From everything I can find online, apparently, like Nancy Regan before her, Mrs. Bush got more media attention for replacing the missing and chipped White House china (with donated money) than any concern for her vacations.
Other than going back and forth to the Crawford Ranch (which became rather like the second White House), I could find only a few references to Mrs. Bush’s vacations.
For 15 years, Laura Bush and four female friends have escaped together for a week every summer. “I have a group of friends that I grew up with in Midland, Texas, and we hike every summer at a national park.”
July 8, 2001 – Yosemite National Park, California.
July 27, 2003 – Olympic National Forest, Washington.
July 20, 2004 – Glacier National Park, Montana.
July 23, 2006 – Denali National Park & Preserve, Alaska (she arrived by train).
May 1, 2007 – Zion National Park, Utah.
June 2008 – Mount Desert Island, Maine.
I cannot seem to locate which National Park, if any, they went to in 2002 and 2005.
Naturally, these hiking vacations did include friends (from what I could find, there were 4 friends with Mrs. Bush) and sometimes Air Force II and always with Secret Service Agents and some staff, as is necessary for a first lady.
Then, we have the “working vacations”:
July 2005 – with daughters on an African safari. Also, part of this “vacation” was spent with young female AIDS victims in Zambia listening to stories of abuse and taking mosquito nets to southern Africa so children could be protected from malaria. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4757716
October 2007 – Mrs. Bush traveled around the middle east raising awareness of Breast Cancer. http://www.healthcentral.com/breast-cancer/c/78/15314/laura-bushs
March 2008 – Mexico. More breast cancer awareness. http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2004283760_apmexicolaurabush.html?referrer=digg
March 2008 – Haiti. To promote increased funding for AIDS patients and support education. http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2008-03-14/news/0803140229_1_aids-relief-hiv-positive-laura-bush
From what I could ascertain, none of these “working vacations” was really a vacation, except quite possibly the safari.
Do I see a difference between Mrs. Obama’s Spain vacation and Mrs. Bush’s vacations? Yes, I do and I am glad I had the time to research this in response to questions posed in another thread referencing Mrs. Obama’s trip.
First, I find that when Mrs. Bush traveled overseas, she did so with a mission; it was not a mere vacation.
Second, her hiking vacations with her friends were in United States National Parks.
Third, we were not a nation with a large number of people without jobs and I don’t recall this first family asking us (or most of us) to sacrifice.