The Washington Times reports that the cost of Obama's Africa trip, estimated as high as $100 million, is overshadowing President Obama's agenda. If past VIP trips are any indication, lodging and local transportation would represent only a fraction of the $100 million, yet those costs would likely still dwarf those of the average citizen traveling abroad. In late March, Vice President Joe Biden's $321,000 limo bill and $585,000 Paris hotel bill for his trip to Europe earlier this year were revealed.
While the amounts spent were deemed fairly ordinary by government insiders, the fact that the closely-held information was found on a publicly available government website had some speculating that perhaps the postings had been inadvertent. Wolf Blitzer, who spent seven years reporting from the White House, even called it "an extremely rare glimpse." However, further investigation has revealed that the information is not as rare as previously supposed.
For example, Vice President Biden's trip to Moscow in 2011. The contract was awarded to the Moscow Ritz-Carlton on February 24, 2011 and , according to the accompanying Justification and Approval (J&A), the estimated cost for 1,778 room nights was $665,545. As has been noted before, contracts for travel for high level government officials are not subject to the same requirements for competitive bidding as other government contracts due to security concerns:
The vice president's visit to Moscow lasted two days and was said to focus on economic issues and missile defense concerns.
Although Vice President Biden's foreign travel costs have received most of the attention lately, some details for at least two of President Obama's trips from his first term are available online. The first was a trip to Warsaw, Poland in May 2011. The J&A estimated the cost for 2,114 lodging room/nights at the Warsaw Marriott at $450,000. Due to the special needs of the president and his entourage, the costs included extras such as "Removal and storage of furniture from standard rooms":
The stop in Poland was part of a week-long swing through Europe that included stays in Ireland, Great Britain, and France. Details of lodging arrangements for the other stops on the trip were not available The president spent one night in Warsaw.