Christmas vacation: Obamas get trip to Hawaii, taxpayers get ‘jelly-of-the-month’ club

FAMILY TRADITION: Since first winning the White House in 2008, the first family has vacationed in President Obama’s native Hawaii during the Christmas season. AP file photo

FAMILY TRADITION: Since first winning the White House in 2008, the first family has vacationed in President Obama’s native Hawaii during the Christmas season. AP file photo

The presidential family will soon be vacationing in Hawaii.

It’s a holiday tradition for the Obamas, who have visited Kailua each year since 2008. The president and his friends pay rent for the 17-day trip, about $25,000 per week.

Taxpayers pay for most everything else, about $4 million, based on what we know.

Just call it another holiday tradition, of sorts, one that Clark W. Griswold would surely appreciate. The Obamas get a bonus while taxpayers get the bill, akin to an annual membership in the metaphoric jelly-of-the-month club.

It breaks down like this:

The 18-hour roundtrip aboard Air Force One costs $179,750 per hour for flight and operations — $3,235,500 total, estimates Michael Tasselmyer of the National Taxpayers Union Foundation,

Hawaii 1

RELAX: View from the Moana Surfrider Hotel in Waikiki where the White House staff stays while the first family is in Hawaii.

A Congressional Research Service report released in May 2012 mirrors those estimates. The cost for a C-17 jet carrying presidential limos, helicopters and other support equipment to Hawaii has never been disclosed. But the roundtrip flight time from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland and Hawaii is 21.5 hours, with estimated operating costs of $12,000 per hour, according to a Government Accountability Office report.

The U.S. Marine Corps provides a presidential helicopter, along with pilots and support crews for the test flights, which travel on another C-17. That costs $258,000, not including per diem and hotel for the four- to six-member crew. U.S. Secret Service, Navy Seals and Coast Guard members rent homes along the canal and ocean for $250 per room per night, according to people who rent the houses.

A real estate source said the delegation, which arrives before the president, rents at least seven homes in the area, costing taxpayers more than $183,750.

White House staff who don’t stay in Kailua stay at the posh Moana Surfrider, a Westin Resort & Spa on Waikiki Beach. Hotel rooms typically rent for $670 a night, but the hotel offers discounted government rates for about $255, according to hotel public relations manager Diana Su.

The Air Force flies in 22 vehicles so the president can golf, attend a basketball game with friends at Punahou School —Obama’s alma mater — or visit favorite restaurants such as Nobu’s and Buzz’s Steakhouse. Honolulu Police on special duty are paid $250,000 — another $10,000 is spent on an around-the-clock ambulance detail.

The White House annually refuses to disclose the cost of several things, citing security. Such as:

An entire floor of an office building in Kailua on the canal during the president’s stay.

Security upgrades, such as bulletproof glass and additional phone lines added to private homes; existing security systems are disabled.

Rental cars and fuel for staff and security, as well as additional costs for Secret Service and White House staff traveling ahead of the president.

Because of emergency budget negotiations last year, the president made two round trips from Washington, D.C., to Hawaii, nearly doubling the cost of the vacation — more than $7.2 million.

Judicial Watch in May sued the Secret Service to “obtain records concerning use of U.S. Government funds to provide security and any other services to President Obama and any companions on their January 1 and 2, 2013, trip to Honolulu, Hawaii.”

The case, Judicial Watch v. U.S. Secret Service, continues, but there is nothing new, Judicial Watch spokeswoman Jill Farrell said this week.

The lawsuit, based on a Hawaii Reporter and report that detailed the cost of the 2012 Christmas vacation, was filed after the Secret Service failed to provide information to Judicial Watch in response to a Jan. 2 Freedom of Information Act request.

“As of May 6, the Secret Service had yet to produce any record,” Judicial Watch said in a May 2013 statement.

Contact Malia Zimmerman at [email protected]

Published with permission from

Watchdog is a collection of independent journalists covering state-specific and local government activity.


One thought on “Christmas vacation: Obamas get trip to Hawaii, taxpayers get ‘jelly-of-the-month’ club

  1. linedancer2 says:

    I’m over 80, all my money I saved for my senior years is gone…I squeezed it out for 12 years…now I’m on $660.00 mo. SS and I asked for food stamps, I got $15.00 a month…now tell me is that fair? I worked hard all my life, brought up 2 children, worked hard to get them into a good college (they worked hard for their grades)…I had a bad fall a year ago, my Dr.has me on so many medications, never been old before didn’t know it would be so hard…I have exercised, walked, danced, all my life, now I just sit…my children take care of some needs, but I feel guilty as I taught them to take care of themselves, don’t ask for handouts, work, be a good citizen…I’d like to meet the folks that elected O in office and then returned him to the White House?s…THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH COLOR!!!! But we seniors are having a hard time, we now have to deal with Obumucare….taxes, gas while we still can drive (an old car),,,and O enjoys his family at Christmas….On our tax money, I can’t afford to visit my remaining relatives in Canada! Couldn’t afford to go to either of my brother’s funerals…I was a housewife, that’s what you did back in the 40-50’s…my career was bringing up good children, that obey the laws, help others, be kind to your elders as they age….This old age is new to me, never been there before, so it’s a new experience….I used to tell my children and grands, save for your old age just in case you life longer than you expect. Now I tell them save, BUT enjoy their young life, travel when you can, visit relatives, but keep the almighty dollars in the bank..old age isn’t what I thought it would be, especially when I had taken good care of myself!!! Now if O lowers our SS I’m in real trouble, my kids have helped me as much as they can….but I would still like to be a little indepedent for a while longer…. what costs $1.00 one day cost $100.00 the next day… just a warning to all young people be prepared!!! Don’t purchase items you don’t need….save, save, save…….Pres. O will you say hello to my cousin in Hawaii, I can’t afford to visit him…Richard Mitchell…thanks…you COULD send me some money for Christmas? I can’t afford to purchase any gifts for Christmas for the way, when do you work? I never see a picture of you with you sleeves rolled up ready to take on the world?rene

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