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Travelers, is there anything to be thankful for?

Falling gas prices, new airport runways and terminals, books on tape, and more — well-mannered travelers share what they're grateful for.
Image: Travelers get out of a cab at LaGuardia Airport
The number of travelers over the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday will be down sharply this year, but downsized airlines and unpopular bag check fees may mean no fewer headaches than a year ago.Shannon Stapleton / Reuters

The economy may be tanking, but right now a tank of gas costs way less than it did last year at this time. As I prep for my Thanksgiving trek, I’m thankful for that. Travel-wise, this year, I’m also grateful for:

City bus drivers who wait a few extra seconds before pulling away from the curb so that folks running for the bus can hop on; states that have saved lives by passing laws requiring hands-free headsets for drivers using cell phones — and for the states that will soon do so; TSA-approved laptop cases, airports with free wireless Internet access, and the blossoming of free power charging stations in the terminals and; the United Airlines ticket counter agents at the Montreal Airport who went way out of their way this past summer to help me get a retiring guide-dog to her adopted family in Seattle.

This past year I was also delighted to find healthy dining options at airports; truly quiet “quiet cars” on commuter trains; and plenty of smoke-free hotel rooms that, once I was all settled in, didn’t turn out to smell like smoke after all.

My list could go on — and on. But, thankfully, plenty of well-mannered travelers have their own travel gratitude to share: 

Travelers give thanks for ...
Frequent traveler Dan Brown gives thanks for lower fuel surcharges and fewer people traveling, due to the economy. He says now its easier for him to get free upgrades.

“When it comes to travel,” says Kevin T. from Philadelphia, “This year, I give thanks for ... Imodium! I never considered Imodium (or any other medicine) as a travel must-have until my recent cruise to South America. Between the foods at the buffet on the ship and the water in Belize, my guts were in knots!”

Travel writer Tim Leffel gives thanks for a stronger U.S. dollar which “has made Canada reasonable again; made European costs more bearable; and made countries like Mexico and Thailand an even better bargain than they were before.”

Anne Fritz gives thanks that Jet Blue's new Terminal 5 at JFK “brings back a touch of glamour to the drudgery of today's airport travel.”

And Gayle Keck of San Francisco is among the many travelers who give thanks for Southwest Airlines, “because they have resisted the trend to add sneaky fees for luggage, seat choice, drinks and other infuriating stealth charges.”

The newly opened runway at Chicago O’Hare International Airport is a blessing for road warrior Jeff Tobe, who is “praying it cuts down on waiting-on-the-runway time.”

Orlando resident Sarah Layton is grateful that she can travel anywhere she wants to at any time she wants to, and gives thanks for “the workers — from mechanics to the pilots — who make it safe to travel,” and for the fact that “most screaming babies eventually get exhausted and fall asleep.”

Travelers give thanks for ... modern technology
Lots of travelers are thankful this year for advances in technology. D. Kent Pingel, currently criss-crossing the country blogging about wireless connectivity, is grateful that laptops are getting lighter and lighter and that the Internet follows him everywhere.

Bill Begel, from Rockville, Md., is thankful for noise-canceling headphones. He says he cannot fly “one hour, cross country, or transatlantic without them!”

Douglas Wolk, of Portland, Ore., gives thanks for the “airplane" mode on his iPhone, while Frani Lieberman of Upper Montclair, N.J. gives thanks for the fact that the Blackberry has an off button, that the news is accessible online, and that it takes “just a click” to check in with family and friends. 

The new rolling bags with wheels that pivot please Adrian Miller of Port Washington, N.Y., and says, “[They] make us rollers more adept at running through the lounges and aisles and getting where we need to be when we need to be there.”

Dawn Sullivan of Scottsdale, Ariz., is thankful for books on tape, her iPod, soft and cuddly travel wear, and easy slip-on/slip-off shoes ...”

Lower gas prices (when driving) and noise-canceling headphones (when flying) have helped out Andy Aldridge of Charlotte, N.C., but so have “halfway-nice TSA agents. Just a little bit of an effort to be nice is much appreciated!”

And Rosalind Miller Choice of New Jersey is grateful for the many Web sites that offer discount airline tickets. “I appreciate the ability to compare prices and terms, and then choose what suits my travel needs.”

Travelers are thankful for ... sensible solutions
Travelers everywhere are appreciative of the self-select security lanes that the TSA rolled out this year at airports nationwide. Those lanes may be contributing to what Harriet Cohen of Agoura Hills, Calif., describes as the “humor and general goodwill” she’s experienced in security lines at the airport: “The majority of people seem to agree that the rules, etc., are ridiculous, but most people are courteous and helpful.”

Los Angeles resident Kim Allen-Niesen gives thanks for the friendly people in line to check baggage, pass through security, and buy coffee at airports: “I've had some amusing conversations that help pass what otherwise could be time spent being irritated. The lines are unavoidable, but I've learned to make the best of them by chatting with people I'll never see again.”

Travelers give thanks for … the big picture
The frustrations that go along with traveling get some people down. But stepping back a bit, Tom Adkinson of Pigeon Forge, Tenn., gives thanks for “people who understand the bond-building, psychologically beneficial value of going somewhere—anywhere—with their families, despite the economy”, and using travel as a way to “make memories for the future.”

Tara Kennon of Chicago is grateful to “all the lovely friends and family who welcome me to show up in places I might otherwise not visit.”

And Lourdes Brezo of Miami, Fla., gives thanks for frequent flyer miles “and the many ways we can earn them.” She recently used her miles to give her parents their dream trip to Vancouver, in celebration of her dad's successful quintuple by-pass and their 50th wedding anniversary. 

Oregonian Carol White is pleased thatmoderating gas prices allow travelers like her to “take to the roads again and see our own beautiful, mesmerizing, fabulous country,” while Cheryl Heiks, from Delaware, gives thanks for the ability to easily change her environment. She says, “When I travel, I gain energy, wake up my body from the same old routine, and come back home with a greater appreciation for my family and my own bed.”

Good seatmates are gratifying to Patti Wood, from Atlanta, Ga., who's discovered that “People seem to be taking the crowded airplanes and travel delays with enormous grace. After traveling every week for 28 years, I am amazed that a conversation about storing a bag in too small space under too small a seat can lead to such great conversations.”

And world traveler Patrick Floor is happy that so much of his travel has reduced the size of the world “to what I consider one large city with each neighborhood made up of different nationalities.”

Travelers give thanks for … not traveling
In general, most well-mannered travelers agree that it’s still great to travel. But this holiday season, folks like Debbi Glade are just as happy not be traveling at all. “I live in South Florida,” she says, “home to the best winter weather in the USA.”

And in Phoenix, Ariz., Tisha Diffie is thankful that, for now, travel is “the problem of everyone else but me! We're staying home!”

So, travel-wise, this year, what are you thankful for?

Harriet Baskas writes's popular weekly column, The Well-Mannered Traveler. She is the author of the , a contributor to National Public Radio and a columnist for