For many people, their first encounter with that post-Christmas reality came Sunday on the trip home.
The scene was a familiar one for the travelers at Raleigh-Durham International Airport. RDU was packed with cars and people as thousands came home to the Triangle. But this time, travelers jockeyed for position to grab their bags packed full of Christmas gifts.
"Now I'm just trying to find out where my luggage is," said one traveler returning home from the holidays.
Jackie Thornton is among the travelers glad to be back home. She says she didn't know a jet could get off the ground so loaded down with passengers and packages.
"It was lots of packages and people saying things like, 'oh yes, this microwave is cary-on,' but it wasn't," said Thornton.
The planes may have been crowded, but the airport was a much better scene than it was on Christmas Eve. That night, the icy weather made for long lines in the terminal, cancelled flights and a lot of stranded passengers.
Jackie McCrory made it through the trip out Christmas Eve. The trip home, she said, was smoother.
"We got here okay, but now we've been waiting on our bags for 30 minutes," said McCrory.
It is estimated that about 45 million people traveled 100 miles or more to get to their Christmas destination.