Being President of the United States of America is probably best characterized as being one of the most stressful jobs in the world. It is not surprising that Presidents as far back as Madison to current President Obama have pushed the envelope when it comes to presidential vacations. Theodore Roosevelt changed presidential vacations to not just being times for rest and relaxation, as he was the first to coin the term “working while on vacation” as President. Former first lady, Nancy Reagan, has been quoted as stating it best with “Presidents don’t get vacations-they just get a change of scenery. The job goes with you.” Putting political parties aside, criticism over vacationing Presidents is nothing new in history. However, their trips have become more lavish since Theodore Roosevelt’s days in the oval office. Highlighted below are Presidents that received the most attention regarding their vacations while serving their time in the White House.
9. James Madison
James Madison was the first U.S. President to set the bar high when it came to taking time off from his duties at the White House. In June of 1816 Madison was able to leave Washington D.C. for four months in order to return to his large Montpelier estate in Orange County, Virginia for a little rest and relaxation. After fighting the War of 1812, which consisted of the British invading Maryland and Washington D.C., Madison had helped the country persevere as the nation’s fourth President. It was during the War of 1812 where the British forces destroyed the White House and the Capitol building, thus efforts of rebuilding began when all was done in 1816. The President did not return to Washington until October of that year.
8. Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt served as the United States’ 26th President and was the first to say that he was “working” while on vacation. In the summer of 1902, Roosevelt not only packed up his family, but also the White House staff to set up a new base at his home in Oyster Bay, New York. He was the first president to ever bring along an entire entourage of staffers in order to continue working matters at his summer home. It was at his home in Oyster Bay that Roosevelt enjoyed outdoor activities such as rowing, tennis and watching his children play in obstacle races. It was not only to Oyster Bay that Roosevelt traveled to during his vacations, he also enjoyed visiting Yellowstone and Yosemite. It was in Roosevelt’s second term that his wife, Edith purchased a small clapboard house in the woods of Charlottesville, Virginia which was named Pine Knot and was a place for the Roosevelt’s to bird watch and hunt.
7. William Howard Taft
As the United States’ 27th President, William Howard Taft, received a lot of criticism during his time in office, as many believed he was preoccupied by his extracurricular activities which included playing golf. He was the first President to receive a travel allowance, which had been allocated to him by congress and with it he traveled over 150,000 miles during his first term. Taft’s many excursions included visiting his summer retreat in Beverly, Massachusetts, where he could play the 18-hole golf course at the nearby Myopia Hunt Club. Taft has been noted as the first President to publicize his love for golf, making it a very popular sport within the nation during his term. Besides, golf, Taft also enjoyed professional baseball and he was the one to start the tradition of the president throwing out the first ball during the season’s opening day.
6. John F. Kennedy
While there are not any official recorded dates of President John F. Kennedy taking any vacation days, photos prove otherwise. President Kennedy and his family were known to go to their “Winter White House” which was located in Palm Beach, Fla. The beachfront home was 15,000 square feet that was originally built in 1925 and sold to the President’s father, Joseph F. Kennedy for $120,000 in 1933. President Kennedy never officially owned the property, although he and his family visited the home often to enjoy leisurely activities such as tanning on the beach and playing tennis. In May of 2014, the home was put on the market at an asking price of $38.5 million. The Kennedy clan also enjoyed visiting their Cape Cod home and taking trips on their yacht, The Honey Fitz which was named by Kennedy after his maternal grandfather’s nickname. The Honey Fitz was actually the presidential yacht for five presidents. However Kennedy made it most known during his term in office.
5. Ronald Reagan
While Ronald Reagan served as the 40th president of the United States he received some harsh criticism about how many vacation days he had taken. It has been estimated that during his eight year term, Reagan took a total of 355 vacation days. While a lot of those days accounted for his time spent on his beloved ranch in Santa Barbara, Calif., Reagan also enjoyed taking trips to tropical paradises. One of Reagan’s most controversial vacation trips was when he and Nancy decided to take a trip to Barbados for Easter in 1982. The trip totaled an estimated $3.5 million, which caused some disdain from the public since unemployment for the United States was at a whopping 9.3 percent. It was reported that the Reagan’s tropical getaway would be hosted by Hollywood actress, Claudette Colbert, although White House officials had talked the then President into meeting a few government officials while down there in order to say there was some work being done.
4. George H. W. Bush
When George H.W. Bush was president of the United States, it was reported that he had taken 543 vacation days in four years. Bush spent most of his time at his family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine. The compound is loaded with its own golf green, a boat dock and a security guard building for the Secret Service. Bush frequently partook in outdoor activities such as fishing, jogging two miles and going for a speedboat ride. The compound has been said to have been visited by Margaret Thatcher, Vladimir Putin and French President, Nicholas Sarkozy.
3. Bill Clinton
When Bill Clinton was President, he didn’t receive much criticism for his vacation days as he only took 152 days off during his eight years in the White House. The Clinton’s favorite venue for vacationing included, Martha’s Vineyard and the Hamptons. Although in the summer of 1996 when the Clinton’s were preparing to visit one of their favorite family vacation spots by the ocean, they were told that it would be best if they avoided high-end places such as those. His re-election campaign was coming up and the polls were showing how the public began to resent presidents who were able to vacation in such posh locations. Thus, the Clinton’s choose to vacation in Jackson Hole, Wyo. where Clinton could be portrayed as a middle-class family man.
2. George W. Bush
Former President, George W. Bush holds the record for taking the most vacation days while in the White House in the past 36 years. Bush spent 1,020 days away from the oval office, visiting his family compound in Maine, Camp David, which is the presidential retreat in Maryland and his Crawford ranch in Texas. Bush was just six months into his administration when he decided to take a month long vacation at his ranch in Texas, where he said he would be doing a “little fishing…a little policy.” Bush believed that his time in Texas allowed him to hear directly from the American people, not to mention the enjoyable downtime the he could have on the 1,600-acre ranch. While the total of 1,020 days did not consist of the then President, gallivanting around in various activities, he indeed was away from the White House back in Washington D.C.
1. Barack Obama
As far as the data goes, current President, Barack Obama, has taken 15 vacation trips adding up to a total of 96 days as of August 13, 2013. President Obama came under fire from the media when it was announced that he would be taking a vacation to Africa that would cost close to $100 million. Of course, White House officials had made statements that the President would be meeting world leaders down there, as the trip was not exclusively for some R&R. However, the trip was compared to former President Bill Clinton’s 1998 Africa trip that cost around half of what President Obama’s cost at $43 million. This past March, President Obama received more flack for taking a weekend vacation in a highly exclusive resort in the Florida Keys. It was reported that the President enjoyed two rounds of golf at the Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo where the members there have to hold a net worth of $35 million to join.
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