Millions of Americans began hitting the roads, skies and train tracks Wednesday as the country's busiest annual travel day got under way on the eve of Thanksgiving.
Queues were already building at daybreak in airports like New York's LaGuardia in what has become an annual effort to outguess the system as to when the heaviest traffic would hit, U.S. TV news outlets reported.
The American Automobile Association (AAA), which keeps track of holiday traffic, estimated 38.7 million people will travel at least 50 miles (80 km) from home during this Thanksgiving holiday, a 1.5 percent increase over last year. Most of them, about 31.2 million, will go by road.
People will take about 27 million flights during the 12 days surrounding Thanksgiving, a 4 percent increase over last year, the Air Transport Association estimates.
With 90 percent of all seats filled, the airline trade group is warning passengers they are likely to experience crowded airports and flight delays.
The increase in travel comes despite high gas prices. "This is the first time that we have seen gas prices topping more than 3 U.S. dollars a gallon (one gallon equals 3.785 liters) in November," said Robert Darbelnet, president and CEO of the AAA.
A year ago, prices were in the range of 2.20 dollars a gallon.
Despite these obstacles and airport delays in Chicago and the Northeast, the nation's transportation system mostly ran smoothly Tuesday.
But a broad storm front expected to hit most of the center of the country Wednesday could snarl airports and highways.
In the United States, Thanksgiving falls on the fourth Thursday of November and is part of a four-day weekend marking the most popular family reunion time in a year.
Usually, the week that includes Thanksgiving is the busiest travel period in a year in the country.