U.S. presidents certainly have a way of putting a vacation destination on the map, increasing its profile, prestige, and often price through their visits. The Clintons became a regular fixture each summer on Martha's Vineyard during Bill's presidency, the Bush family has a summer home in posh Kennebunkport, Maine, and the Kennedys' sprawling compound in picturesque Hyannis Port is legendary in New England. While most of us will never know what it's like to fly on Air Force One or vacation in a luxurious private compound, that doesn't mean we can't have our own small slice of the presidential good life. To experience a bit of commander-in-chief vacation glamor without spending a small fortune, here are a few tips to make such popular destinations slightly more affordable.
11 Presidential Vacation Spots That You Can Afford
A favorite of politicians as well as celebrities and wealthy jetsetters, Martha's Vineyard is a place to see and be seen. Both the Clintons and the Obamas have famously vacationed here. (The Obamas reportedly stayed at a home that cost $35,000 to $50,000 a week.) Among the best ways to make the Vineyard less expensive is to visit just before or after peak season. August draws the largest crowds, so consider going in September, when lodging is slightly cheaper but the weather remains pleasant. Martha's Vineyard also has a variety of bed and breakfast accommodations that, when factoring in the inclusion of the morning meal, can be a bit of a money saver. In addition, bed and breakfasts on the northern portion of the island are said to be slightly less expensive.
The city synonymous with celebrities, glamor, and luxury has long attracted its share of politicians. LA is a favorite of presidential hopeful Donald Trump. But even this A-lister's mecca can be visited on a budget. Hollywood Cottages, just a stone's throw from the famous Capitol Records Building, is a good budget choice, as is Hotel Figueroa, by many accounts. When it comes to sightseeing, the Go Card Los Angeles allows for visiting multiple attractions at a steep discount. Los Angeles is also famous for its half-price happy hours, and gourmet food trucks, both of which provide an opportunity to enjoy intriguing food on a budget.
A favorite of President Ronald Reagan, Santa Barbara is a stunning destination two hours north of Los Angeles that attracts countless celebs and legions of political elite. (Oprah, Ellen DeGeneres, and Rob Lowe are just a few of the Hollywood players who have homes in the area.) So how to visit a region often referred to as the American Rivera on a budget? Less expensive lodging choices here include the Agave Inn and Blue Sands Motel. SantaBarbara.com lists numerous restaurants in the range of $10 to $20 a meal, including tapas bars, cafes, and sushi. The site also includes ratings of the food and service at the restaurants.
This is another destination where the best way to avoid steep prices is to steer clear of the summer rush. In addition, many popular pastimes in Kennebunkport are free. The seaside community is known as a great place for biking -- along the ocean's edge, through town, or on nature trails. It's even possible to bike past the Bush family compound at Walker's Point. Antiquing is another favorite activity, as is meandering through the many quaint shops in downtown Kennebunkport. The Lodge at the Cove, Chetwynd House Inn, and the Rhumb Line Resort are among the less expensive choices for accommodations.
The location of President John F. Kennedy's affectionately labeled "Summer White House," Newport has long been home to some of the most outstanding and historic mansions in the country. One of the most inexpensive ways to view a few of the exquisite properties here is the free Newport Cliff Walk. Famous for stunning scenery, the 3.5-mile walk passes behind a handful of Newport's elaborate mansions. Less expensive lodging choices include Atlantic Beach Hotel Suites and the Inns on Bellvue.
President Harry S. Truman returned to Key West year after year, enjoying the laid-back vibe of the small island, including relaxing in the sun, fishing, and swimming. In a place that oozes history and dates back hundreds of years, visiting on a budget can be challenging. Try visiting off-season, which is June through November. To secure a cheaper room, consider giving up some amenities when searching for accommodations. Angelina Guest House and Key West Bed and Breakfast, for instance, can be less costly. The trade-off at these less expensive properties is no private bathroom.
The Obamas certainly know how to make the most of Hawaii's stunning beaches and tropical beauty. The outgoing president and his family have repeatedly stayed at a sprawling five-bedroom beachfront home in Paradise Point at Kailua Bay. Situated in a wealthy gated community 25 minutes from Honolulu, the home is perched on a prime strip of stunning Hawaii beach with unobstructed views of the ocean. Mere mortals may want to consider Airbnb accommodations. The site has made significant inroads in Hawaii and lists a variety of offerings. When it comes to inexpensive entertainment, simply driving around the coast of the island is a great experience, not to mention that beaches are free, as is snorkeling -- when you bring your own gear.
This outer island of the Bahamas, known for pineapple plantations and pink sand beaches, was a favorite of President Gerald Ford. The luxe destination has also been recognized by Travel Leisure, included on the publication's list of Best Secret Islands on Earth. None of this adds up to an inexpensive vacation choice. However, condo and villa rentals here are said to be a better bet than hotel rooms (which can be more than $200 a night). Also check for discounts on the Out Islands of the Bahamas website, which offers all sorts of deals including boating fuel credits and hotel room discounts.
The tiny, affluent summer enclave of Hyannis Port is home to the Kennedy compound and a few other Kennedy family residences. Located in the town of Barnstable, which is divided into seven villages, including Hyannis, the area is famous for its laid-back charm. Because it's such a small community, the budget options are sparse, but less expensive accommodations include Americas Best Value Inn Suites-Hyannis/Cape Cod and Sea Breeze Inn. Inexpensive activities here include visiting the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum (admission is $10), browsing the colorful shops along Main Street in Hyannis, and, of course, lounging at the beach.
Those who frequent the Hamptons may shake their heads to hear the word "budget" associated with this destination. The Hamptons have a long history of being the go-to summer spot for the rich and famous, the Clintons among them. By many accounts, the key to visiting cheaply is to go during the week. And like almost every other destination on this list, hitting the beach is a typically less expensive choice. Accommodation deals can be had with a little research. Less expensive lodging choices include the Drake Inn and Colonial Shores Resorts.
For outdoorsy types, it doesn't get much better than Acadia National Park, a stone's throw from the town of Bar Harbor. President Barack Obama, a well-known supporter of national parks, brought his family to enjoy the area's beauty in 2010. With more than 47,000 acres, including mountains, ocean shoreline, woodlands, and lakes, Acadia is a sight to behold. And because nature is the prime attraction here, this vacation destination may just be the most ideal for budget travelers. Simply enjoying the great outdoors here is the cheapest option. Budget lodging includes Best Western Acadia Park Inn and Quimby House Inn Spa.