We’re about to head off on our 11th visit to Butlins, so think I can safely say that it’s one of our favourite weekends away! I go with a group of mums and children that met through an NCT class – there are 4 mums and 8 children so quite a gang. Before our first ever visit, we were warned about coin meters and no bedding so loaded up our cars with everything but the kitchen sink, only to find ourselves in basic, but clean and comfortable chalets, complete with duvets and central heating! Here are my tips for a visit to Butlins:
1 – Pay for the more expensive Gold accommodation if you can. Not only do the apartments come with all the essentials like microwaves, toasters and DVD players, they are much nearer the car park and The Skyline Pavilion where most of the action takes place. This makes it easier to pop back between activities and to load and unload the car.
2 – if you’ve got lots of luggage and baby paraphernalia, pay £10 extra and book a ground floor apartment. There are three floors in the Gold apartments and climbing to the top one with a buggy can be a bit tricky. For larger groups like hours, Butlins now offer 4 bedroomed Gold apartments that sleep 8 which come with a larger dining area too.
3 – Once you’ve arrived, sit down with the free Entertainment Guide and try and plan a few activities. There’s an awful lot of information in them, so just try and pick a few – it’s good to turn up early for things like the shows at the Puppet Castle as then the kids will get a good view, but more likely to find seats at the back for the mums and dads too! Shows like pantomimes are incredibly popular and people can start queuing to get in over an hour before anything starts. If you really want to see something, I’d recommend a tag team so one adult can go off with the kids, whilst one queues and then swap!
4 – The free activities are fantastic. It’s easy to spend 2 hours in the pool at Splashworld, as there really is something for everyone – slides for little ones, big slides for grown ups and kids alike, the wonderful lazy river as well as swimming and paddling areas. We try and get there when it opens at 10am, then head back to shower and change and feed the kids before hitting the rest of the resort. It’s very clean and there are always lots of lifeguards.
5 – Butlins really is an all-weather resort – there is loads to do undercover from penny slot machines, to bowling, cinema, entertainment and eating. Outside is also bursting with things to do – try the Funfair but make sure you measure the kids against the height chart before they decide which rides they’d like to go on. Butlins staff are very hot on safety and my little one is desperately hoping he’s finally tall enough for the Dodgems this year!
6 – See as many shows as you can! My two still love the Skyline Gang, the Puppet Castle and any of the Redcoat shows – they’re all a really high standard and all included in the holiday. There are lots of shows later on too including tribute bands, but we’ve never really made it past 9pm with the kids yet as we’re all exhausted!
7 – Eating out is very straightforward. The accommodation is all equipped for self catering, so we try and do breakfast and lunch in the apartments, then treat ourselves in the evening. Go for the Pizza Hut buffet, great pub food in The Sun and Moon pub, good deals in the Fireside Grill as well as fast food options like Burger King and fish and chips. We always try and get ours to eat some fruit with breakfast and lunch because otherwise they don’t manage too many vegetables…
The carvery in the Sun and Moon pub all day Sunday is a good way to top them up with veg before you head home though! The apartments have everything you need to make meals however and there’s a well stocked Spar shop on site, as well as a large Tesco only a five minute drive away.
8 – There are loads of sporting activities to take part in and lots of them are free so once again, study the entertainment guide for whatever suits you best. My two did basketball last year and the Redcoat running it was fantastic – a real natural with kids, despite having my friend’s 4 year old attached to his leg the whole time! We’ve also tried Archery and there are usually football classes too which my 6 year old is desperate to try this year.
9 – Give the Wrestling a go! Us adults have always been a bit reluctant to watch this but were persuaded by our boys to go last year and now can’t wait to go this year! It’s real family entertainment, very tongue in cheek, very noisy and brilliantly choreographed. I’ve never seen some of the girls with us shout and cheer such a lot.
10 – Get to the beach if you can for a break from all the neon and noise. The glorious sandy beach at Minehead is literally a minute from the entrance to Butlins, so make sure you pack buckets and spades and try get on there for an hour or tow if the weather’s good. It really does blow the cobwebs away and gets you away from the pestering for a while.
11 – Be prepared to be accosted by the kids for more of the paying activities, toys and treats from the many shops. If you can, budget before you go for these, as it can be a bit overwhelming. Mine love the bungee trampoline but at £5 a go, we limit then to one each unless they’ve brought their own money too. Glitter tattoos are also a popular treat but we have managed to avoid the plush toyshops and settle for a tattoo instead so far!
12 – There are no two ways about it – a trip to Butlins is fantastic but completely exhausting! We just go for a weekend at the moment and you really are on your feet from morning to night as there just are so many things to do! Try and fit in a return to your accommodation for a cup of tea and a small rest before you head out again, you will need it!
So to sum up, Butlins is a complete entertainment experience with comfortable accommodation and almost too much choice as to how to spend your time. The Redcoats are brilliant, and actually any staff member we’ve dealt with has been very friendly, polite and professional. It’s very clean and tidy with lots of bins and the toilets are all well looked after too. I’ll put money on after one visit, your kids are clamouring to come again – that’s why we end up booking again for next year each time we go! Long may it continue!
Read more on the Butlins resorts