Thanksgiving: US travellers hit the holiday roads

Passengers wait in lin at Chicago's O'Hare airport, 23 November 2011 Major airports, such as Chicago O'Hare, are expecting a 2% drop in holiday travellers

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The US is marking the annual Thanksgiving holiday, with more Americans taking to the road or skies for family visits than in recent years.

An estimated 43m people are expected to travel before and after the holiday, the highest number since 2007.

On Wednesday, poor weather on the East Coast caused widely expected Thanksgiving travel delays.

On Friday, eager shoppers are expected to form battle lines as stores open their doors early for sales.

The annual Black Friday shopping extravaganza usually sees retailers open as early as 03:00 or 04:00. This year, though, the rush has crept into Thanksgiving Day itself.

About 1,000 Gap stores will be open on Thanksgiving and several large retailers, including Target, Best Buy and Macy's will open at midnight.

Wal-Mart, which opens many of its "super-centres" 24 hours a day, will also open the rest of its stores at 22:00 on Thanksgiving.

Cutting corners

Despite a projected rise in traveller numbers, 2% fewer people are expected to travel by air compared to 2010, according to the Air Transport Association of America.

Shoppers queue up in New York City the day after Thanksgiving, November 2008

High fuel and flight costs have changed travel plans for some, but other travellers are determined to make the trip.

Shun Tucker, a Chicago resident, wanted to spend Thanksgiving with his family in Memphis, Tennessee, but told the Associated Press he did not want to spend an estimated $300 (£193) on a flight.

Instead, he chose to book a ticket for a nine-hour-bus ride at a cost of just $49.

"Family is important and we love the holiday," Bill Curtis, a retiree from Los Angeles told the news agency. "So we cut corners [in] other places so we can afford to travel."

Occupy Thanksgiving

On Thursday, US President Barack Obama officially proclaimed the holiday, which celebrates the Pilgrims' first harvest in what is now the state of Massachusetts.

Barack Obama: "It's one of the worst days of the year to be a turkey"

"As members of our American family make do with less, let us rededicate ourselves to our friends and fellow citizens in need of a helping hand," he said.

Mr Obama fulfilled his other Thanksgiving duty on Wednesday, by pardoning a turkey. Since taking office, he has created his own tradition of pardoning an additional turkey.

Other Thanksgiving arrangements are not so traditional.

Occupy Wall Street protesters will mark the holiday with an "open feast" of 3,000 individually wrapped plates of food at Zuccotti Park, organisers said.

In San Antonio, Texas, volunteers are preparing to serve an estimated 25,000 people at the 32nd annual Jimenez Thanksgiving Dinner.

The event was set up by a restaurant owner, Raul Jimenez, who delivered food to senior citizens on the holiday and noticed how many people spent Thanksgiving alone.

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