Some families are even agreeing to bump Thanksgiving dinner to Saturday, for example, allowing those traveling long distances to get cheaper, off-peak fares and avoid crowds, said Joseph Schwieterman, a transportation researcher at DePaul University.
Aided by smartphone apps, social media and other technology, consumers are getting better at sniffing out deals and are realizing they need to be flexible with dates and even with which airports they chose when booking, said Courtney Scott, a senior editor at Travelocity.
"I think people are really becoming smarter, more creative travelers and shoppers," Scott said.
For some travelers, the coping mechanism was decidedly less sophisticated: Travel now, worry about the costs later.
"I think it's my personal style to say, 'It's the holidays. Who cares?' And deal with the consequences later," said Olivia Melman, who flew from Chicago to Philadelphia on Tuesday. The 22-year-old, who works in human relations at Citigroup in New York City, said the costs would set her back, but family is a priority.
Having skipped their Thanksgiving trip last year, Nishiya Sivaruban and her husband were able to save enough to take their two children to the Hawaiian island of Kauai on a special holiday journey. They saved about $200 each on airfare by flying out of O'Hare instead of Milwaukee, which is closer to their home in Waukesha, Wis.
She and her husband are originally from Sri Lanka and have family links to the founder of a Hindu temple and monastery on Kauai that they were excited about visiting.
"There's a lot of things we're thankful for so we wanted to go to that temple," she said.