The Multi-Million Pricetag of the Obama Family Vacations

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A view of the Obamas exiting Air Force One in Hawaii, during their January 2015 vacation. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia))

You think your holiday plane ticket was expensive?

As the Obama family heads off on their annual Christmas vacation to Hawaii, conservative critics are taking aim, due to the financial burden that flying Air Force One puts on American taxpayers.

The cost of operating the presidential plane is close to $200,000 per hour.

Multiply that by the 18 hours that it takes to fly from Washington, D.C. to Honolulu and you’re talking about a $3.7 million bill for operating that flight alone.

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The Obama family returning from their vacation on the Massachusetts island of Martha’s Vineyard. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

The Obamas, like any family, often take personal vacations. First lady Michelle Obama went skiing in Aspen last February, Barack and his daughters took a weekend trip to New York City and the family has an annual summer vacation in Martha’s Vineyard.

Criticism of presidential travel is nothing new. But the fact is that the president of the United States simply can’t travel like a regular person. The president is forced to use Air Force One for security reasons. (Can you imagine a president flying in economy?)

Related: 9 Reasons Why President Obama Should Visit South Dakota

According to the Seattle Times, the White House disputes the numbers and says that some of the trips have had work elements, like a California trip where President Obama made a speech to the U.S. Conference of Mayors in San Francisco and also went golfing in Palm Springs.

The White House also points out that the president needs some time off. “The president recognizes that he is president of the United States 24 hours a day, seven days a week, wherever he happens to be,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz told the Seattle Times. “We believe the American people would not begrudge their president for taking some downtime with his family around the holidays.”

Despite the criticism, the reality is that President Obama has not taken more vacation time than past presidents.

CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller reported that since Obama went into office in 2009, he has taken 23 vacations over the course over the course of 177 days.

At the same point in his presidency, George W. Bush had taken 78 vacations (including 68 trips to his ranch in Texas and 10 trips to Kennebunkport, Maine) over the course of 480 days.

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The Obamas arrive in Orlando on Air Force One in 2013. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

According to the Washington Post, “Ronald Reagan spent 335 days at his beloved California ranch. President John F. Kennedy spent nearly every weekend of his shortened presidency at one of his family’s several properties. FDR made 134 trips to Hyde Park and spent an additional six months of his presidency in Warm Springs, Ga., where he treated symptoms of his polio.”

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There is also the question of what Air Force One is doing to the environment. It does have an impact, but not much less than the average 747.

Air Force One runs at about five gallons of fuel per mile which at 20 pounds of CO2 per gallon produces about 100 pounds of CO2 per mile. Therefore, a 4,800-mile trip to Hawaii produces about 480,000 pounds of CO2, according to Nick Aster, the publisher and founder of Triple Pundit, a publication focusing on environmental, social, and economic issues.

President Obama has come under fire for the carbon footprint of Air Force One in the past, particularly on Earth Day of this year when Knoller called the use of the presidential plane to shuttle journalists on a day in celebration of saving the planet.

But there is a bright side for Mother Earth.

“Tax payers should feel better because the new Air Force One currently on order is meant to be 14 percent more efficient,” Aster said.

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