Tips For An Awesome Drive-In Movie Experience

One of our family’s favorite summer adventures is an annual trip to the drive-in movie theater.

If our schedules allow, we try to squeeze a few more trips in if possible, because we have so much fun!

I’m sharing tips and what items to pack for the drive-in movie to help you have a great experience.

drive in movie theatre

This post contains affiliate links

Drive-in movies are perfect for a date night or hanging out with friends and family.  

Great memories are guaranteed!

The drive-in is an affordable way for families to see two first-run movies. The success of an awesome night at the drive-in comes down to a little prep work before you go.

camping chair

Here’s what’s on our packing list to bring to the Drive-In Movie Theater

1. Folding Chairs

You’ll probably want to sit outside your vehicle if the temperatures are warm in the evening.

We typically bring camping chairs to sit on outside our vehicle. We’ve previously taken the bench seat out of our minivan when our kids were younger and it was very comfortable.

You can also set up a great area for kids in the back of a minivan. If you’re bringing a truck, pack a truck bed air mattress, and pillows for supreme comfort.

air lounger

I’m also a big fan of air loungers because they pack small and are super comfortable.

cooler and snacks at Drive-in movie

2. Pack a Cooler with drinks

We pack drinks for the kids, water, iced tea or soft drinks, and a thermos of coffee with some creamer for the 2nd movie.

Trust me when I say you’ll need something to help you stay awake, especially for the second movie.

Many of the second movies don’t even begin until around 11:30.

kids eating popcorn during a movie

3. Dinner & Snacks

We typically bring pizza with us to the drive-in. Other times we’ve fed our family before but everyone is instantly hungry as soon as we arrive at the drive-in anyway.

Hot and Ready Little Caesars is always a fast option or we’ve called a pizza chain ahead of time located near the drive-in and picked it up on the way so it’s still warm.

You will also need time to mobilize everything you are bringing so who really wants to cook and clean dinner before?

You’re staying up late so it’s all about the carbs. You can’t go wrong with popcorn, pretzels, and chips.

If you’re opting for healthier options you might need to do more prep before you go.

The Dollar Tree is a great place to stop for movie theater-style candies or purchase a candy mix on Amazon.

We typically let everyone pick out one of their favorites and then have a few snacks like Twizzlers for sharing.

drive in movie concession

Extra Money for Concession Snacks

**Please note that some drive-ins may charge a fee if you bring your own food to the drive in because they make money from their concession sales.

The concession sales help keep the drive-in theaters in operation. Please buy from the concession stand if you can afford to. 

paper plates and cups

4. Plates, Napkins, and Plastic Cups 

These come in handy for serving meals and snacks. Baby wipes are also great for serving popcorn or smaller candies.

Baby wipes are also a great idea for sticky fingers and spills.

portable radio

5. Portable Radio

Save your car battery and make sure that you test your batteries before you go. If you don’t want to hassle with finding batteries for a radio, opt for a solar-powered radio.

If you use your vehicle radio during the drive in movies you may want to bring portable jumper cables.

yellow frisbee

6. Sports stuff to play with before it gets dark

You want to get to the drive-in early for a good spot for viewing the big screen.

Having a glow-in-the-dark football or frisbee, etc makes the time fly by with kids.

Your kids will also instantly make new friends to play with.

A portable cornhole set/beanbag toss is also a nice idea for the adults while they wait.

bug spray insect repellant

7. Bug Spray

Better safe than sorry. You don’t want to take home mosquito bites as a souvenir. Make sure that you pack bug spray!

If you are bringing a baby, consider purchasing a stroller mosquito net to protect them from the bugs.


8. A Snuggie and Multiple Blankets 

This is a place where you can wear your Snuggie with pride because you are not freezing your booty off.

Weather can be deceptive and a warm day still makes for a cool night.

colorful hooded sweatshirts

9. Sweatshirts and jeans or your favorite athletic pants

You’ll most likely be consuming a week’s worth of calories in one evening… and it makes you feel less guilty when your pants aren’t cutting off the oxygen.

Before the movie starts, you might want to go ahead and help change your younger kids into pajamas.

kids watching a movie on a tablet

10. A portable DVD player, Tablet, or Cell Phone with Kids’ Movies

If your 2nd movie is PG-13 or too scary or violent for small children, you can have them watch another movie in the opposite direction of your car on a tablet or cell phone.

You might want to bring headphones for them too. A power bank can be a great backup to ensure the devices stay charged.

garbage bag

11. Bring Plastic Bags for Garbage

You will accumulate trash pretty quickly. It’s easier to keep your vehicle clean if you have bags close by for trash and spills, or if you need to gather items at the end of the evening.

baby sleeping in a crib

12. A Portable Crib

You can still bring your baby if you have one. When our kids were babies/toddlers, we brought our portable crib to the drive-in.

It’s a great option to help keep them safe, comfortable, and close by if you don’t want to pay for a sitter.


13. Flashlight 

It can get dark quick especially if you’re trying to find your car from the bathroom.

Bring a real flashlight or use the flashlight app on your phone.

colorful glow sticks

14. Glow Necklaces & Glow Sticks

Just because they are fun. Glow necklaces and glow sticks are an easy and inexpensive way to make the drive-in movie a little more magical.

Glow sticks can also help you track your kids easier when it gets dark.


15. Bring a Rope for Your Vehicle

Some drive-in theaters supply rope for vehicles to tie down their trunks.

It doesn’t hurt to have some just in case you plan on viewing the movie from the back of your vehicle.  Clothesline rope also works.

entrance to drive in movie theater

16. Check your screen # for each movie

This is important if you are visiting a multiple-screen drive-in. There’s a chance that your 1st and 2nd movies could be played on different screens.

what to pack for the drive in movie checklist

Drive-In Movie Packing List

Use the packing list above so you don’t forget any drive-in movie essentials.

drive in movie at Holiday Auto Theatre

Local Drive-In Theaters Near Cincinnati

We have a few options in the Cincinnati Metro for drive-in movies.

Starlite Drive-In Theatre

2255 OH-125, Amelia, OH

Holiday Auto Theatre

1816 Old Oxford Rd, Hamilton, OH

Drive in Movie Theater

Find a Drive-In Movie Theater Near You

Use this search to find the closest drive-in movie theater to you.

Additional Summer Articles to Check Out

Did I leave anything out?

Let me know what you bring to the drive-in.

13 thoughts on “Tips For An Awesome Drive-In Movie Experience”

  1. Hi Nendra,

    It has been a while since I went to a movie with my friends, and I am looking forward to a relaxing movie experience with my friends. I think drive-in will be a great day out. I will definitely be sharing this idea with them, and I think they will love it too. I really look forward to going out for a day out with them and having a great day out with them. Thanks a lot for sharing this amazing idea with us, it was a great read!

  2. Pillows! Towels for the inevitable spills in the van. Jumper cables. Our drive-in offers a battery jumper for folks who drain their battery. But, we bring portable radios with back-up batteries. Our drive-in has the audio boxes to attach to your vehicle window but they stopped using those during this pandemic. Also, our local drive-in allows small grills. So, we grill too! Of course, the concession stand has the best popcorn and super cheap hotdogs (the kids prefer their hotdogs over our grilled brats). Sometimes, the car line for our local drive-in is about a mile long at 6 pm and the drive doesn’t open until 7:30 pm with first movie at dusk! It is very popular!

  3. Hi Richard- We don’t sneak in food and actually pay the fee to bring our food AND also support the concession stand.

    My article states –

    **Please note that some drive-ins do charge a fee if you bring your own food because they make money off of their concession sales.

    The concession sales help keep the drive-in theaters in operation. Please buy from the concession stand if you can afford to.

  4. I never thought about taking radios with us. One thing we love to do is bring a full/queen sized air matress to put in the bed of the truck. We also get small cleaning supply or craft supply caddies to put our snacks and drink bottle in.

  5. I have also purchased a baby stroller bug net, they fit perfectly around your door, so there are lots of bugs and pesky mosquitoes it’s perfect for air flow!

  6. Don’t forget gas station sausages/hot dogs, because “animal parts makes me so delicious”!LOL!

  7. Just stumbled across your blog and LOVE it. I too am a local blogger and it was great to find this post. Our family loves attending the drive in and these tips were spot on.

  8. How fun! I’ve only been to the drive-in once, but I’m sure my kids would love it! Might just have to look in to that……

    Looks like you sure had fun!

Leave a Comment