Some travelers hunkered down and waited, while others looked for a new way home.
Orbitz said car rates jumped 14 percent in New York from last week. Rates jumped even higher in Boston and Washington, including a 50 percent spike in Philadelphia.
Orbitz said hotel room rates rose 55 percent in Newark, where cancellations accelerated earlier than other New York-area airports. They rose 9 percent in one week in Washington, but fell 8 percent in Boston and New York City.
Some travelers figured they could do better the further away they got from the coast.
Wedding photographer Josh Saran was in Washington D.C. to shoot a Saturday wedding. His Southwest flight home to Seattle was canceled, so he rented a car and headed toward Columbus, Ohio. When snow closed the highway, he turned his rented Chevy Aveo toward Pittsburgh to catch a US Airways flight.
"I have a really loving and smart girlfriend in Seattle that sits in front of a computer and calls the airlines and sees where I can go," he said.
Airline reservations systems are so complex that one department might cancel a flight even while a reservations worker is trying to shift a traveler onto that same flight, said Joe Brancatelli, a travel expert who runs a newsletter for business travelers.
Travelers don't have any choice but to be patient, he said.
"Where are they gonna go? They hate United today, they go to Delta next week," he said. "Delta screws them, they go to American, and then it's a big circle."
Elaine Kurtenbach in Tokyo, Youkyung Lee in Seoul, Kelvin Chan in Hong Kong, Thomas Adamson in Paris and Alan Clendenning in Madrid contributed to this report.
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