Which Presidents Took The Most Productive Vacations? Obama, Bush and More

On Thursday, President Obama took time out of his relaxing Hawaiian vacation to sign the bipartisan budget agreement and a landmark bill to cut down on sexual assault in the military. And you thought the time between Christmas and New Year's was meant for slacking off at work.

Presidential vacations have long been a (pretty invalid) yardstick for critics to measure the work ethic of a Commander-in-Chief. John Adams took the longest single trip away from the White House when he left Washington for eight months in 1799. The president who took the most vacation time overall was famously George W. Bush, with a record of 879 vacation days over his eight years in office. But when you're a president, vacation is never really vacation, and Obama's Christmastime bill-signing is actually par for the course. We take a look back at the most productive vacations of the country's past few presidents.

George W. Bush

The White House/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Though he's known for taking the most vacation time, Bush 2.0 did take some working vacations. In 2005, the president cut a monthlong vacation two days short to start handling the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. But that wasn't enough: he faced criticism for not responding more quickly and for opting to survey the wrecked Gulf Coast from a plane on his way to Washington, rather than flying straight to the region. Bush later said the move was a "huge mistake." Ya think?

Bill Clinton

In August 1998, Clinton admitted he'd had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky and shortly thereafter took some time out of the spotlight in Martha's Vineyard. Or at least he tried. Just two days into his trip, Clinton had to return to Washington to order airstrikes on terrorist bases in Sudan and Afghanistan in retaliation for strikes on American bases. It was our first attempt to strike Osama bin Laden, and it was far from the last time a president proved it's impossible to really escape.

George H.W. Bush

Bush Senior was vacationing in Maine in August of 1991 when he got a phone call telling him that a group of hardline Communists had attempted a coup to oust Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev (who had also been on vacation). The attempted overthrow heralded the end of both the Soviet Union and Bush's relaxing vacation. It had been Bush's second attempt at an August vacation in as many years, but in 1990 he was also interrupted — that time by Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. His exasperated response to world crises during vacation season was, memorably, "What is it about August?"

Ronald Reagan

Far from portraying himself as a workaholic, President Reagan took pride in his ability to keep the country afloat while still taking time for himself at his "Western White House" in Santa Barbara. But sometimes, even vacation enthusiasts have to take a break from their hobby and return to work. In 1983, Reagan was forced to cut his vacation short by three days to return to Washington after a Korean airliner was shot down by a Soviet plane.

Jimmy Carter

We're sure President Carter had to cut vacations short during such notable events as the gasoline shortage and the Iran Hostage Crisis. But his most productive vacation was definitely that time he fought off a killer rabbit all by himself.

Images: U.S. Government Printing Office/Wikimedia Commons, Jimmy Carter Library/Wikimedia Commons, Susan Biddle/Wikimedia Commons, National Archives/Wikimedia Commons