Does your family love movies?
After travel, seeing a movie together is one of our favorite family activities.
When we want to be immersed in a blockbuster movie with a high-definition picture and digital sound, we head for the multiplex. When we want to spend quality time together, make memories and celebrate summer, we go to a drive-in movie.
Here are our tips for a successful night at a drive-in movie.
Plan for a late night
You usually get two movies for the price of admission at a drive-in. The second movie ends well after midnight. You don't have to stay for both, but the late night is part of the fun!
Choose the right double-feature
We used to be able to count on our kids falling asleep before the second movie, but not anymore. So, now we look for double features with two family-friendly movies. They usually come around at least a couple of times each summer. Check the drive-in's website every week so you don't miss pairings that are the perfect fit for your crew.
Dress in comfortable clothes or pajamas
A drive-in double feature can last until 1 or 2 AM. It's easy to move the kids directly from the van to their beds when they are already in pajamas.
Our local drive-in does not accept credit cards because it costs them extra and slows down the line. It costs about $30 for our our family of four to go to a double feature. It was less expensive when our kids were both under age 12.
Check your drive-in's website for current policies and prices.
Pack fun snacks
One of the best things about a drive-in movie is that you can bring in your own food. We pop our own popcorn and pick up sodas and candy at the grocery store. You can bring pizza, a picnic, or anything your family likes.
Once you're in the theater, don't plan to leave for treats. Our drive-in does not allow re-entry, but does sell snacks.
Pack camp chairs or lawn chairs
We park our van backward, open the hatch, and lay the back bench flat. We pile blankets and pillows for the kids and my husband and I sit in camp chairs in front. If you have a passenger car or van, camp chairs are a good way to ensure that you have a good view.
If you have a truck, then you can really get creative. I've seen mattresses and love seats in the backs of trucks at the drive-in movie theater. Because of their height, vans and trucks are often not allowed in the first few rows of theater parking.
Pack jackets or blankets
I always get a little cold after I've been sitting in the dark for awhile, regardless of how hot it might have been earlier. Bring something to keep everyone warm after the sun goes down.
Consider insect repellent
We haven't had trouble with mosquitoes, but depending on where you live, insects could be a problem anytime you are outdoors at night.
Bring a radio with fresh batteries
FM Radio frequencies are used to play sound for drive-in movies. You can use your car radio or try a radio app like TuneIn with a bluetooth speaker, but we prefer an old-school portable radio. It's easy, inexpensive and should last you a few summers.
You can find a portable radio on Amazon.com for less than $15, plus batteries.
If you're serious about getting a good parking spot, arrive 1-2 hours before the movie is scheduled to begin. You may not need to go quite that early on weekdays, but expect the drive-in to be packed on summer weekends.
Bring toys and games
You'll have time to kill if you arrive early. You can walk around, play games, toss a football, kick a soccer ball, get to know your neighbors, read a book or do whatever you enjoy to pass the time. Our local drive-in has a friendly, casual atmosphere. Expect tons of kids at the family movies.
Friday and Saturday nights are the busiest nights at the drive-in theater. If you can stay up that late on a weeknight, you can avoid the biggest crowds and parking hassles.
Think Spring or August
Drive-in movies don't start until dark, which can be 10 PM in late June. That's late for our family, and it's hard to enjoy both movies if we're all fighting sleep an hour into the first one. When we go in the spring or later in the summer, the weather is still warm, but the movies start earlier.
Pack jumper cables
We once went home after the first feature because we played the sound through our car radio and the battery died. We happened to be parked next to a fire fighter who got us started again fast, but it was an annoying problem and it kind of ruined the night. Now we always bring a portable radio and make sure all the interior lights are switched off to minimize our use of the car battery.
If your car battery does die, the theater or nearby cars will likely be able to give you a jump start. If you have your own jumper cables, you won't have to worry about finding some late at night.
Drive-in movies are a fun and inexpensive summer tradition for families. I hope these tips will help you make great memories at the movies with your family.