Most Expensive Turkey Day: Travel and Food Costs Highest Ever

VIDEO: Travel and food prices have risen, making this year the most expensive ever.

                                                                                                                    AP Photos

ABC News’ John Berman and Daisha Riley report:

Thanksgiving is about family, but whether or not you like your family: tough turkey. That could actually qualify as an economic term for 2011, because every part of Thanksgiving – all of it – is going to cost you more this year.

With 42 million Americans hitting the road or taking to the skies this week for the Thanksgiving holiday, many are in for a big surprise because the cost of celebrating the holiday has shot up.

The typical family looking to travel this holiday season will see hikes in airfares, gasoline and even the traditional Thanksgiving bird.

For the family that thinks they’ll save a bundle by driving to the family feast, taking the family car might be the wrong choice. Gas prices have risen about 50 cents per gallon from last year’s rates.

But if it’s a long-distance journey, perhaps the typical family of four can ditch the family car and think about flying to make their turkey dinner. That might be tough turkey, too, because airfares are up more than 10 percent from last year’s rates

Jeanenne Tornatore, senior editor for, said the smart action to take, as usual, is to book in advance.

“Typically, as you get closer to the holiday period, the travel prices do increase, because it is such a compact travel weekend and travelers are going to be traveling over such a short period,” she said.

And what about hotel rooms for the parents who can’t put the entire family up on grandpa and grandma’s couch? Well they’ll be hit again, as hotel prices are up nearly 5 percent in 2011 from last year’s prices.

If you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner and avoiding travel this year, never fear, you’ll be hit, too. The Farm Bureau estimates the cost of the classic Thanksgiving dinner is up 13 percent from last year: The cost of a turkey is now up $3, pumpkin pie is up 41 cents and stuffing is up 24 cents.

Wondering why? Rising fuel prices.  The cost of gasoline ultimately affects everything that gets transported to store shelves.

Because it’s probably too late for this year, it’s important to remember for the 2012 holiday that travelers who buy tickets early, by at least a month. And it might pay to leave early. Websites indicate that the cheapest fares are Tuesday afternoons after 3 p.m.

And if you’re hosting, the same goes for the food. Those non-perishable items are a lot cheaper before the Thanksgiving rush.

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