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Biggest Thanksgiving Travel Rush In Nine Years, Predicts AAA

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The slowly improving economy could boost travel over the Thanksgiving holiday to levels not seen in nine years.

The auto club AAA forecasts that 48.7 million Americans will travel, the busiest Thanksgiving period on U.S. roads and skies since 2007, the year before the global financial crisis plunged the U.S. economy into a deep recession.

AAA said Tuesday that it expects 1 million more Americans to venture at least 50 miles from home, a 1.9 percent increase over last year.

The forecast was assembled at research firm IHS, which said it considered jobs, household net worth, the stock market, prices for gasoline and airline tickets, and other factors.

The researchers did their number crunching in mid-October, about three weeks before the surprising outcome in the presidential election.

The AAA forecast predicts that from Wednesday, Nov. 23, through Sunday, Nov. 27, about 43.5 million Americans will take long car trips, 1.9 percent more than last year. AAA expects 3.7 million will travel by air, a 1.6 percent increase. Bus and train trips will grow less than 1 percent, the auto group said.

An airline-industry trade group is a bit more bullish. Airlines for America predicts that air travel will rise 2.5 percent over last year’s holiday, although the group considers Thanksgiving travel spanning a 12-day period that begins Nov. 18.

Whatever the final number, planes are likely to be packed over the holiday, and bad weather or airline computer malfunctions can slow things to a crawl. If the unexpected happens, travelers should be ready to act quickly. Experts suggest the following moves:

  • Arrive early. At some airports, including Dallas-Fort Worth International and Dallas Love Field, garages and other facilities are under construction, making matters worse.
  • Pack smart. Don’t put anything you really need — medicine, passport, other important papers — in your roll-aboard bag; or remember to remove it if the airline orders you to gate-check your bag, which happens when flights are full and bins are overstuffed.
  • Seek customer assistance. If your flight is canceled, get in line to talk to an airline customer rep but call the airline too. You might have better luck reaching an overseas number — look up the numbers before your trip.

© 2016 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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