Last Monday we set off (via Peppa Pig World) into the unknown: It was to be our first ever trip to Butlins Bognor Regis, in fact ANY Butlins whatsoever. I was one excited lady, if a little nervous as to what to expect. You see, due to my past preconceptions and probably inner-snob at work, in the past I really thought it would be my idea of hell. All tacky, tatty and just not my cup of tea. However, having been selected to be an ambassador, and willing to have my mind changed, the more research I did, the more I thought that it would quite possibly be a really great trip for our family. And thankfully I was RIGHT!
^^We arrived after a bit of a bunfight for parking, at our Gold Apartment, set in a quiet corner of the complex, with great views of fountains and the Pavillion beyond.
I was pleased and pleasantly surprised- the bedrooms were each a great size (we stayed in a 3 bedroom suite) and the place was spotlessly clean. I’m happy now that we opted to stay in an apartment with children being the age they were, as they still have a fairly early bedtime. It meant we could have dinner on site, come back and put the children to bed, before relaxing in the living room with a drink and the telly, very much a home-from-home feel. The beds were comfy (shamefully comfier than our one at home, I think it’s time to buy a new mattress!), and after a stroll around the complex and dinner we went hit the hay, excited at exploring further the next day.
^^ After a 5.30am start on Tuesday morning (cheers, Sasha), and a 6.30am cereal selection pack treat mini-breakfast for the children, we headed out to sample what Butlins had to offer in terms of proper breakfast! We were given a complimentary Premium Dining package by Butlins, and could therefore eat in the ‘Coast’ restaurant for breakfast and dinner throughout our stay. Overall we were pleased with the choice of food available, especially breakfast (my favourite meal of the day!), and Freddie and Sasha were excited to discover that sausages could be eaten EVERY MORNING WITH PANCAKES, which is surely what holiday is all about?! The food is laid out buffet-style, which is fine, but it can make it a little tricky if you’re getting toddlers food as well as your own, and then drinks on top of this. Luckily we had one of us at all times to watch them but it meant that we weren’t always eating a leisurely meal together. However, this is only a minor quibble and very much personal preference. The staff at ‘Coast’ were always happy to help (in fact, the staff EVERYWHERE were incredible, they really are a credit to Butlins and I have never come across any company that has such happy and helpful employees).
We dined at 3 other resort eateries throughout our stay: The Beachcomber Inn, The Diner and Turners, all of which were genuinely fantastic, and again, not what I associate with old-skool Butlins- they have definitely moved with the culinary times!
We had lunch at The Beachcomber Inn one day, which was spacious, clean, and again, with lovely, chatty staff. I ordered a jacket potato with tuna and cheese, the children chicken nuggets, mash and veg (the nuggets looked homemade, although I’m not sure if they are or not), Adam a salad, and my Mum another jacket spud, this time with beans. All simple food, but when it came out I was chuffed with the presentation and portion sizes. Considering how many people they must serve on a daily basis, and the fact the food was basic, there had been care and attention to detail.
There is a fantastic play area for children of all ages outside, so we spent at least once a day here, whether it was eating, or just having a cup of tea or coffee whilst Freddie and Sasha played:
The Diner was our dinner destination on the Wednesday evening- a fun, funky hub of singing, and fast-food, American-Diner-style:
^^ We went to visit one lunchtime, but abandoned ship as it was quite loud, and we thought a bit much for our already-wired little ones, so opted instead for a fun evening dinner there instead. My burger and fries were spot-on, and the homemade slaw delicious, plus they sell the most EPIC milkshakes EVER, I can honestly say I’ve never had a better one! Again, the staff deserve a special mention here, as ‘Rocky Salmon’ (I am SO hoping this was his real name) talked to, and played trains with Freddie for a good 10 minutes, which was a godsend as we had quite a tired little chap on our hands. Little touches like that really make your stay special. 🙂
^^ The piece-de-resistance was Turners restaurant, which we decided to treat ourselves to on Thursday night, although it still wasn’t crazy-expensive, it just had a slightly more upmarket feel to it and was open later until 9pm. Going off on a tangent here, the restaurant timings were our only real gripe eating-wise, particularly if we had older children who stayed up later, as our inclusive dining restaurant ‘Coast’ was only open until 7pm, which seems a little early when you’re on holiday. Again, very much a personal preference. Anyway, back to Turners- the ambiance was great, the staff attentive, and whilst the menu played it quite safe (think new twists on old classics), we all agreed that our food was DELICIOUS and well worth it. My crispy chicken breast was moist and flavoursome, and Adam and Mum had the Cod and mash, which they again, both raved about. The children’s choices were lovely too, and it was nice to see some fresh berries on the menu (yes, tres middle class, I know), as well as the usual drool-worthy ice cream onslaught you expect when you’re eating out.
^^ Butlins has done really, really well design-wise of the above eateries, the styling is great and you can see they’ve clearly spent some money getting it right.
^^ In fact, the whole complex is much more attractive than I expected, and really was a pleasure to stroll around when the weather was good (a lucky 4 out of 5 days for us). Since we were there in the run-up to Halloween, there were pumpkin-headed scarecrows everywhere, and jack-o-lanterns dotted around, which the children loved.
^^The fairground was a bigger highlight than I expected, with the children and us adults alike really enjoying, and making the most of it.
^^From the Carousel, to Hook a Duck, from the Helter Skelter to mini trampolines- everything was free, and with hardly any queues, making the whole experience great value.
^^Adam paid a fiver and took Freddie on the Go-Karts, which, bless him, he wasn’t too sure about, but afterwards he declared that he liked them but “when we went a bit slower”!
^^ I liked the fact that there was so much to do on site, and if the children had been older, it would have been great to book them in for a session on the climbing wall and abseiling.
^^ The new ice cream parlour ‘Scoop’ was a BIG hit (I might have indulged myself here), with almost every flavour of ice cream going, and every type of topping available. Freddie excelled in giving himself a chocolate beard every time!
^^ Adam, myself and Mum all treated ourselves to an hour of ‘me time’, and each booked a massage in the Ocean Spa. At about £50 for one (there are loads of different types to choose from), it was a lovely break from the smalls (sorry guys!), and made the trip feel like a holiday for us too, and not just the children. Well worth it if your budget will stretch. Again, the staff here excelled themselves. When we came over the book our treatments, Sasha did a wee all over the white, clean, shiny floor but it didn’t phase the girls working here at all and they were so nice about it, despite me being slightly mortified!
^^ Now, I can’t not-mention the heart of the complex, The Skyline Pavillion. Here is where the magic happens entertainment-wise, and is home to amusements, bowling, snooker, bars, cafes, eateries, soft play, the Skyline stage, small children’s rides, messy play, the Little Tikes cars, gift shops- you name it, it’s here! I will talk in more detail about what there is to do for little ones in part 2 of my post, there is just too much to cover in this one alone.
So what was our overall impression of Butlins?
Genuinely really, really surprised by how much I got ‘into’ the whole experience and enjoyed our stay. Freddie kept declaring it the best holiday ever! On arrival, and because everything is quite ‘full-on’ and hectic, I found it a little overwhelming, but you soon get into the swing of things. Again, I’m glad of our choice of apartment because it meant most days we’d go back for lunch with a sarnie, or just for an hour for a cuppa and the children could ‘come down’ from their Butlins ‘high’, before heading off for our next activity. Whilst there is LOADS to do for tiny ones (see my next post, to follow soon!), I think older children and their parents appear to get even more out of the whole experience, as they are able to go off and do the activities/soft play/ watch the shows with minimal parental input if that’s what the family wants. Having said that, there is loads to do as a family, like the pedal cars that you can cruise around the site on or go bowling, or the fairground rides, and also older children would be able to stay up and watch the family shows, or play on the amusements whilst their parents enjoy a drink in the nearby bar. 4 nights was the perfect amount of time to enjoy everything there is to offer, and was definitely the right amount of time for children our age. They slept the whole journey home, I think we wore them out so much! 😉
What Butlins does right:
- The staff are phenomenal, they really made our trip a brilliant one, and Butlins are clearly employing the right people. Nothing was too much trouble, and they were so good with the children.
- The range of activities is fantastic, something for all ages, and I loved the fact we were given a timetable of the week’s events, which I excitedly spent the first night ‘starring’ so we could get a rough plan of what we wanted to do that week. You will NEVER be bored at Butlins!
- The atmosphere is lovely, everyone seems so happy, and despite there being billions of children, nowhere was chaotic and things were separated often according to age, which, with a 2 and 3 year old, made me relax loads more when they went in the soft play areas etc
- Our apartment was so clean, and the resort as a whole was SPOTLESS. Despite there being so many people staying on site, I hardly saw any rubbish- really impressive for such a big place.
- The food was overall, great quality, and the dining packages good value for money. I personally would prefer to spend a bit more and eat out in one of the ‘pay’ restaurants each night, more for ease of service with little ones more than anything, and because the food we had at Turners and The Diner took some beating.
What could be improved:
- The parking situation wasn’t clear when we first arrived, and the girl directing us was friendly, but put us on a bit of a downer by telling us that the Gold Apartment parking was full, and that it was a 10-15 minute walk to our apartment. Her honesty is to be commended, but if she’d had just pointed us in the direction to the nearest available parking, and said it was a short walk and we could grab a trolley on the way, then we probably wouldn’t have minded or cared, or known any different! Just the choice of words wasn’t ideal.
- A possibly nitpicking one here, but whilst our apartment was spotless, the windows were really quite dirty, so even Freddie was asking why our view was all ‘misty’. Perhaps need to ‘up’ the window cleaning on site!
And that’s it really, everything else really was spot-on, which I think is impressive for a resort that is so big and caters for so many people.
So, thank you for having us, Butlins, we’re definitely looking forward to our second visit next year, this time to Minehead with my in-laws in tow!
We can’t wait to get stuck in again!
Coming next- Part 2 of our trip, and everything you can do with under 4s at Butlins Bognor Regis
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