Busiest travel day of the year; things moving nicely at Phoenix airport

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- It's the busiest travel day of the year, and things are steadily picking up at Sky Harbor International Airport.

Airport officials are recommending travelers arrive at least two hours before their scheduled departures to ensure that they have plenty of time to go through security. The crowds seemed to be coming in fits and starts throughout the morning, but traffic was expected to even out to a steady flow as the day goes on.

While the traffic inside the terminals has been heavy, airport spokeswoman Deborah Ostreicher said things were going smoothly.

The airport's website, SkyHarbor.com, has information about lines at security and available parking.

About 42.5 million people nationwide are expected to drive, fly or ride trains to their Thanksgiving destinations, according to travel tracker AAA. That's the highest number since the start of the recession, despite an average 20 percent increase in travel costs.

Ninety percent of holiday travelers plan to drive, and will pay almost 20 percent more for gas, which has reached an average of $3.42 a gallon.

Air travelers have been hit, too. The average round-trip airfare for the top 40 U.S. routes is $212, up 20 percent from last year. Rail tickets on most one-way Amtrak trips have climbed 2 to 5 percent. Hotel and motel rates are also up slightly.

"I think it's something you can't quantify in terms of monetary cost," said Jake Pagel, 32, a restaurant server from Denver who said he worked longer hours to save money and get bills in order before the holidays. "I mean, being able to spend quality time with your family is fairly significant."

It's not just traveling that is costing more this year. Having relatives over for dinner is becoming more expensive, too. A 16-pound turkey and all the trimmings will cost an average of $49.20, a 13 percent jump from last year, or about $5.73 more, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation, which says grocers have raised prices to keep pace with higher-priced commodities.