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Economy Makes For Tougher Thanksgiving Journeys

The storm forced Chris McLaughlin, a 22-year-old senior at Boston College from West Chester, Penn., to reschedule a medical school interview in Philadelphia, which means he has to make an extra trip home next month. He ended up flying home for Thanksgiving on Wednesday, and all told, the change of plans will set him back about $200, he said.

"It killed me," he said of the financial impact of the storm, which also left his parents without power for eight days. "I think we were feeling we could loosen up a little bit (financially), but with Sandy and everything that happened, (people) feel like they can't."

If the nation's travel patterns are any kind of barometer for the state of the economy, the travel forecast for Thanksgiving week suggested a slight upward nudge as people and businesses recover slowly from the 2007-09 recession in which Americans lost nearly a quarter of their wealth.

About 43.6 million Americans were expected to journey 50 miles or more between Wednesday and Sunday, just a 0.7 percent increase from last year, according to AAA's yearly Thanksgiving travel analysis. After a couple of years of healthy post-recession growth, this year's numbers suggest it will take a stronger economy to lift travel demand significantly, the travel organization said.

More people are driving, fewer are flying and the average distance traveled was expected to be nearly 17 percent â¿¿ or about 120 miles â¿¿ shorter than a year ago, it said.

As car ownership declines among younger Americans, many of those hitting the road were jumping onto buses. Intercity bus service has risen in recent years with curbside companies like Megabus.

At a Greyhound terminal in downtown Denver, Eileen Lindbuchler, a 32-year-old massage therapist was hauling her bulky massage table through the line to board a bus. She uses her iPhone to coordinate bus schedules and connecting routes, and believes ditching her car this year for the 65-mile journey to visit family in Colorado Springs will save her money.

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