The limits of travel insurance are starting to show.
From an airline labor strike to a bout of food poisoning, from a blizzard to more horrific events like a terror attack, travel insurance often allows would-be holidaymakers to back out of their trips, costs covered.
But because of Zika virus? Not so much.
The acceptable reasons for cancelling a trip under many basic policies have one thing in common: They are unforeseen events.
That means that vacationers–even already pregnant women–can’t get their trip costs refunded if they cancel because they are worried about the mosquito-borne disease, despite government warnings about travel to areas where Zika has been detected, like Brazil and Florida.
On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention took the unprecedented step of warning pregnant women against travel to a section of Miami, where locally-transmitted Zika had been recently confirmed.
Zika is spread through infected mosquitos. The disease can cause severe fetal brain defects, such as microcephaly.
“Unfortunately, a CDC alert is generally not a covered reason for travelers to cancel their trip on standard travel insurance, and pregnant travelers are not eligible to cancel their trip due to fear of contracting the Zika virus, even if there is a CDC alert for their destination,” said Rachael Taft a spokeswoman at travel insurance comparison site Squaremouth, said in an interview.
Pregnancy is actually a way out of the trip, but timing is key.
Some basic trip cancellation insurance policies, such as those offered by Travelex, Allianz Global Assistance and RoamRight, consider the discovery of pregnancy after the policy is purchased an acceptable reason to cancel a trip to any destination, not just in Zika-stricken areas.
“This coverage does not directly relate to the Zika virus, but it could provide an option for pregnant travelers who had a policy in place before they became pregnant,” said Taft.
Some travelers have become extra-cautious. Zika outbreak and recent terrorist attacks in France, Belgium and Turkey in recent months have fueled more demand for insurance that allows travelers to cancel for any reason, though through those policies travelers recoup only about 75% of the cost and policies can cost about 40% more.
Given the options to back out of a trip, it may be worth the cost.