Government Bytes


Which First Lady Flies Highest? Michelle vs. Laura

by Diana Oprinescu / /

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