Travel tips for the 2024 GOP and DNC Conventions

There are plenty options of planning your transportation options for the RNC and DNC Conventions in Chicago and Milwaukee. Knowing what options are out there can ease your mind.
Chicago and Milwaukee are hosts to the DNC and GOP Conventions in July and August
Chicago and Milwaukee are hosts to the DNC and GOP Conventions in July and August / Anadolu/GettyImages

The summer of 2024 is here and not only are temperatures rising, but the build-up towards the Presidential election in November is also ramping up in July and August with both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions. As always with major events such as these, travel to and from the events becomes a major point of focus. Knowing the lay of the land can also make or break you.

First things, first are knowing the basics of both conventions. The Republican National Convention will be held from July 15 to the 18th at the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Democratic National Convention will be held from August 19 to the 22nd at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois.

Looking at the schedules for Major League Baseball, at the time of the RNC, the league will be holding its annual All-Star Break in Arlington, Texas. That being said, in what will be a very high and much-anticipated travel day, the Milwaukee Brewers will be hosting a day game against the Washington Nationals the day before the convention is slated to begin. On the flip side, the Chicago Cubs will be hosting the Detroit Tigers at Wrigley Field from August 20 through the 22nd. The day before the DNC, the Cubs will be hosting the Toronto Blue Jays for a day game. With regards to the White Sox, the club will be on the road in San Francisco during the Democratic convention.

When it comes to air travel, United Airlines has added at least 72 flights to and from Milwaukee during the July RNC event and 118 additional flights to and from Chicago's O'Hare Airport during the DNC event in August. American Airlines is also adding some flights and upgrading some fleets for capacity reasons during the week of the two conventions. It is always advised to book your flights as soon as possible if you know you are required to attend the events because these flights are a premium novelty.

The GOP Convention - Milwaukee (July 15-18)

The city of Milwaukee estimates the economic impact of the event to bring in an estimated $200 million. That includes hotels, food and drink, transportation, and much more. It is highly recommended that both locals and visitors plan ahead and expect significant delays downtown with traffic. Over the course of the event, both the city and county of Milwaukee expect around 50-60,000 people to access the immediate area. It is highly recommended that if you need to be in that immediate area, carpool, walk, or use services like Uber and Lyft to get around and use the MCTS bus system as a key resource.

Using the MCTS bus system, there are three ways to pay for a bus ticket. First is using the UMO app, which takes a credit or debit card and also accepts Apple Pay and Google Pay. You can also buy and reload a WisGo card at most supermarkets, pharmacies, and convenience stores in the Milwaukee County area. There are also ticket vending machines at the various hubs across the city. According to the MCTS website, the average fare ranges between $1 and $2. There are several MCTS lines that will lead you directly to Fiserv Forum itself and they are routes 19, 31, 33, 34, 80, and 81. The 12, 30, CN1, Blue, and Green lines are all within considerable walking distance of the Fiserv Forum facility.

Like any major event, doing your research on transportation is critical but if you are there for multiple days and nights, finding a hotel or place to settle in is the most critical of them all. Making the daily trip from places such as Racine, Chicago, Kenosha, and Sheboygan should not be ruled out. If you can save the money on hotels, these are excellent places to look.

If you do stay in Chicago during the RNC Convention, Greyhound and FlixBus both have direct trips between the two cities with a fairly consistent flow of buses scheduled. Amtrak also has several trains going to and from Milwaukee daily. Be sure to check availability and times for all three services to plan efficient travel.

The DNC Convention - Chicago (August 19-22)

Unlike Milwaukee, Chicago is no stranger to big events and there are usually several that happen at least once or twice a month in the city. Much like the GOP Convention in Milwaukee, the city of Chicago and Cook County are expecting around 50-60,000 people to canvass the area. The general area around the United Center does have ample amounts of parking that surrounds the facility. That being said, much like the GOP Convention in Milwaukee, the wise words that if you can, resort to carpooling, using rideshares such as Uber and Lyft. If you wish to use public transportation via the Chicago Transit Authority.

For access to the CTA subways and buses, you can purchase a Seven-Day CTA Unlimited pass for $20. Purchasing a Chicago Metro card at any rail station and Ventra vending machine with the card itself costs $5 without a fare plan. Access to the United Center with the CTA is done with bus routes 50, 20, and 5. Walkable routes 49, 7, 9, 126, X9, and X49. It is also accessible from the Blue Line with stops at Illinois Medical District and Western subway stations and Green Line at the Ashland subway station. Make sure you check with the CTA for schedules and service disruptions.

Following the trend for the Democratic convention, there will be an increased inventory of flights at O'Hare Airport. Greyhound and Flix Bus have appeared to also increase their inventory during the week. Amtrak will have its usual service so if you plan to stay outside of the Chicago vicinity, make plans accordingly.

Staying in places such as Gary, South Bend and Elkhart in Indiana are all very solid options that can be had. Doing the reverse convention stay like going to Milwaukee for your overnight stay could save you plenty of money. Furthermore, staying in a place like Joliet, Rockford, and Aurora should not be ruled out.

Maximizing the stay and adventure during the Convention Week

If you ask any veteran or seasoned traveler, they will all tell you that planning ahead certainly eases the strain of things. Making sure you have all your transportation, lodging, and all things in between can help in more ways than one and it takes the stress out of the equation in terms of unexpected travel expenses.

If you want to maximize the adventure factor by staying in nearby cities and metro areas, one thing you could try is mixing up the transportation methods. Let's say you do not plan to utilize the use of a vehicle for the duration. One day you could opt to travel via Amtrak to the cities of Milwaukee or Chicago. Later that night, after the day is over instead of taking the train, use Flix Bus or Greyhound. The next day rolls around, you decide to take the Greyhound in the morning and then use Amtrak at night. Maybe a one-off adventure via Uber or Lyft could suffice if you can make it work.

Travel during convention can be stressful but the bottom line is you can choose to make it an adventure. The transportation side of it is only one factor of the equation.