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By Travel writer
msnbc.com contributor
updated 11/19/2009 9:20:04 AM ET 2009-11-19T14:20:04

As Thanksgiving approaches, it’s a good time for well-mannered travelers to spend a few moments thinking about what there is to be thankful for this year.

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For example, I’m thankful for the great deals on airfares, hotels, attractions and restaurants that have allowed me to stretch my shrinking travel dollar. I’m thankful for the increasing number of airports rolling out free Wi-Fi and, this holiday season, for the promotional deals that are making in-flight Wi-Fi a temporarily-free amenity on many routes.

I’m thankful for TSA employees who manage to be pleasant while facing cranky travelers and their smelly shoes. I’m thankful for the housekeeper at the Fairmont Royal York hotel in Toronto who found my credit card on the floor earlier this year and placed it on the desk instead of heading out for her own holiday shopping spree. I’m thankful for the increasing number of states that have made it a ticket-able offense to drive while texting. And I’m thankful that I’ve seen my fair share of falling stars.

My list goes on, but like Lena Nozizwe, who is appreciative for honest cab drivers and suite-dispensing hotel desk clerks, travelers have their own thanks to share.

Home away from home
James Saavedra is thankful for being able to create a close-knit second family at the destinations and hotels he frequents. “Feeling like I have a home away from home makes business travel a pleasure instead of a pain.”

Thea Lobell of Baton Rouge, La., is thankful for friendly front-desk staff who give her a quiet room after a long day of flying and for being able to order her favorite comfort food from room service: French onion soup and a club sandwich.

In Cambridge, Mass., Paige Arnof-Fenn is thankful for the slow economy because it has not only kept prices for hotels and airfares low, but kept airports and airplanes less crowded. “People seem to be more appreciative of your business and value their customers more than when things were busier,” she said.

That rings true for Julie Hansen, a sales and marketing director at a golf and tennis resort in Tucson, Ariz. She’s thankful that the resort she works at was able to weather the uncertainty of 2009 and says travelers should be thankful too, “because 2010 will be full of more targeted travel deals.”

Food keeps a flier happy
Marty Bergerson of Chicago is thankful that “in 127 flights I have not once been stranded overnight.”

Patrick Evans, meanwhile, is thankful for the bulkhead aisle seat on his flight back from Paris to Detroit: “It's first-class flying at coach prices.”

And Mara Begley is thankful this year for any airline that still serves food. “Other passengers are thankful as well,” she says, because “I get cranky when I go without food.”

Safe arrivals and snacks when she’s really starving tops Alicia Rainbolt’s list. But the New Yorker is also thankful for “good travel companions and flights when it’s mandatory that I turn off my cell phone and BlackBerry.”

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Recent Honolulu-transplant Tess Staadecker, who says she truly enjoys reading that wacky gadget-filled SkyMall catalog, is thankful for “nice, patient TSA agents, babies who don’t cry during flights and speedy taxi drivers who get you to the airport when you’re running late.”

Carol Margolis of Orlando, Fla., appreciates pilots and flight attendants who get her safely to her destinations each week, and for the fact that she’s still excited each time she begins a new journey. “I know that new people, new places and new experiences are mine to find.”

Friends and family
Professional organizer Julie Bavington of Jacksonville, Fla., gives thanks for having “a child who does road trips well.”

While Jennifer Miner, of TheVacationGals.com, is thankful that this year herdaughters will be spending their Thanksgiving vacation with their great-grandmother. “She lives 3,000 miles away and Thanksgiving air travel is a notorious hassle — but it is worth it just knowing that four generations of my family will be able to spend this time together.”

A lot of people this year are dismayed at losing their jobs, but not Mandy Murphy of Devon, Pa. She’s thankful for having lost her job. “Otherwise I wouldn’t have had the time to take a trip around the world with my cancer-surviving younger brother.”

And Anne Witkavitch is thankful for “the dreary afternoon in October when my oldest sister, a teacher and traveler, sat with my children and shared with them her tale about climbing Mount Fuji two summers ago. She died of cancer recently but has left them with the knowledge that the world is theirs to explore no matter what challenges may get in the way.”

In Montpelier, Vt., Karen Kane is thankful this year for her enduring connections with friends abroad. “I travel to France frequently for business and make it a point to spend time with friends and acquaintances once my work is done. Because we don't see each other often, we're extra glad to spend time together. Our visits are short, but rich — we always have news and fresh perspectives to share.”

Twenty-eight-year-old Brettan Bablove of San Diego, gives thanks for her parents who took her and her brother “on a good ol’ family vacation — just like when we were kids! We took a week-long cruise to Alaska that was not only ultra-relaxing, we got to see breathtaking glaciers, amazing wildlife (whales! bald eagles!), and beautiful scenery every day.”

And Celeste White, of Monterey, Calif., is just thankful for being able to connect with long lost friends and family members this year via Facebook, “so I don’t have to write cheesy Christmas cards!”

This and that
Professional surfer Mary Osborne is thankful for the ocean, which has changed her life and her career.

Wende Gray, of Bethel, Maine, appreciates her friend in Portland, Maine, who not only shares space in her car garage but provides rides to and from the airport, saving Gray lots of time and money.

Erin Petrie of Seattle is thankful for being able to find a great pet boarding company for her puppy, who is not invited to Thanksgiving dinner this year.

Mariesa Stokes is feeling mighty thankful for the travel insurance that her husband bought. “We booked our honeymoon about 10 months before our wedding and 5 weeks before the big day I broke my foot,” she said. Her foot didn’t heal, she had to have surgery and the original trip was canceled. Thanks to the insurance, the couple got their money back.

Finally, we get to Barbara Farfan’s long list of things she’s thankful for. In addition to electric outlets in coach and first-class airplane seats that allow her to plug in her laptop, moving sidewalks, and “chivalrous fellow passengers” who offer to hoist a bag into an overhead bin, Farfan is thankful for “the ability to travel freely in and out of this country and without restrictions inside of this country. It's something that I never take for granted.”

Harriet Baskas writes msnbc.com's popular weekly column, The Well-Mannered Traveler. She is the author of the “Stuck at the Airport” blog, and a columnist for USATODAY.com.You can follow her on Twitter.

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