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. Thank you for the information! I will be attending my first rally tomorrow and am so excited! But I want to make the most of my time there so thanks for the pointers! 🙂

  2. Enjoy and glad you’re getting involved in the process!

  3. Hi, not sure you will see this on time, but it’s worth a try!
    Tmrw is my first rally and doors open at 12:15. How early do you think I should go? Thanks in advance!

  4. Hello San. Depends on who you’re going to see and where. Without knowing much – you should be okay if you’re there 2 hours ahead of time. Have a great time and glad you’re taking an interest in the presidential process and the well-being. Remember to vote!

  5. Thank you for all of this great information, it was very helpful! I’m going to my first rally tomorrow and I can’t wait. Usually I don’t take an interest in politics but I’ve been watching the news lately and Bernie Sanders has caught my attention. Do you have any other advice/tips on rallies? What should I expect? Any help is appreciated.

  6. Hello Haylee! Thank you for stopping by and you’re welcome. You should have a terrific time! If the rally is outdoors, remember to keep hydrated and protect yourself from the sun! Be open-minded, you’ll meet great, like-minded people, and you’ll feel an electric energy in the air. You may be mentally and physically tired from the rush! It’s really a thrill being part of the path to the presidency. Wish I was able to see Bernie on the campaign trail.

    Thanks for taking an interest in the process. Be sure to vote and drop me a line letting me know how your experience was! 🙂

  7. This will be my first rally on Saturday as well! So beyond excited! I do have a 5 year old daughter. She does really well being out all day with me, so I know if I take her she’d do fine, but I can’t get any answers from anyone if children are even allowed. I will be seeing Ted Cruz. My questions are can I bring my daughter and how much in advance would be good for a crowd like his in Utah?

    Thank You.

  8. Hi Sherry. Thanks for stopping by and I’m excited you’re participating in the presidential process!

    Without knowing specifics, from experience I have seen children at all rallies I’ve attended. You may want to check with the GOP party that’s holding the rally just to be sure.

    As for timing on when to get there it depends on the size of the venue and time of day but you should be ok a couple of hours prior to when the doors open.

    Enjoy the process and be sure to vote.

  9. Hi , I am thinking about attending the Hillary Clinton Rally in Phoenix on Monday, I am recovering from Lymphoma, and Want to bring my Nikon camera and telephoto lens . Is it possible to arrange a seat or is it always kind of First come first served. I am not sure I can stand for 4 to 6 hours straight and would be going alone

  10. Hello Rob.

    Thank you for stopping by and glad you’re on the recovery with Lymphoma. Every rally I’ve attended has been first come, first serve, however, you can contact the local Democratic party office in Phoenix to see if they can make accommodations for you. Please put your health first!

  11. Hi! Not sure if you’ll see this in time but I’ll comment anyway. I’m going to a Bernie Sanders rally later today and I’m not sure what time to arrive. Doors open at 1:00 p.m. But he doesn’t start speaking until 5:00 p.m. When do you think I should arrive?

  12. Hi Katie.

    Thanks for stopping by. Definitely get there before the doors open if you want to get in. From what I understand he’s been getting large crowds.

    Enjoy the event and thanks for taking interest in the process!

  13. Hello, Thank you for all of this helpful information! Do you know if you are permitted to leave the rally early?

  14. Great info!! Been googling endlessly until I found your tips-it really should not be so hard to find information on campaign stops but it sure is! Very appreciative 🙂 My 25 year old daughter is finally taking an interest in the presidential political process so I’m hoping we can attend one!

  15. Thanks for stopping by, Lisa. I’ve seen people leave rallies early and without knowing the specifics you should be able to do so. Enjoy the process!

  16. Hi I wanted to attend a Bernie rally in a few days but I’m trying to schedule it around my job, if the doors open at 11 AM what time would he go on? And how long would it last, including trying to get out of the venue? Thank you!

  17. Hello Derek.

    Thank you for your email and glad you’re interested in the presidential election process. Without knowing specifics, if the doors open at 11 a.m., and depending on how large the venue is, the main event probably wouldn’t begin until 1 p.m. (taking into consideration people need to get into and settled in the venue) and that’s a guess. However, you may want to get there before the doors open even if you have a ticket to the event. As for how long it would last, it depends on whether there are other speakers and/or entertainment – so it could range from an hour to two. As for how much time to get out of the venue, I don’t specifics but plan some time. Check with the Democratic Club where the rally is being held to see if they have a more specific answer.

    Best of luck!

  18. Thanks for dropping a line, Mariellen. Very glad to hear your daughter is interested in the process and hope you will attend a rally or two!

  19. very late but I want to go to the Bernie rally tomorrow but when I wanted to rsvp it said it has reached their max capacity so should I still try to go or not even bother?

  20. its probably really late but I am trying too go to a Bernie rally tomorrow but when I went in to rsvp it said that they have reached their max. capacity. Would I still be able to get let in or should I not even bother?

  21. Hello Karina. In my experience it didn’t matter if I had a ticket and registered or not. If you have the time, get there early and see if you can get in. If you don’t get in, you’ll at least have the experience of being there and being around like-minded people. Good luck!

  22. Hi, I need your help asap. I want to know how, where and when to attend the upcoming rallies in New York, New Jersey and Phillie. I have a banner I would like to hold up.

    I am launching a new website named

    PROUDTOBEANANERICAN.ME that is .ME not .COM

    It is live but I have a few more things to do before I start heavy marketing.

    This site will give Americans a place to voice their political concerns about what is going on in America Today for EVERYDAY AMERICANS. I took the words of those I spoke to and put them on removable bumper stickers and created the ” THE FLAG OF THE PEOPLE”.

    Check out our “If I were President” tab.

    like us also on facebook/proud2beanamerican.

    I also have to start a dialogue here too.

    Can you help me please asap…time is limited for me to attend these rallies.

  23. that is

    facebook/proud2beanamerican.me

    I left out the most important part the .ME.

    This is the first time I ecer did this..lol

  24. Hello Laureen. The best advice I can give you is to contact the respective political parties for each of those cities plus, visit the websites of the candidates. Sometimes there’s any event section listing where they’ll be. Also, check their social media pages.

    Best of luck!

  25. Hi. I am glad I came across your site. My son, who is only 13, has been so interested in this presidential campaign. He has watched most debates — both sides — could probably give a decent run down of all the candidates than most adults who are eligible to vote! He really wants to go the the Donald Trump Rally tomorrow in Harrington DE. I did reserve 2 tickets. I’m preparing to take him and will have him read your site so he is prepared for long waits and the possibility of not actually getting in. I will definitely plan on leaving a little earlier than I was thinking. It didn’t occur to me that having reserved tickets didn’t mean we were guaranteed to have a seat. This is going to be the most interesting day trip i’ve done in many years!

  26. Thanks for dropping by and glad these tips were useful. I’m also glad to hear your son is interested in the process! Would love to hear about your experience afterward. Best of luck!

  27. I’m so glad I came across this! I’m going to my first campaign rally tomorrow also. I have a question. The ticket doesn’t have a doors open time but it has the time of the start of the rally. Which is 6pm. What time would you recommend I leave for the event?

  28. How long do rallies usually last?

  29. Hi Dylan. Thanks for dropping by and glad you’re interested in the presidential election process. If it starts at 6 you’d probably want to get there by 3 pm at the latest. Best of luck!

  30. Hello Jenna. Rallies vary from an hour to a couple of hours to longer. Depends on the candidate, how many other people will be speaking before them, etc. Glad you’re interested in the process.

  31. I am going to a Trump rally in a couple of days and the doors open at 3pm and the rally is at 6pm. I was planning on getting there at around 1 or 1:30, is that early enough? I know most of Trump’s previous rallies draw huge crowds and this venue only has a capacity of like 8k

  32. Are children allowed to attend rallies? my daughter is 8 years old and really wants to go. I will be attending my first rally tom. and my husband and I were wondering if we should let her come with us.

  33. Hello!

    I am a Junior in college and am planning on attending my first presidential rally. I am attending a Cruz rally just to observe what it will be like, and to hear him out. It will be in my small town in Indiana. I am wondering if you had any tips on how to actually position yourself best to meet/shake hands with the Candidate, in this case Cruz or Fiorina. I know most candidates with at least do this for some time at the end, and it is a night rally so I am assuming they have no other scheduled events for the day. It starts at 7:30-9. It would be great to actually be able to greet them. Is there a specific group worth contacting before hand, a time to get there, place to stand, or is it worth contacting the campaign team themselves and seeing if you have any luck? Was looking for advice on this as the rally is this Sunday.

    Thanks!

    Thanks!

  34. Hi Ethan. Thanks for dropping by. I’d plan on arriving no later than 1 pm maybe even noon. Best of luck!

  35. Hello Elsa. All rallies I’ve attended have been open to children and my friends have brought their children. Check the candidate’s website to see if they have restrictions, though.

    That’s great your daughter is interested in the process!

  36. Hello Quinn. My advice would be to arrive as early as possible and make your way to the very front of the stage. If they shake hands with attendees it would most likely be after the event when the candidate has spoken. You can reach out to Cruz’s campaign office there, too. Glad you’re interested in the process and best of luck!

  37. Hello! I am taking my daughter to a Trump rally tomorrow in South Bend, In. She is learning about the election process in school. I think this would be a great thing for her to experience and want to make sure we get in. How early would you recommend we get there? Doors open at 4 pm. and the rally starts at 7 pm.

  38. Hello Leslie. Glad you and your daughter are interested in the process. How early would depend on how big the venue is. The smaller the venue the earliest you should arrive. Not knowing the specifics, I’d arrive around noon or 1 pm to ensure I got in. Enjoy the process!

  39. Thanks for this post! It was very helpful. I’ve attended a few rallies in my life and book signings. I just wanted to say this: if you really want a good seat or standing area close to the stage, show up VERY EARLY. I showed up an hour before a David Sedaris book signing in Portland and ended up waiting 6 hours in line to get my book signed. I also attended a rally this year with Bill Clinton; showed up 2 hours before the doors were even scheduled to open and still didn’t get a great spot.

  40. Are children of any age allowed into the convention center for the trump rally, I.e. four and five-year-olds?

  41. Hello Teresa.

    Of all the rallies I’ve attended, children have been there. Unless it states otherwise in the information, children should be allowed to attend.

    Enjoy the process!

  42. What a terrific post! I hope to see Hillary and Biden tomorrow in Scranton (a reasonable 2.5 hours away) and will get there at 8 AM for a 10 AM door open and a 12 Noon rally. You don’t talk about urination management, but in events like this I tend to withhold fluid intake roughly 12 hours before my last assured visit to a rest room just in case going while waiting for an event to start might cost me my space. PS: I am an equal opportunity attender and look forward to seeing Trump during his next visit near me.

  43. Hello Paul!

    Thanks for dropping by and you raise a great point, because I have a little bladder 🙂 Terrific tip about reducing liquids intake.

    Enjoy the Hillary event and let me know about your experience!

    Cheers,

    Jennifer

  44. I am thinking about attending a Clinton rally in Miami tomorrow. Are constituents ever allowed to ask the candidate questions

  45. Apologies, just seeing this now. Typically, no. Hope you had a terrific experience!

  46. I’m going to a Hillary Clinton rally at David L Lawrence convention center in Pittsburgh, PA tomorrow. Its her and Tim Kaine. The doors open at 2:15pm and I live about 20 minutes away. My sister and I were wondering what time we should try to get there if we want to be really close to the stage and try to meet her? Also, does she generally meet people before or after the convention?

  47. Hi Brennan. Thank you for your email and excited to learn you’re planing on attending the Clinton/Kaine rally.

    As for time to arrive – last week I attended the Clinton rally in Tampa. Doors opened at 2:30 pm and I arrived at 10 am and there were only about a dozen people ahead of me. Ironically, I didn’t get in front of the stage because basically, the security line to get in was a bit disorganized – people rushed the metal detector and there was a big blob vs a line to get in.

    So, although I was able to shake Hillary’s hand during the event – I was able to get next to the barrier where she walked onto the stage, I was standing next to people who arrived at 1:30.

    She shook hands with people before and after her speech plus after her speech she took selfies or posed for photos with some people.

    Also, those of us in the front perimeter of the barriers who had books were able to get them signed. I don’t know if it’s a typical thing. She said she can’t sign anything but one of her handlers told me to write my name and number in my book and said he’d get it signed, although it would take awhile. About an hour after the event, another handler came out with a stack full of books calling out our names. Booms weren’t personalized but very nice and cool she did that. Here’s a post to last week’s event http://solotravelgirl.com/my-photos-from-hillary-clintons-presidential-campaign-rally-in-tampa-july-22-2016/

    So, my advice to you is, if you have all day to stand in line, go for it. You’ll make new friends with others in line. The convention center may not allow food in or beverages. At the Tampa rally there was a food vendor outside and inside. Free bottled water was distributed by Clinton volunteers.

    Pack as little as possible because you’ll go through security. Bring an external battery for your phone!

    Have a great time!

  48. Thank you for tips, I am going to attend Hillary Clinton rally in Pittsburgh today. I have great time reading your post. Even though I can not vote, but I going with my son that is 10 years old, to teach him about politic and how important is your voice.

  49. I went to a rally for Obama and they wouldn’t let me take a paperback book in. It was insane, and I ended up having to toss it.

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  1. My Photos from Hillary Clinton’s Presidential Campaign Rally in Tampa, July 22, 2016 | Solo Travel Girl - […] Because of the event, I’ll be updating my post about tips for attending a presidential campaign rally. […]

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