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-elect Trump has options when vacation time comes around, as he owns homes in several different locations, including estates in Florida and New York. He may also make quick trips to New York City to visit his wife and youngest son, who will be staying there at least until the end of the school year.
Given the pressures of the office, Farris said, presidents deserve to fit in a little fun and downtime in between their presidential duties.
“All these guys come out of the office gray,” he said, referring to their hair color. “I think they deserve a little recreation.”