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Which First Lady Flies Highest? Michelle vs. Laura

Diana Oprinescu
July 9, 2013

With the attention Michelle Obama has received for her various trips – and they no doubt have cost taxpayers some significant chunks of change – you might be surprised at the results of National Taxpayers Union Foundation’s (NTUF’s) peek into our two most recent First Ladies’ international travelling habits.

Michelle Obama has already travelled 72 days abroad up to this point. Certainly not an insignificant total, and her first term tally of 55 days abroad is more than President Reagan spent abroad in his first term.

Yet, Michelle’s two-term travel record will almost assuredly fail to keep pace with Laura Bush’s record-setting feat.

The former First Lady racked up a two-term total of 212 days abroad. Her second term included 135 days of international travel, which is more time than her husband, George W. Bush, spent abroad during the same time period!

In fact, if you compare Laura Bush to the Presidents, she is currently the third most internationally traveled of that group, behind Bill Clinton and her husband – though President Obama will likely push her back to fourth in a few years.

Michelle Obama's international travel stats:

Michelle Obama International Travel Foreign Trips Countries Visited Number of Days
2009 5 10 25
2010 3 6 14*
2011 3 7 16
2012 0 0 0
2013** 3 6 17***
Total 14 25**** 72

And Laura Bush's:

Laura Bush International Travel Foreign Trips Countries Visited Number of Days
2001 2 9 16
2002 5 13 25
2003 5 15 20
2004 5 9 16
2005 9 25 39
2006 7 17 25
2007 5 20 29
2008 8 27 42
Total 46 73* 212

There was not enough data to pursue a second-term projection for Michelle Obama at this time. However, more in-depth analysis on First Lady travel will be featured in a future study.

Mrs. Obama's trip log thus far:



Countries Visited

Number of Days



March 31-April 5

UK, France, Germany, Czech Republic


First presidential trip to Europe. Michelle Obama accompanied POTUS

June 5 – June 11

France, UK


Vacation with her two daughters. Used the C-32 to fly there

July 6 – 11

Russia, Italy, Vatican, and Ghana


Accompanied POTUS on an official tour

September 30 – October 2



Accompanied POTUS, but arrived there before he did (they traveled on separate planes)

December 9 – 11



Accompanied POTUS to the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony


April  13-15

Haiti, Mexico


First solo international trip as First Lady




Personal trip with one of her daughters. Used the C-32.

November 6-11

India, Indonesia, Germany


Accompanied POTUS to India and Indonesia, but decided to return to the U.S. before the President (Obama went on to visit South Korea and Japan). However, she made a one-day surprise stop in Germany to celebrate Veterans’ Day.


March 18-23

Brazil, Chile, and El Salvador


Accompanied POTUS on an official tour

May 23-26

Ireland, UK


Accompanied the President, but returned to the US by herself (Obama went on to visit France)

June 21-26

Botswana, South Africa


Her second solo international trip as First Lady. Used the C-32 (Judicial Watch calculated the total cost to American taxpayers: $424,142 for use of the aircraft)


No trips abroad. Spent her vacation in Colorado and Hawaii.



The Bahamas


Spring break trip with her daughters. The Secret Service and her spokesperson refused to provide any details, but media reports show that the First Lady and her daughters spent at least six days there (March 24-29)

June 17-19

UK, Germany


The First Lady and her two daughters accompanied POTUS

June 26-July 3

Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania


Family trip to the African continent

Regardless of their political affiliations, the international travel records of First Ladies present a transparency issue for taxpayers that are separate and distinct from those of Presidents. This is especially true as it appears that more and trips are being taken separately from Presidential spouses. For the time being, however, Mrs. Bush’s list of trips will remain in first place.

Note: Compiled from White House, First Lady’s schedule, and media reports. Because this data and information was collected from a variety of sources, from official White House schedules to media reports, exact time of arrival and departure is not always available and day totals are determined according to the best of the information available. Also, it is possible a First Lady took an additional trip that could be considered international that might not be included.

*Includes the number of days she spent on a personal vacation to Spain

**Up until July 3, 2013

***According to various media reports, Michelle Obama and her two daughters spent their spring break in the Bahamas. The Secret Service and the First Lady’s spokesperson refused to provide any details regarding the trip – the number of days they spent there was not confirmed by official sources; however, according to the media, they arrived around March 24 and left on March 29.

**** Unique countries


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User Comments

Submitted by Anonymous at: August 16, 2014
“ The writer would have referred to other published reports to collect data for the story, but the information collected was duly verified from other industry sources before the story was published. learn Poker

Submitted by No One Important at: March 21, 2014
Wow, attempting to justify Michelle's latest boondoggle? Why no press? Because this is another "Spain" debacle (125 people)? Michelle scammed the taxpayers by declaring her daughter an "advisor" so they didn't have reimburse for those costs for the Spain trip. Why are daughters going on an "official" trip then? And her mother? Who are the 70 people on this trip? Are we going to get stiffed for this, too? How are these 70 people classified? Stop trying to justify the "queen" behavior. This is the quintessential "let them eat cake" behavior. There's no excuse. And no mention of the Hawaii trips, sending AF-1 for Bo, and flying empty back to Hawaii just to pick her up . . . .

Submitted by Theron G at: March 21, 2014
Oh, well that makes it ok then, because the Bush's took FAR mor vacations. Maybe they inherited that as well.

Submitted by Comments missing the point at: March 21, 2014
One of the reasons we don't know too much about the Bush family travel is that a lot of that info was never released. We may never know because the Bushs didn't want us to know. There's no fathomable reason to believe that the cost of the Obama trips are much more expensive than the Bush trips. The Clinton Africa trip cost around 50mil, and the Obama Africa trip was between 60-100mil, so the Bush trip was definitely somewhere in between-but we don't know because they wouldn't tell us. We do know, however, that taking AF-1 to and from Crawford cost a cool quarter million, and that doesn't include all the stops in between.

Submitted by Sam I Am 2010 at: March 20, 2014
Unfortunately, the author of this article either forgot how to add, or stopped counting once a certain number was reached. Mrs. Laura Bush took a total of "135" trips to other countries during their 8 year term in office. Her figures still exceed Mrs. Obama's numbers during her first 5 years. If comparisons are going to be made and your desire is to report the information to the public without "bias," you must honestly report the information to give everyone an opportunity to make decisions based on facts. The author failed to give a breakdown of Mrs. Bush's itinerary for every trip she made (including who accompanied her.) There must be "UNBIASED REPORTING" on all of the facts presented.

Submitted by peepeehead at: March 20, 2014
How about total vacations, not just "international" way to skew numbers

Submitted by lp4491 at: March 19, 2014
I can deal with the "official" trips. It's the personal trips i.e. France/England,Spain, Hawaii, Bahamas, Mexico birthday bash, Africa, ski trips. They should at least get a 1099 for taxes.

Submitted by GRahare at: March 19, 2014
Laura bush took Us vacations at her own residence. Michelle, just takes 100 people or so, and take vacations not counted. Hawaii is of course not foreign, just across an ocean. Vail, Co is expensive, when one takes a huge entourage'.I count her parties also.. Moocher !!!

Submitted by Anonymous at: March 19, 2014
I don't believe this!

Submitted by throwedoff at: March 19, 2014
You indicate that there were no trips abroad for the First Lady in 2012. However, you failed to include the Summer Olympics held in London that year.

Submitted by Pooky at: March 19, 2014
Rowwdy has it right. First Lady Bush went to the 'tough' areas in Iraq and Afghanistan to work for women's rights; i.e. Education, voting, not took mention her work with aids, malaria, and starvation issues in Africa. Michelle does not address any of these types of things. And the arrogant attitude she expresses to the American people (she's entitled to all of this as though she is a queen) is an insult to all of us. First Lady Bush always carried herself in a dignified and respectful manner that was a wonderful representative of/for the USA. Michelle could really take a page from First Lady Bush (both of them) on style and class. Everyone has the right to be 'themselves', but it never should be forgotten that you are the USA when you step out in public; especially on the foreign relations front.

Submitted by Unconvinced at: March 18, 2014
What this fails to tell us is how many people besides the Bushes went on the trips as compared to the Obamas... mothers, daughters, sisters, nieces, aides, staff, etc.

Submitted by Rowwdy at: March 18, 2014
What the writer fails to supply are the monies paid by the Bushes for many of their trips. It's all there to see in the GAO. The Obamaos have used tax dollars for every trip.....posh trips right down to flying on separate planes. What the author also failed to point out is; Laura Bush garnered more goodwill for America in one trip than Michelle has on ANY trip. Further, Laura gave speeches, was involved with AIDS and malaria issues. She also addressed poor women and birth control. Michelle has NOT given ONE speech nor fostered any information or help any project.

Submitted by Haha at: March 13, 2014
This doesn't even begin to calculate the costs of the Obama lady. Lobsters, lobsters, lobsters! Party down, honey.