On this Inauguration Day, we thought we’d do something vaguely political and take a look the travel habits of our country’s leaders. Have you ever wondered who is the most traveled president of the United States? Answering that question is a little trickier than you might think, as it depends how you define “most traveled.” We’ll look at a couple of qualifiers and then turn our attention to a few fun presidential travel facts.
Most countries visited during presidency
If Obama is elected for a second term, he has plenty of time to catch up. But as of now, President Clinton is in the lead with 75 countries, narrowly beating President George W. Bush by a margin of one. Clinton got off to a slow start, making only 3 international trips (Vancouver, Tokyo and Seoul) in 1993. But over the course of his presidency, he left few corners of the globe untouched. One of his most famed trips was to Amman, Jordan for signing of the 1994 Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace.
Most countries visited during first year of presidency
Upon election, President Obama hit the ground running. In 2009, Obama visited 21 countries, ranging from China to Ghana to Denmark to Mexico. One of his most famous visits was a trip to Norway to accept the Nobel Peace Prize “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” Before Obama the record was held at a tie between Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush, each having visited 15 countries during their first year. Nixon wasn’t far behind with 14, and George W. Bush was next in line with 11. Ronald Reagan visited only 2 foreign countries in year #1.
Most domestic trips during first term of presidency*
George W. Bush
Domestic travel seems to be following a steady upward trend with every new president. During his first term in the White House, President George W. Bush made 391 domestic trips. Bill Clinton did 315, George H.W. Bush did 276 and Ronald Reagan took 175 domestic trips. Domestic travel has a tendency of dropping off during a president’s second term (no worries of reelection). George W., for example, took 45% fewer domestic trips during round two.
*excludes Barack Obama for whom numbers are not presently available
First to travel outside of the US during presidency
It may be surprising not a single US president traveled outside of the States during presidency until the 20th century, but it’s probably not surprising the person to break that trend was Theodore Roosevelt. In 1906, Roosevelt traveled with his wife to oversee the construction of the Panama Canal. After the US sent warships to prevent Colombia from quashing a rebellion in Panama, Panama signed a treaty handing over a strip of land to the US for the purpose of building the canal. Teddy wanted to see it for himself.
First to travel by plane on presidential business
Franklin D. Roosevelt
On January 14, 1943, FDR became the first president to travel on official business by airplane. Riding in a Boeing 314 Flying Boat named the Dixie Clipper, Roosevelt flew across the Atlantic to talk strategy with Winston Churchill in Casablanca. The U-boat infested Atlantic had been deemed too dangerous to sail. A discreet journey, the plane made several stops over the course of 4 days for rest and refueling. FDR had a successful meeting with Churchill, visited some troops and did a little sightseeing before flying back home.
First to travel by presidential jet
John F. Kennedy
JFK officially kicked off the presidential jet era. The administration purchased a Boeing-707 dubbed the Special Air Mission (SAM) 26000. The aircraft was in service from 1962 all the way until 1998, serving presidents Kennedy through Clinton. It was aboard this plane that Lyndon Johnson took his presidential oath after Kennedy’s assassination. It also transported JFK’s body back to Washington.
Most-visited country by US presidents
As you could probably assume, U.S. presidents have made more trips to the UK than any other nation. Maybe we just feel guilty not having dinner with Mum and Dad once in a while, but the number of presidential visits now exceeds 50. In a distant second is France, followed closely by Canada. Germany, Italy and Mexico all hover around 30 trips apiece.