10 Tips for a Great Drive-In Movie Experience

The ultimate checklist for a positive drive-in movie outing, including snacks, drinks, blankets and good company

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It’s been a long few months, to put it mildly. You’re probably ready to get out of the house for a fun night out while still practicing social distancing. Because, you know, we’re still technically in the midst of a pandemic. Thankfully, there are some fun and COVID-19 safe activities like going to an old-fashioned drive-in movie since movie theaters are either still closed or just a little too close for comfort.

Going to a drive-in is actually new to a lot of people. Drive-in movie theaters gave way in the United States to the mega box office complexes with plush race car seats and giant 70-foot screens. The good news is that family drive-ins have made a comeback since COVID-19 shut down the cineplexes. But looky here, the drive-in theater had the good stuff all along with the original big screen, ranging from 50 to 100 feet wide. And the comfy seats are your own actual race car seats! Or truck or sedan or whatever kind of vehicle you drive. And you can be your own concession stand! No need to smuggle in movie snacks anymore!

But you will want to go prepared with the right stuff to make your drive-in movie experience the best it can be, whether it’s a date night, a family outing or hanging out with friends. And we’re here to help with a few tips and ideas.

Make great memories on your night at drive-in theater

Take your favorite snacks & drinks

It’s a retro, outdoors version of the complete movie experience, so you have to bring along the proper selection of snacks and drinks. The drive-in theater may have a concessions area, but it won’t hurt to make sure you have your favorites. You know the usual suspects: M&Ms, Milk Duds, Sour Patch Kids, Gummy Bears, and don’t forget to pop some popcorn before you go. Fill the cooler with your favorite soda, water & juice boxes if you’re taking the kids. Thintk of how much you’ll be able to get for what you would have paid at the movie theater!

Pro Tip: Some drive-ins charge an extra fee to bring in your own food and drink. Just like the indoor variety, the outdoor theater still makes money on the snack bar, concession stand or food trucks.

Pocket some cash for concessions

It’s easy to forget and show up somewhere with no cash when we’re used to never carrying any. Maybe they take credit cards, and maybe they don’t. Better safe than sorry.

Pack the blankets and pillows

You might as well get comfortable, right? Whether someone gets tired or you want to cuddle together under the blanket while watching a double feature of A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, you’ll be all set when the evening chill sets in. Plus, it’ll give you another layer to protect against bugs.

Wear long pants and sweatshirts

Again, the bugs and the evening chill. Both can ruin your night if you don’t protect yourself.

Dig up the old radio or download a radio app

Drive-ins used to have a field of posts with speakers attached so you could hear the movie. Now you can just tune in to the radio station the drive-in is using to broadcast its audio. Rather than wear out your car battery, try bringing a battery-powered radio or using a radio app like TuneIn on your phone and connecting to some good Bluetooth speakers.

Take some chairs

If the car is a little cramped for the crowd you’re bringing or if you want a better view, you may want to haul along the camping chairs to pop up in the parking lot in front of the car, or a blanket to lay out in the bed of the truck.

Insect repellent and other personal items

The movie is going to start right around the time the mosquitoes and other bugs start their night out, too. They’ll be attracted to any lights you have on, and eventually they’ll find you in the dark, too. Make sure you take some insect repellent, along with hand sanitizer, tissues, plates, cups and napkins.

Check the weather and the showtimes

Sure, it may work out to head to the drive-in on a whim, but at least check the weather forecast and look at the showtimes listed. And look over the theater’s policies and rules so you show up like a pro. Maybe you’ll find a fun double feature. But those nights can get long, especially if you’re bringing kids.

Bring trash bags

Rather than cleaning out the car when you get home and you’re tired, throw it all in a garbage bag or your empty Gopuff bag to keep things clean and tidy.

If you’re taking kids, charge and bring the devices

If they get bored with the movie, the kids will need something to keep them occupied while you finish watching. Take the iPad, iPod, portable DVD player or whatever else will work. And don’t forget their earbuds or headphones as they watch Inside Out if you plan on hearing Black Panther!

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