In what has become something of an annual pre-Thanksgiving tradition, the latest survey of people’s travel plans this year shows a slight increase in the number of people who plan to travel by car, along with a rather sharp decline in those traveling to their turkey dinner by plane.

These surveys can offer a useful picture of the health of the economy, the affordability of gasoline, and maybe even the state of the American family. But it is also possible that we get carried away interpreting the annual data and overlook the larger point: Travel is something we’ve all come to take for granted.

Some might call it a right. Others see it as a privilege, or even a luxury. Some will scrape together the spare change around the house to pay for a 200-mile drive. Others won’t think twice about flying their entire family across the country.

And yes, some people have decided that they cannot afford to travel this year. It’s a sign of the tough economy we are all still struggling under, as well as a reminder that reasonably affordable travel is not a guarantee, even here in America where families scattered around the country tend to trust that they can all come together during the holidays.

In many ways, whether we stick with familiar territory or seek to discover new places, we live the way we travel: some on a small scale, others with grand plans.

But for the most part, even those of more modest means do travel a fair amount. Just the fact that we seriously review the shifting trends in travel by plane, train and automobile, show how fortunate we are to have so many options for getting around.

Whether you’re braving the crowds and the traffic this Thanksgiving, or staying close to home, we hope you enjoy a happy holiday with family, friends and food. As we give thanks for all these big things that make our lives rich and meaningful, remember too that the convenience of affordable travel makes all of our days run more smoothly.