A small group of reporters and administration staffers stood behind a rope line.
Mr Trump made brief comments over the roar of the rotor blades, saying it had been “the honour of a lifetime” and mouthed “thank you” to the press.
He added that he just wanted to “say goodbye” and “we love the American people”.
He then added: “It won’t be a long goodbye.”
The Trumps travelled on Marine One for the short trip to Joint Base Andrews, where the president made remarks to a crowd of supporters before they boarded Air Force One for a final flight to Palm Beach, Florida.
The presidential helicopter did a brief lap around Washington DC, including over the Capitol, before heading towards the airbase.
At Andrews, “Hail to the Chief” played as the president and first lady arrived, and a 21-gun salute was fired by howitzers.
The couple smiled and waved as they took to the stage. The Trump family and close aides stood nearby and were first to be thanked by Mr Trump. Ivanka and Don Jr were both seen welling up.
“People have no idea how hard this family worked,” said Mr Trump. “They worked and they worked for you. They could've had a much easier life.”
After he thanked the first lady for her "great grace and beauty and dignity”, Ms Trump made brief remarks of her own, thanking everyone for their love and support.
In his own speech, Mr Trump admitted: “We were not a regular administration.”
Trump invites First Lady Melania Trump to speak before they head to Florida.
"Thank you for your love, and your support." pic.twitter.com/p6rWvk4wCE
— The Recount (@therecount) January 20, 2021
In unscripted remarks, he touted his record in the style of many of his campaign appearances — focusing on the economy, and referring to the coronavirus pandemic in the past tense.
“I will always fight for you. I will be watching. I will be listening,” Mr Trump said.
“I wish the new administration great luck and great success," he said before claiming credit for laying the groundwork of any economic rebound that may come after the pandemic subsides.
He immediately added: “I think they'll have great success. They have the foundation ... We put it in a position like it's never been before.”
Mr Trump did not mention the name of his successor, President-elect Joe Biden.
Mr Trump also thanked his vice president, Mike Pence, and the second lady, Karen Pence, with whom a rift has reportedly formed since the 6 January attack on the US Capitol. Mr Pence was not at the White House prior to the Trumps’ departure.
“This is goodbye, but we will be back in some form,” the president said. “So have a good life. We will see you soon.”
— Steve Herman (@W7VOA) January 20, 2021
“YMCA” by Village People then blared from the speakers as the first family boarded Air Force One. Wheels up was at 9am.
Air Force One flew low over Mar-a-Lago as it approached Palm Beach, giving the outgoing president a view of his new home.
Wheels down was approximately 11am. Journalists on board reported that the president did not visit the press during the flight, and he ignored shouted questions on the tarmac.
Joe Biden takes the oath of office at midday becoming the 46th president of the United States.