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Over The River & Through The Woods

Ticketholders queue up to get through the security checkpoint in the terminal of Denver International Airport late Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2005, as travelers get an early start ot their Thanksgiving Day weekend destinations. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
AP
If you're traveling this Thanksgiving holiday, you've got plenty of company and chances are, they'll be right near your bumper - or your elbow, if you are one of the many looking to board a plane for your holiday destination.

CBS News correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi reports that the highest Thanksgiving gas prices ever aren't expected to keep travelers from driving either. As one traveler put it, "Grandma doesn't care how much it costs to fill up or how long it takes to get there."

If you're flying, you have lots to think about: what to pack — and leave behind — what to wear and how early to get to the airport.

Tight security, new technology and airlines' financial woes are making air travel more complicated than ever this Thanksgiving, when many travelers take their one big trip of the year.

To compound the problem, more people are flying and fewer planes are being added to the mix, reports CBS News correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi. Typically, about 70 percent of seats are filled. This year, it's more like 95 percent.

For the infrequent flyer, there's much to remember even before leaving home. There's the Transportation Security Administration's list of items that can't go into the passenger cabin, such as scissors, small knives and cigarette lighters.

Don't forget to wear sensible footwear, like loafers, since you'll have to take off your shoes to go through security.

Don't carry wrapped presents on the plane — security will unwrap them to see what's inside. Don't plan on saying goodbye to family or friends at the gate — people without boarding passes are not allowed past the security check.

In an effort to keep the security lines moving quickly, the TSA has put together a checklist to remind passengers to leave prohibited items at home and to dress sensibly.

Forgetting to leave behind a pen knife can result in a patdown, a stern letter from the government and even a fine.

At some airports, there's an added penalty if you don't get through security early enough: you'll miss your flight if you aren't at the gate 30 minutes beforehand.

Carl Willis, a ticket agent at American Airlines, said air travelers have had a hard time adjusting to the 30-minute cutoff.

"A lot of people don't make it," he said.

All the rules mean more opportunities for inexperienced passengers to gum up the works during the busiest travel time of the year. The Air Transport Association, which represents major airlines, predicts 21.7 million people will fly on U.S. airlines over the Thanksgiving travel season between Nov. 19 and Nov. 29, slightly more than the record number that took to the air a year ago. The peak travel time starts Tuesday night.

Ron Luczak flies a good deal as marketing director for The Travel Team, a Buffalo, N.Y.-based travel management company. On Veterans Day, he spent an hour and 20 minutes in the security line at Buffalo Niagara International Airport. He was, he said, behind infrequent travelers who didn't know that they had to take off their shoes, belts and jackets — and forgot to shed other metal — before walking through the metal detectors.

"There was mutiny," Luczak said. "People were going to the front of the line saying, 'I'm going to miss my flight,' but so was everyone else."

Part of the problem, he said, was that the airlines didn't have enough staff to call the names of people who were about to miss their flights and give them priority.

That may be because cash-strapped airlines have been trimming employees to cut costs. From December 2000 to December 2004, the number of airline employees fell 19 percent, from 525,137 to 424,312, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.