Here Are 8 Ways to Make a Drive-In Theater Your Ticket to Summer Fun

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(Left to Right) Paul, Heath, Izzy and Amanda Danbury took in the movies at Silver Moon Drive-In Theatre when they visited Florida from Dorset, England. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

It’s officially summer. Wahoo!

That means it’s time to start planning affordable family nights, now that the kiddos are home and don’t have homework to worry about. But that seems to be getting harder and harder these days.

That’s why you should consider the closest drive-in movie theater.

Drive-ins aren’t merely a relic of the past — you might even have one in your backyard. A family of four can see a movie with snacks and drinks for around $25, at most.

Check out this database from DriveInMovie.com to see if there is a drive-in in your county. Next, here are some hacks to make sure you get the most out of your drive-in theater experience.

Tips to Help You Have a Blast At Your Local Drive-In Movie Theater

I know what you’re thinking: “What could be so difficult about putting a car in park and watching a dang screen?”

Well, it’s not difficult. But if you want to be comfortable and have as much fun as possible, here are eight tips for your first drive-in experience, courtesy of patrons and staff at the Lakeland, Florida-based Silver Moon Drive-In Theater.

1. Get There Early and Grab a Spot Near the Exit

Another bonus of some drive-ins: You can bring the furry members of your family. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

It can get packed at the drive-in, and Silver Moon’s website specifically asks you try to get there early.

One, you won’t have to sit in a long line of cars and burn that precious gas. And two, you can snag a parking space close to the exit so you avoid the slow-moving caravan after the double feature.

2. Bring Your Own Radio and Extra Batteries

Bring a portable radio to avoid using the car stereo and running down your car battery. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

Here’s the scene: You’re out with the guy of your dreams, who is totally impressed with your choice of a classic date night. But when the movie’s over, you turn the key to start your car and hear that dreaded clicking noise. Your battery is dead.

Don’t let this happen to you; bring a portable radio with extra batteries. You have to stream the movie’s audio through a radio, and using your car radio will drain the battery.

Also, if you plan to set up chairs in your pickup bed or behind your vehicle, you’ll need a portable radio to hear the movie anyway.

Alternatively, you can recharge your car battery by turning on your car every half hour or so and letting it run for a few minutes.

3. Bring Bug Spray

A woman watches a movie from her car.
Danielle Torres watches a movie at Silver Moon on Friday, 4/6/2018. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

Bugs are an annoying part of life in the summertime.

You’ll be outside for a few hours, so pack that bug spray so you don’t feel like you’re actually in the jungle while watching “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.”

4. Pack Dinner, Snacks and Drinks

Silver Moon allows people to bring their own food, but check before you go because not all drive-ins do. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

One of the best parts of the drive-in is that you can bring your own food. Why spend $12 on movie-theater nachos when you can bring some chips and dip for less than half that?

Not all drive-ins allow outside food, so check the rules before you arrive. Silver Moon does allow you to bring in food, but its patrons rave about the food. I recommend glass-bottle Cokes, some popcorn and a Silver Moon pizza.

5. Talk to Your Neighbor

Women participate in a 1950s costume contest
Ginnalee Dabrowski (left) and Alice Plumlee (right) show off their costumes for Silver Moon’s 70th anniversary celebration on Saturday, April 14, 2018. Plumlee’s granddaughter, Elli Coleman (center), dressed as a pink lady from the movie “Grease.” Dabrowski’s poodle skirt once belonged to her mom, who worked as a car hop. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

When my wife and I saw “A Quiet Place” recently at an indoor theater, a group of unruly teens ruined it by yapping the whole time. Silence is golden at indoor theaters, but at the drive-in, feel free to chat away.

Along with packing your own snacks, another advantage to drive-ins is the ability to analyze the movie in real time. And what better way to meet people than mutually complaining about all the plot holes?

6. Bring Chairs — Lawn, Pop-up or Beanbag

A toddler stands in a pack and play
Akira Millard and her mother, Tara, brought their own furniture so they could sit outside. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

There is something magical about watching a movie from the back seat of a convertible.

But, for those of us with car roofs, sitting in chairs you brought from home makes more sense.

7. Wear Comfy Clothes

Destiny Farrior eats pizza and plays soccer at Silver Moon on Friday, April 6, 2018 Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

Here’s another drive-in advantage: Nobody will judge what you’re wearing.

Break out your pajamas for an extra comfy drive-in experience. Or dress up like one of the Avengers.

8. Bring Cash, Just in Case

People purchase tickets
Ticket prices are generally much lower at drive-ins than at indoor theaters. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

Remember when people actually paid for stuff with those green paper thingies?

Drive-ins dredge up feelings of nostalgia for much simpler times. That might mean simpler times for your wallet as well. Bring some cash just in case.

Now that you’re a drive-in expert, all you need is a cherry red 1950s convertible and you’re ready to hit the theater. Just kidding.

Alex Mahadevan is a data journalist at The Penny Hoarder.

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