Even the president of the United States needs to have some time away from the office, though presidential vacations are not like those of ordinary Americans.
While the president and first family get a ride to their vacation spot on Air Force One, they never really escape the job — or the people that come with it. Modern presidents travel with about 200 people, including Secret Service agents, military advisers, communications staff and a group of reporters and photographers.
As former first lady Nancy Reagan once said, “Presidents don’t get vacations — they just get a change of scenery.”
Presidents still receive national security briefings, hold press conferences and communicate with other world leaders. In most ways it’s like any other day on the job — just with better views.
“They’re lucky to get a couple of hours where they can genuinely relax,” said Scott Farris, author of Kennedy & Reagan: Why Their Legacies Endure. “It’s very rare that they can go a whole day without being asked to make a decision about something important.”
In fact, some moments that defined presidencies took place while the commander in chief was on vacation. During a 10-day fishing trip in 1940, Franklin Roosevelt developed the plan that provided Britain with money to fight the Nazis before America entered World War II. Ronald Reagan signed sweeping legislation cutting taxes and the federal budget from his ranch in California.
Presidential vacation spots change along with the occupant of the Oval Office. Presidents Reagan and George W. Bush liked to spend time on their ranches. Presidents Obama and Clinton favored Martha’s Vineyard, a Massachusetts island, for their summer vacations. Farris said the island’s popularity was in part because the Secret Service could secure large parts of the island, allowing the first family a degree of freedom they wouldn’t be able to enjoy in other locations.
President Trump usually vacationed at his properties in Florida and New Jersey, where he could play golf. President Biden and his family enjoy spending time at their home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, where they like to visit the beach and ride their bikes.
Given the pressures of the office, Farris said, “I think they deserve a little recreation.”
A version of this article was previously published December 28, 2016.
Banner image: President Bush drives his pickup truck at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, Friday, Aug. 9, 2002, where he is vacationing for nearly a month. At Crawford, the President said, "I'm able to clear my mind and it helps me put it all in perspective". (AP Photo/The White House, Eric Draper)
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