The President Abroad: International Travels Of U.S. Presidents

In honor of Presidents’ Day, we mapped the many international travels of past U.S. presidents. While presidential travels abroad weren’t common until the 20th century, there is now an abundance of data from the 19 presidents who did travel internationally. One president took 140 trips abroad while in office. Care to take a guess about which of the U.S. presidents caught the travel bug and traveled internationally the most? How about the president who preferred to keep their feet on U.S. soil and traveled abroad only once? The number of presidential trips abroad varied greatly from president to president, as did the number of times U.S. presidents visited certain countries. Some countries have been visited over 30 times by past presidents while other countries have only ever been visited by a U.S. president once.

View International Trips by Presidents in a full screen map

The map shows the international travels of past U.S. presidents, and if you keep on reading, you’ll learn about the trends of presidential trips abroad, pulled from the State Department’s list.

The Beginning Of Presidential Travels Abroad

There are only 19 U.S. presidents on the map as presidents didn’t begin traveling abroad until the 1900s. Public opinion and a lack of transportation limited presidential trips abroad before the 1900s and even throughout the first few decades of the 20th century. Before the 20th century, Americans favored domestic presidential travel. However, they frowned at the thought of their president rubbing elbows with other world leaders. But, as the U.S.’s role in international affairs changed, so did public opinion. In 1906, Theodore Roosevelt made the first presidential trip abroad to Panama City. This visit sparked the international travel bug in future U.S. presidents. Each president since Theodore Roosevelt has made at least one trip abroad while in office.

Transportation also played a significant part in the increase of presidential travels abroad throughout the 20th century. Early presidents traveled abroad by steamship, which took forever. This limited the number of trips abroad U.S. presidents were willing and able to make while in office. When Woodrow Wilson made the first presidential trip to Europe via ship in 1918, it took nine days. Yet, forty years later, after many transportation innovations, Dwight Eisenhower made the same journey by jet in just nine hours.

Presidents Who Traveled The Most

Any ideas about which U.S. presidents traveled abroad the most? Here’s a hint: the top three presidential jet-setters are also the three most recent past presidents:

  • George W. Bush (2001–2009) — 140 international trips
  • Bill Clinton (1993–2001) — 133 international trips
  • Barack Obama (2009–2017) — 120 international trips

George W. Bush traveled abroad more than any other president to date. During his presidency, Bush visited Russia seven times. He also visited both Mexico and Italy six times each. George W. Bush took seven more trips abroad than Bill Clinton, but both Bush and Clinton visited 74 international locations around the world. Bill Clinton frequently traveled to Italy and Germany. He also dropped by the U.K. on seven different occasions. Obama visited 61 international locations in total, most frequently visiting Germany, which he traveled to 13 times. Obama also paid many visits to both France and Japan.

Presidents Who Traveled The Least

The U.S. presidents whose total international travels were in the single-digits include:

  • Theodore Roosevelt (1901–1909) — 1 international trip
  • Calvin Coolidge (1923–1929) — 1 international trip
  • William Howard Taft (1909–1913) — 2 international trips
  • Warren G. Harding (1921–1923) — 3 international trips
  • Harry S. Truman (1945–1953) — 7 international trips

Where do these homebodies have in common? Roosevelt, Taft, and Harding all traveled once to Panama. Calvin Coolidge only traveled abroad to Cuba. Harding and Truman both traveled at least once to the U.K. and Canada. Taft and Truman have a trip to Mexico in common. In addition to the U.K., Canada, and Mexico, Truman also ventured to Belgium, Germany, and Brazil during his presidency.

The Ebbs And Flows Of Presidential Trips Abroad

Photo by Gage Skidmore

It’s to be expected that the very first U.S. presidents to travel abroad didn’t make 100 different trips. However, after Theodore Roosevelt’s pioneering trip, other presidents followed suit, resulting in a steady increase in presidential travel abroad. William Taft traveled abroad twice. Woodrow Wilson made more international trips (10) than any other president at the time. Unfortunately, this is where the trend ended. After Wilson, Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge traveled abroad less than the U.S. presidents who came before them.

Harding’s decrease in international travel may be explained by his death 881 days into his term. However, Harding’s V.P. Calvin Coolidge served in office for six years and only traveled abroad once. After Coolidge, Herbert Hoover made 10 international trips followed by Franklin D. Roosevelt who made 52 voyages abroad. While FDR had a 12-year presidency in which to travel, Harry Truman, his successor, still had eight years to go abroad. Truman only made it abroad to seven places, though. Dwight Eisenhower then picked up the pace with 37 trips. John F. Kennedy made 16 out-of-the-country trips before his assassination. Lyndon B. Johnson traveled abroad 27 times, and Richard Nixon made 42 trips. Gerald Ford traveled less than others throughout his presidency. However, Ford was also the start of a new trend that continued until recently.

Obama Ends A Trend While Still Traveling More Than Most Presidents

Every president since Gerald Ford traveled more than their predecessor… until Barack Obama. Ford traveled abroad 19 times, Jimmy Carter 31 times, and Ronald Reagan made it to 49 places abroad. George H.W. Bush visited 60 locations and Bill Clinton set the bar high when he visited 133 different places around the world. However, George W. Bush blew them all out of the park with his 140 visits abroad. To be fair, 140 trips is hard to beat, even for Barack Obama, the U.S.’s first African American president. It’s an interesting pattern of increasing presidential trips abroad that ended with Obama’s 120 trips. But, we can still acknowledge that Obama visited more international locations than 84% of U.S. presidents who traveled abroad.

Countries With The Most U.S. Presidential Visits (And The Least)

Altogether, U.S. presidents have visited the U.K., France, Canada, Mexico, and Germany more than 30 times so far. On the other hand, there are 30 countries which have only been visited by a U.S. president once, like Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ecuador, and Kenya. Then, there are 17 countries where a U.S. president visited no more than twice. These include Bulgaria, Croatia, Cuba, Haiti, Iceland, Jamaica, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Syria, and Uganda.

If you’re on a presidential kick, be sure to check out our other useful president-related maps like presidential assassination attempts mapped and the births and burials of U.S. presidents. Alternatively, head over to our map of the places named after George Washington to see just how many places named after America’s very first president are near you.