The presidential getaway is almost as old as the presidency itself, though over the centuries its purpose has changed. Thomas Jefferson, who often traded muggy, bustling Philadelphia summers for cool, green Vermont, said that to govern a country well, a commander in chief must go about "absolutely incognito" to mingle with his constituents and see how they live.
These days, the presidential getaway is less about communing with voters and more about getting away from them, whether to a windswept manse on the preppy Eastern Seaboard (the Kennedys, the elder Bushes) or a tropical pad on Oahu (the Obamas). President of the United States is a stressful job, after all. Can you blame them for wanting to get away for a few days? Plenty of Americans do, lambasting executive R-and-R with serious ire. We prefer simple envy.
With the exception of FDR, who would charter the USS Houston for Caribbean cruises, early presidents like Jefferson kept it simple, while his 20th- and 21st-century counterparts like their trips a little more lavish — big houses, big boats, and big gas bills for Air Force One.
In the summer, many presidents escaped to Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and the Hamptons, while winter brought jaunts to Florida, a favorite of Presidents Nixon, Harding, Hoover, and Truman. But not all the presidents were all about sun worship and naps. Jackson Hole, Wyo., lured the presidential family for hiking, fishing, and whitewater rafting during President Clinton's terms. President Reagan, meanwhile, plied the foothills of the Santa Ynez Mountains on horseback at his sprawling ranch outside Santa Barbara, Calif.
Chiefs of state have put many of these destinations on the map, and tourists have followed. The upshot is that you don’t need to be a president to stay like one. Whether a secluded New England cottage or a downtown Miami penthouse is more your style, you’ll find the perfect getaway by taking travel tips from Oval Office occupants. Just leave the Secret Service at home.