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Trump's $3 Million Weekend Getaways: When is the Cost of a Presidential Vacation Too Much?

Jan Lee headshotWords by Jan Lee
Leadership & Transparency
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The tally for Secret Service detail for U.S. President Donald Trump and his entourage is already mounting: weekly golfing trips in Air Force One, extended family vacations, and around-the-clock security surveillance for the president, his immediate family and his extended family at multiple residences. According to analysts who crunched the numbers and kept track of President Trump’s frenetic lifestyle, the tab for security alone could easily amount to hundreds of millions of dollars by the end of Trump’s first term.

And that’s bothering supporters of organizations like the Meals on Wheels and the National Endowment for the Arts, which Trump pledged to defund in his first budget proposal.

Trump campaigned on the goal of fiscal responsibility. At the time he made fun of and questioned then-President Barack Obama’s occasional golf trips and vacations to Hawaii or other locations.

But research shows Trump is already on track to accrue his own remarkable list of security costs.

To be fair, security comes with the job of being president. So does security for his family. What doesn’t come with the job are all the expenses of lodging and food, particularly when on vacation. So it’s common for first families to spend their time away at personal residences. And since Trump just happens to have a bevy of golf courses and residences where he can stay, that isn’t really a challenge.

But the costs still add up. And quickly.

First, there’s the cost of guarding Trump on his weekly golfing trips to his Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, and other locations. And as Fortune magazine reports, keeping the president safe doesn’t stop with a personalized security detail. There are Coast Guard patrols, police escorts and other time-taxing costs. And yes, those are costs that taxpayers are expected to reimburse to local authorities.

Trump’s Florida trips cost taxpayers roughly $3 million a multi-day trip, the Washington Post reports. The Independent Newspaper reports that Trump has racked up 12 trips in nine weeks. Most of them were to Mar-a-Lago, a flight that takes two hours each way (at $200,000 a flying hour for Air Force One), with back-to-back stays at his Florida hotel. You do the math.

Then there’s the security detail for Melania Trump and her son, Barron, who is still in school in New York. Keeping Melania and Barron safe isn’t cheap, either, at approximately $1 million a day, reports CNN Money. Fortunately for both taxpayers and the city of New York, which had to beef up its police detail, that cost may be coming to an end as the Trumps say Melania and her son will move to Washington later this year.

But there are likely to be other weekly or monthly vacation costs in the summer, as a New York Trump property is slated to become the family’s frequent summer getaway.

And when the secret service isn’t escorting the president to golf courses in Florida, Virginia and “down the street” in D.C., they are off for vacation and private business trips with Trump’s eldest sons and extended families.

A recent trip to Uruguay, where Eric Trump was scheduled to promote a Trump-brand hotel, cost just under $100,000 for Secret Service and White House staff. Even though Eric was handling business for his dad (Donald Trump turned over his business dealings to his kids but didn’t divest from them), because he is the son of the president, he receives security detail.

And of course, the kids’ kids get security as well, even on the slopes. It isn’t clear how many Secret Service actually tagged along on the family ski trip last week, which included all Trumps except Donald, Melania and the two youngest, Barron and Tiffany. But initial figures estimated about 100 Secret Service for Ivanka, Donald Jr. and Eric, partners and kids. The Aspen Times reports that $12,000 was paid out for skis and apparel for the Secret Service agents.

The escalating price tag of guarding the president and his family during work and play has prompted some to ask whether seemingly insignificant costs like arts funding and a grant to bolster food supplies for shut-in seniors might be more easily paid from the budget if Trump and family were to reduce their extracurricular weekend jaunts.

But with summer coming and a plethora of vacation homes to revisit, it doesn’t seem likely. The perks of being the president are just that.

Image credit: Flickr/Joe Bielawa

Jan Lee headshotJan Lee

Jan Lee is a former news editor and award-winning editorial writer whose non-fiction and fiction have been published in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the U.K. and Australia. Her articles and posts can be found on TriplePundit, JustMeans, and her blog, The Multicultural Jew, as well as other publications. She currently splits her residence between the city of Vancouver, British Columbia and the rural farmlands of Idaho.

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