has been getting emails daily from travel companies explaining the Zika-related refund policies they are implementing for people who were planning a “babymoon” — a last getaway before giving birth.
Howes says most airlines currently are giving full refunds. Tour operators have different policies; those in the best situation will be people who took out “cancel for any reason” travel insurance. Most hotels allow cancellations up to a certain date before travel with only a small cancellation fee, Howes says.
Full cruise refunds may be challenging to negotiate. “I just got an email from Royal Caribbean offering a credit to be used in the next two years,” says Carmela Bleich, general manager of Melville-based Creative Travel International. “That may not satisfy everybody because if someone is pregnant and having a baby, they may not want to travel in the next two years. If they prevail upon the cruise line, they may be able to get their money back.” She recommends beginning with the regular reservations department, and, if that doesn’t help, asking for the customer service department.
Once a previously planned babymoon is canceled, finding a substitute island-style vacation may be a challenge, Bleich says. “If they are looking for a warm weather location now, it’s very hard to suggest anything other than Florida or Southern California,” Bleich says. If the trip is scheduled for later in the spring or summer, Bermuda is a cruise possibility, she says.