"I think people are really becoming smarter, more creative travelers and shoppers," Scott said.
That's a necessity for many, given that airfare is up 9 percent from Thanksgiving last year, bumping the average domestic roundtrip to $386, according to Travelocity.
Some with large families say that means flying would break the bank, so they are hitting the road.
Linne Katz, 46, and her five children were among them, leaving their home in Haledon, N.J., at 1 a.m. Wednesday in hopes of getting to her father's home in Tennessee while the sun was still up. But driving has some downsides, she said.
"My oldest keeps having to go the bathroom. ... I think he's getting carsick," Katz said, as she stopped to take pictures of her children under the "Virginia Welcomes You" sign at an I-66 rest stop near the Manassas National Battlefield.
Others said they haven't changed their habits, but they're not feeling good about them.
"I'm not cutting back in any identifiable place, but you feel guilty about every other dollar," said Chad Werner, a 38-year-old finance attorney who was munching on a pastry in the atrium of Atlanta's airport while waiting for his flight to Albuquerque, N.M. "I'm also buying a house right now, so I'm in that phase of hemorrhaging money anyway. So maybe my mindset is different."