During his eight years in office, President Obama took full advantage of vacation time, a vast majority of which was on the taxpayer's dime. So how much in the end did all the trips to Hawaii, Martha's Vineyard, and Florida cost us? McClatchy DC's Anita Kumar did some calculating and arrived at some rather stunning numbers, including the grand total: $85 million.
"As America’s first family enjoys its eighth and final vacation in Hawaii, new estimates put the price tag of the Obamas’ annual trip at $3.5 million or more," writes Kumar. "In total, the cost of the the first family’s personal or largely personal travel during the last eight years comes to $85 million – though that is likely to climb to $90 million after additional records are released, according to the conservative group Judicial Watch based on federal government records."
So how in the world did he rack up such a bill? The exorbitant costs of Air Force One (nearly $180,000 per hour), for starters, then add all the security costs, as Kumar notes, "helicopters, cargo planes, armored cars, Secret Service protection and advance, communications and medical staff." Throw on the costs of the Obamas' location of choice, Hawaii, and you get millions and millions billed to taxpayers.
Unlike George W. Bush, who actually vacationed more than Obama, the outgoing president's vacations were not to his own property. Bush would frequently travel to his Texas ranch, where security would reportedly sleep in trailers, and thus saved costs for taxpayers. President-elect Donald Trump is also expected to save some costs by largely vacationing at his own resorts.
With Obama's current 11-day trip to Hawaii included (a trip which began Dec. 23 and is expected to end Jan. 2), he took a total of 29 vacations, which spanned all or part of 228 days – or an average of just under a month of vacation time a year.
Kumar compares that to Bush's vacation record, which Knoller says included 77 visits to his Texas ranch, which spanned all or part of 490 days, as well as 11 visits to his parent's home in Kennebunkport, Maine, adding another 43 days, totaling 533 days. (The Washington Post falsely claimed Bush took 879 days of vacation.)
Some more details on Obama's vacation costs provided by Kumar via Judicial Watch's records requests:
Judicial Watch recently received records revealing that Secret Service expenses for the first family’s 2015 Hawaiian vacation cost taxpayers $1.2 million, bringing the total cost of the vacation trip to at least $4.8 million.
Secret Service costs included $1 million for lodging, $166,000 on 103 car rentals and $68,000 for air and rail expenses. In response to another recent public records request about the 2015 trip, the Air Force revealed that it costs $180,118 per hour to fly and operate the president’s plane, Air Force One.
Judicial Watch has been trying to calculate the price tag of Obama personal trips for years through public records requests. It recently received records on Obama’s trips to New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles and Palm City, Florida, in 2014 and 2015 in which he raised money, campaigned and golfed. The group says the cost was $286,000 solely for Secret Service travel and accommodations.
The Obama White House, like previous White Houses, pushes back on the vacation figures, maintaining that the president is never really off the clock, often performing important work outside the confines of Washington.