10 Drive-in movie tips for families

Posted By Allison on May 8, 2014

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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.

Seeing a movie at our local drive-in theater is one of our summer traditions. We keep an eye on the schedule all season for family-friendly double features. When we spot a winning line up, we load up the minivan for a night of family fun under the stars.

Drive-in movies are harder to find than they were a few decades ago. According to drive-ins.com, more than 90 percent of U.S. drive-ins have disappeared. However, you can still find drive-ins near your home or on the road if you know where to look.

Find a drive-in movie theater near you or wherever your travel plans take you at driveinmovie.com, driveintheater.com or drive-ins.com. Most drive-in movie theaters now have websites, so you can easily verify the listing and find movie times.

Here are our tips for a successful night at a drive-in movie.

10 drive-in movie tips for families. This is one of our favorite summer traditions! | tipsforfamilytrips.com | family fun | staycation ideas

Choose the right double-feature

At Motor Vu, we get two movies for the price of admission. We used to be able to count on our kids falling asleep before the second movie, but not anymore. So, both movies need to be family-friendly. We’re choosy about what our kids see, but family-friendly double features usually come around at least a couple of times each season.

Dress in comfortable clothes or pajamas

A drive-in double feature can last until 1 a.m. or later. It’s easy to move the kids directly from the van to their beds when they are already in pajamas.

drive-in movie

Bring cash

Coleman’s Motor Vu Drive-in does not accept credit cards because it costs them extra and slows down the line. It costs about $20 for our our family of four to go to a double feature at Coleman’s Motor Vu.

Pack fun snacks

One of the best things about the 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. Motor Vu 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 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.

Need chairs? Check out this top rated Coleman camp chair with drink holders and a place to hold your snacks on Amazon.com.

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 early in the evening. Bring something to keep everyone warm after the sun goes down. It’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

drive-in movie

Consider insect repellent

We haven’t had trouble with mosquitoes at Motor Vu, but depending on where you live, insects could be a problem anytime you are outdoors at night.

Bring a portable radio with fresh batteries

Radio frequencies are used to play sound for drive-in movies. You can use your car stereo, but we prefer to bring a portable radio with batteries. We can place it wherever we like and it saves our car battery. We once went home after the first feature because our car battery had died. If your car battery does die, the theater or nearby cars will likely be able to give you a jump start. Consider packing your own jumper cables or battery charger, just in case.

Need a portable radio? This inexpensive and versatile radio is perfect for the job. Find it on Amazon.com.

Arrive early

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. Once you’re set up, you can walk around, play games, toss a football or kick a soccer ball, get to know your neighbors, or do whatever you enjoy to pass the time. Coleman’s Motor Vu has a friendly, casual atmosphere.

Think Spring or August

Drive-in movies don’t start until dark, which in Utah can be nearly 10:00 p.m. in mid-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.

Tell us about your drive-in movie memories or share your own tips in the comments!

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Hi there! I am the founder of Tips for Family Trips. I am a married mom of two children, ages 10 and 12, living near Salt Lake City, Utah. We took our first child on a two-week road trip when she was four weeks old and we have been traveling as a family ever since. We love to get out of the house to see and do fun things, both far away and in our own neighborhood.


  1. Drive-in Theater Tips: Getting the Most out of Your Drive-in Experience - […] to Tips for Family Trips, the key is to choose the right double-feature. If you’re unfamiliar with drive-ins, most…

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