It's not the quiet mother-daughter trip the first lady would have been able to take as a private figure, CBS News Investigative Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reports.
Last night, Obama and daughter Sasha dined with friends in Marbella, Spain. That was after a shopping trip.
Earlier, a 15-vehicle convoy shuttled the entourage - an undisclosed number of staff, Secret Service agents and friends - to a posh hotel where rooms normally run from $300 to $6,000 a night. The first lady's group is said to occupy 60 rooms.
It's not unusual for a first lady to take a private trip abroad, and nobody expects her to stay in a cheap hotel, but with the U.S. economy in such dire straits critics argue the trip is simply in poor taste.
The Obamas already took flak for hawking the Gulf - "Everybody should come here," the first lady told a crowd in Panama City, Fla. - then.
Few details of the Spain trip are known. Purely personal parts will be paid for by Obama and friends. Official portions - the first lady will visit the king and queen - will be on the taxpayer's dime. That includes:
• Transport on the Air Force version of a 757. That's $146,000 for the round trip, not counting four to five days' ground time.
• Expenses for the first lady's support staff
• Mandatory Secret Service detail, which could number 70 agents. At the $273-a-day federal per diem for five days, that's $95,550 for Secret Service room and board.
Long gone are the days when a president's wife could quietly duck the limelight. Jackie Kennedy's trip to Italy in 1962 was a scandal to some because she went without her husband.
The New York Daily News, the French queen who thought little of her poor subjects as she draped herself in extravagance.
Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus disagrees.
"While I'm not sure this was politically very smart, I also don't see it as a 'let them eat cake' moment unless we think that the only thing that acceptable for them to do is have a kind of 'staycation' and clean the closets," Marcus said.
The Obamas do plan to promote Gulf Coast tourism when the first lady returns. They'll spend a weekend in Panama City, Fla.