Tips for Attending a 2016 Presidential Campaign Rally

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Campaign Rally for President Barack Obama, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Oct. 2012.

Campaign Rally for President Barack Obama, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Oct. 2012.

While most people cringe and moan during election season, I find it kinda exhilarating. Having attended probably a half-dozen rallies plus two inaugurations and the Republican National Convention (in Tampa) since 2008, I’m sharing my tips for attending a 2016 presidential campaign rally.

My Reasons for Attending Presidential Campaign Rallies
Yeah, I know. Call me crazy for enjoying politicking season but it’s one of the things that makes America great. People put their lives on the line to defend our democracy and it’s important not to take our right to vote for granted.

Importantly, I encourage others to vote with their head rather than emotions. This means, cast an educated vote and the best way to learn about the presidential candidates is to attend a campaign rally.

Donald J. Trump for President Rally in Sarasota, Fla., Nov. 28, 2015

Donald J. Trump for President Rally in Sarasota, Fla., Nov. 28, 2015

I enjoy attending rallies because I hear directly from candidates’ mouths rather than relying on media outlets. I can also observe body language and see how candidates interact with constituents.

Attending also allows me to speak with other voters and learn the issues important to them. This helps me understand why they and others support a particular candidate over another.

Plus, rallies provide interesting entertainment value. During the Donald J. Trump rally in Sarasota last month, there was an elephant outside the venue. Yes, about 10,000 people and a pachyderm attended that event.

Yes, an Elephant. Donald J. Trump for President Rally in Sarasota, Fla., Nov. 28, 2015

Yes, an Elephant. Donald J. Trump for President Rally in Sarasota, Fla., Nov. 28, 2015

Campaign rallies are an opportunity to celebrate the United States Constitution’s First Amendment which protects the freedom of speech. When it comes to the candidates and their constituents, freedom of speech is a beautiful thing but hatred is pretty dang ugly.

I despise trash talk, low blows, and attacks on spouses and family during election season while appreciate intelligent conversation, spirited debates and thoughtful reasoning. And in general, attending presidential campaign rallies is an opportunity to be part of history and celebrate patriotism and all that’s good with the United States.

Sen. Hillary Clinton Campaigning for Barack Obama, Winter Park, Fla. Nov. 1, 2008

Sen. Hillary Clinton Campaigning for Barack Obama, Winter Park, Fla. Nov. 1, 2008

My Tips for Attending a 2016 Presidential Campaign Rally

Based on experience, following are my tips for attending a 2016 presidential campaign rally:

How Do I Know When a Presidential Candidate Will Be Visiting My Town?
One of the most frustrating things during the 2008 presidential race was finding out when either Obama or McCain were visiting. I was willing to travel up to four hours to attend an event yet in some cases, I wouldn’t learn about a rally until either late the day prior or the day of. Social media accounts for each of the candidates didn’t include information about rallies and the events section of their respective websites were not very helpful.

During the 2012 cycle, both the Democratic and Republican parties embraced 21st century and began posting on their websites their schedules a few days out. Even better, they had sections where you could register to receive information about upcoming rallies. They also had a better handle on utilizing social media (although, the Obama campaign was ahead of the social media curve in 2008).

I encourage you to:

  • Visit the websites of each candidate and sign up to receive notifications of upcoming rallies. Downside, expect to receive tons of campaign donation requests but that’s why the delete button was invented.
  • Follow the candidates on Twitter and “Like” their Facebook pages.
  • Visit the website of your local Democratic or Republican Party chapter and register to receive updates.
  • Read the political section of the local paper.
Gov. Sarah Palin Campaigning in Tampa, Fla., Oct. 26, 2008

Gov. Sarah Palin Campaigning in Tampa, Fla., Oct. 26, 2008

Okay, There’s a Rally. How Can I Attend?
Remember, anyone can attend a presidential campaign rally so whether you learned about a rally through a news broadcast, newspaper article, email or through social media, follow the instructions for registering to attend. Most likely it’s a free rally (and not a campaign fundraiser) and although you’re required to RSVP, doing so doesn’t guarantee you’ll be admitted into the venue.

I learned the hard way in 2008 when I was turned away with ticket in hand from a rally featuring Gov. Sarah Palin in Fort Myers. Especially with indoor venues, there’s a seating capacity set by the fire marshal. Once at capacity, most people are turned away. In the case of Trump’s Sarasota visit, they provided outdoor seating for the overflow crowd in which the candidate addressed them before and after his primary speech.

Members of the Duggar Family and Zach Bates during Rally for Republican Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum, Sarasota, Fla., Jan. 29, 2012

Members of the Duggar Family and Zach Bates during Rally for Republican Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum, Sarasota, Fla., Jan. 29, 2012

It’s Rally Day! Now What?
ARRIVE EARLY if you want to hear the candidate. Again, speaking from personal experience, if a rally begins at 4 p.m., don’t show up at 3:30 p.m. expecting to be admitted. During the 2008 race I stood in line for four hours to hear Sarah Palin (yes, FOUR HOURS) in Tampa and many others were ahead of me. A couple of weeks later I waited three hours to hear Hillary Clinton campaign for Obama in Winter Park, Fla. I ended up with front-row positioning and met some really great people.

The rally ticket will indicate when the doors into the venue open and if you really want to get in, arrive an hour before that time.

Barack Obama Supporter, Winter Park, Fla., Nov. 1, 2008

Barack Obama Supporter, Winter Park, Fla., Nov. 1, 2008

What Should I Wear?
In addition to donning your red, white and blue, if you’ll be waiting in line for four hours or any duration, be sure you’re wearing comfortable shoes and clothing. If you’ll be standing out in the sun, bring along a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen and possibly insect repellent. Or, if you’re in one of those states that snows, dress for the weather. If permissible, bring your own chair or blanket to sit on.

Will There Be Food and Water?
Brown bag it! Don’t forget your water and snacks. Some venues will have food for sale while others will not. I’ve also attended rallies where they had complimentary water and others did not. If you need to eat every two hours then bring food with you.

Keep the Shoes On But Be Prepared for Airport Security
Not sure if this will be the norm for 2016 but during the Trump rally in Sarasota last month, all rally-goers needed to pass through TSA security. Bottles of water were okay and we could keep our shoes on but items such as baseballs and lighters were tossed out. When attending a presidential rally, leave the perceived weapons (even if you have a permit to carry) home.

Campaign Buttons - Donald J. Trump for President Rally in Sarasota, Fla., Nov. 28, 2015

Campaign Buttons – Donald J. Trump for President Rally in Sarasota, Fla., Nov. 28, 2015

Other Essentials to Bring Along to a Presidential Campaign Rally
Bring your questions! Become familiar with the issues, listen to the presidential candidates and if the opportunity presents itself, ask a question.

Bring your respect. No matter what your political alliance, be courteous and respectful of the candidate and other attendees.

If it’s important to you, be sure your camera and phone batteries are charged. I carry at least two external batteries for my iPhone. A Sharpie marker along with the candidate’s latest book are handy in case you’re close enough to ask for an autograph.

Speaking of phones, sure, snap some photos and videos but then put the phone away and enjoy the moment in person, not through a screen.

Political button, T-shirt and hat vendors are a plenty (you’ll see the same vendors selling different pins depending on the candidate speaking). Bring along your small bills if you want to pick up a piece of political memorabilia and hold out! As I’ve found, the vendors closest to the venue are the most expensive. I collect buttons and rather than spending $5 for one, see if you can pick up two for $5 or even better, three for $5. Some vendors do accept credit cards.

Gov. Bill Richardson Campaigning for Barack Obama, Port Charlotte, Fla., Oct. 21, 2008

Gov. Bill Richardson Campaigning for Barack Obama, Port Charlotte, Fla., Oct. 21, 2008

Know the Code
If you’re social media savvy, find out if the specific presidential rally has a designated hashtag and use these in your Tweets, Instagram and Facebook uploads. Your followers and others interested in the presidential campaigns will appreciate the information you’re sharing in real-time.

What Are Your Tips?
Have you ever attended a presidential rally? What tips would you add? Are you planning on attending any rallies in 2016?

You can only vote for president once every four years. Vote with your head and not your emotions.


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links to support my travel habit.

Author: Solo Travel Girl

Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., a hiking trail led Jennifer Huber, aka: Solo Travel Girl, to a career path in tourism. She has worked in the tourism industry for more than 20 years including 10 years with a park management company in Yellowstone, Death Valley and Everglades National Park. She currently lives in Southwest Florida, and maintains this travel blog with the goal of inspiring others to travel alone, not lonely.

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97 Comments

  1. Hi! I will be attending a trump rallie in mechanicsburg, PA today. Could you please let me know what time you think I should arrive to the venue to assure I get in? The rallie starts at 7pm and the doors open to the venue at 4pm. The venue seating is for around 3,800 people. Thank you in advance for your response!

  2. Hello Illy.

    Hope you and your son had a fantastic time! Glad you’re getting him involved at a young age!

  3. Hello Michelle.

    I’d say as early as you can afford to be there – I would arrive no later than 11 am. Enjoy the event!

  4. could you please tell me can I take my kindle with me to have something to do while I wait in line.

  5. Hello Margaret. Each venue has different rules for what’s brought in but from what I’ve seen, Kindles and tablets are fine. Be prepared for thorough security. The less yo have the quicker you’ll be able to pass through.

  6. Hi there I am going to a rally tomorrow and it starts at 4pm. What time should I arrive there ?

  7. Hello Denise.

    I’m not sure of the specifics or what you want to accomplish (to get inside or be in the front) but you can arrive as early as you’re willing to wait.

  8. Very true! I got here a couple of hours early and the line is LONG!

  9. Thanks for article. Another way to enjoy is by volunteering. Can meet those in charge or even the candidate!

  10. Hi,

    Thank you for your article. I’ll be attending my first rally tomorrow (Hillary) here in Reno. All the website and the confirmation e-mail say is that the event is from 10 to 12 and that the doors open at 10. I work from 8 to 5 and I’ll be taking my lunch early so I can go…considering that the doors open at 10, I was thinking about getting there at around 10:30, since she’ll probably come out at 11 if the event is from 10 to 12. What do you think about that? I’d really hate to go there during my lunch hour only to have to leave without seeing her. Is it crazy for me to want to go just to see her for a few minutes and then head back to the office? Is it even doable?

    Any advice/tips will be appreciated. Thanks in advance!

    -Victor

  11. Hello Victor.

    Thanks for visiting this post and no, it’s not crazy wanting to see her for a few minutes.

    Arriving at 10:30 may be cutting it close for getting in. Depends on the size of the venue and how many people the Fire Marshall will let in. Plus, you’ll need to go through security (bring as little with you as possible). Also, depends on how popular she is.

    If you can, you may want to arrive earlier. If you can’t arrive earlier, take your chances – you never know!

  12. Hi, I’m attending a Hillary Clinton rally here in Charlotte on Thursday, 9/8. Can I bring a Nikon DSLR with me?

  13. Hello STG,

    When I am searching some tip to find rally observer I found your wonderful post. I’m still neutral in a sense but am a keen observer. I recently bought a small RV, so I can drive to a rally place within 400 miles of radius almost in a moment of notice. Since you are an observer veteran, in your experience have you come across such like-minded RVier like me?

    Thanks again for your website!

    Jonathan

  14. Hi Steve. I was able to bring mine into a Hillary Clinton rally (in Tampa) with a zoom lens without a problem. I also had my Sony mirrorless. I just had to turn them on for security.

    I’ve been told and have seen in writing “professional-type cameras” are not allowed at Trump rallies.

    Enjoy the rally and the process!

  15. Hi Jonathan.

    That’s wonderful you have an RV to travel with! So far, I haven’t come across any RVers like you but they could exist. Keep me posted on your journeys and experience:)

  16. I’m planning on attending the President Obama rally tomorrow and I RSVP’d online last week. I read on one website (not an official Clinton one) that you could have picked up tickets (during a two hour window) today at the venue. I live hours away so that wasn’t possible. How are tickets generally handed out in your experience and are they available on the day of if you arrive super early? I was planning on arriving hours before the doors open so I can hopefully get in, but there’s no point in my driving down if I can’t even get tickets to even begin to try to get in. Thanks!

  17. Hi Kay.

    From my experience, they say tickets are required but I have yet to attend a rally where they collected tickets, including a rally with President Obama in 2012. But, at the last Clinton rally I attended they handed out forms and asked everyone to fill them out on site and called them tickets but it was a way to add supporters to their database.

    However, I don’t know the circumstances of tomorrow’s rally but THINK you should be ok arriving early.

    Plus, I learned that even if you have a ticket, it doesn’t guarantee you’ll get in.

    Best of luck and have a great time!

  18. Great blog! There isn’t much out there on attending campaign rallies! I am planning on attending the Clinton Rally in Las Vegas on Wednesday at the Smith Center. The doors open at 5:30. Based on your experience, do you think getting in line by 2pm going to be early enough to guarantee that we get in? Also, if I am going with a group, can some members of your groups get out of line to purchase water, etc?

  19. Hello Crystal.

    Thanks for stopping by. 2 pm should give you plenty of time and it’s great you’re going with a group! From experience, they should be able to get out of line and get back in line – especially important for the bathroom!

    You may want to see if there are any restrictions about taking items into the venue, like food. Depends on whether there’s a food vendor inside selling food.
    Enjoy the event!

  20. Hi I’m going to the trump rally tomorrow in Palm beach.i got tickets but there on my phone did not print them.is it necessary that I do???

  21. Hello Ariel. No, you don’t need to print them out. Arrive early and have a great time!

  22. Hi,

    I’m going to a Hillary Clinton Rally on Monday. Doors open at 10:30 and the event starts at 2:30. What time do you think I should get there so that I can be sure I get in? It’s in the Carr center at St. Anselm College in Manchester, NH.

    Thanks!

  23. Hello Erin.

    Thanks for the email. To be sure you get in I would get there around 8 a.m. because the doors open at 10:30. Enjoy!

  24. Hi There, I am a Canadian who is a political enthusiast and inspired by President Obama. I also am for Hillary and would like to attend her Rally during my vacation in Orlando. Are non-Americans able to attend? Do I need to bring my passort or anything else? Is there a chance I won’t get in based on my Citizenship? I would not want to plan my trip around this and be disappointed.
    So any help would be great! Thanks.

  25. Hello Anjuna.

    Thank you for your email and dropping by. I’m thrilled to hear you’re Canadian and interested in our process. From my experience, I have never seen or heard of citizenship being checked at rallies. In fact, it seems as though more the merrier including non-Americans. They may ask you to fill out a “ticket” to enter, which is a way to build their database and not really an admission ticket. Arrive early to be sure you get in and bring as little as possible because you’ll need to pass through security. Enjoy the event!

  26. Hey, im attending a Hillary rally this Friday with my mother and i was wondering if i had to RSVP, or if i could just go without any notice or ticket?

  27. Hello Joe! I don’t know how large the venue is but from my experience, none of the rallies I’ve attended collected tickets or looked at RSVP lists so you should be ok as long as you arrive early. Enjoy the prices!

  28. The doors for the Obama rally in Orlando open at 3. What time should I get there? I was thinking of 12. Is that enough time? I am bringing my kids, ages ten and thirteen too.

  29. Hello Karen.

    That should be plenty of time to get in. Enjoy and glad you’re taking your kids with you.

  30. Am I allowed to bring in a wearable baby carrier to a Trump rally?

  31. Hello Erin. Thanks for dropping by. From my experience, yes, but are you planning on bringing your baby? If so. Be prepare for it to be a crowded event and if outside, prepare for the elements. Also, you’ll need to go through security so be prepared for that. Large bags are discouraged.

  32. Hello, I am attending a Hillary rally tomorrow and received an email that said to not bring any bags. I am a college student and anticipating hours and hours of waiting to get into the rally (there are people camping out and ticket sales have been halted because of the demand). I’d like to bring school work and snacks, but won’t be able to if I cannot bring a bag. Do you think I could bring a cross body or a tote bag that security could easily look inside? With no pockets or anything? Just to be able to easily transport my computer and a textbook. Thank you!

  33. If i want to be in front for a rally for Hillary at 6:30 what time should i be there? And can i bring my camera its a Nikon?Thank you.

  34. Hi Taylor. If they specifically said no bags, you shouldn’t bring one – but, you could run it back to your car if you have it with you while you wait. The other attendees will most likely save your spot. I’m sure others will be in your situation. Enjoy the event!

  35. Hi Kiara. You’d want to be there as early as possible so by mid-morning to early afternoon. Depends on how much time you have to spare. Unless they specified no cameras you should be ok – be prepared for airport-like security. Enjoy the rally!

  36. Hello, I was planning on attending the Trump Rally today in Hershey PA, but there is no way I can make it before 5pm.I have tickets, but that doesn’t seem to matter. Will it be a waste of time for me to go, or might there be big screens set up outside?

  37. Hi Teri.

    Sorry, I’m just now getting to your comment. Hope you were able to make the event!

  38. Hi, I’m attending a trump rallying NH tomorrow. Doors open at 5pm and the event is at 8 pm. Will getting there at 2 ensure I can get good seats, or at least seats at all? The place seats around 11,000 people. TIA!!

  39. Hi! Any recommendation as to when to get to the Hillary Clinton rally in Philly tomorrow? It’ll include Hillary, Bill, both Obamas, AND Bon Jovi. Doors open at 4. The venue is Independence Hall; I don’t know if it’ll be an indoor or outdoor event. Thanks so much for your advice!

  40. Thanks very much for your informative post. I registered to attend the final pre-election Clinton rally in Philadelphia tomorrow. But… my plan is to bring my 19-month toddler son with me. I try to expose him to lots of different environments, events, and cultures, and since we live within walking distance of the venue and it sounds like attendance may be impacted by the public transit strike currently happening in Philly, I figured I might as well take this opportunity. But do you think this is a terrible idea to bring a toddler? It looks like the entrances open at 4, and the rally is 7:30-8:30. I was thinking I would wear him in a carrier on my back (for traveling to and from, and for times when it seems like he might be safer or happier strapped to me). But given how long I could be standing in line, and given that it looks like I should also bring water, snacks, dinner, etc, then perhaps it would be better to bring him in the stroller? Have you seen many small children at rallies, and if so, how did the parents carry/corral the kids? Have you noticed if strollers are even permitted? Is there any other advice you can offer regarding bringing kids? Do you think that the culture at rallies in general is welcoming to kids? Thanks very much for any advice can offer.

  41. Hi Leelee. It depends on how much time you have. Not knowing specifics and if it’s outdoors, if you want to get a good seat, I’d get there no later than noon. Security will be tight and I’ve heard of people waiting 24 hours in advance to get in. Enjoy!

  42. Hi Stephanie. That’s great you want to take your son with you and expose him to this. I don’t know him or you but it sounds like you’d be waiting in line a long time with him. From what I’ve experienced, the atmosphere is conducive to families but I’ve rarely seen kids at events. Strollers are most likely permitted – be prepared for airport-like security. If you bring a bag with you with lots of things in it, security will go through the bag by hand. Since you live within walking distance you can gauge the transportation situation for others but remember, just because you register doesn’t mean you’ll get in (unless they issued you a specific ticket that you needed to pick up).

    I suppose the best advice I can offer is to consider if this wasn’t a political rally, would you be bringing him and going through all it? (Meaning, waiting in line then waiting once inside).

  43. We attended a Trump event in Loveland. Got our tickets on line and got to the event 3 1/2 hours early and we were shocked at the long line! It was exciting and fun. Once in the event, we did not have to show I D or our printed ticket. We walked thru an airport like device and headed to our seats.

    Our friend attended a Hillary event and had to show their ID. Why is an ID required to go in to see the candidate (Obama same) but not required to vote for the Dems. I already know the answer— how else can they cheat

  44. I just wanted to say thank you for your November 6 reply to my questions about taking my toddler son to a rally. It was awesome of you to find the time answer so thoughtfully and so quickly, and the thoughts you shared were very helpful in helping me decide what to do.

  45. You’re welcome, Stephanie. Thanks for dropping back by! I watched some of the event on TV – there were a lot of people there! Hope you had a positive experience.

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