We’ve now been to Butlins in Skegness FIVE times in the last two years. All but one of them have been for ‘Just for Tots’ weeks aimed at families with under 5s. My eldest has just turned three and he absolutely loves it. I’ve written previously about why I’m no longer a Butlins snob, so now accepting we’re fully fledged fans of the Redcoats, I thought it would be useful to compile a list of the top 10 reasons why we love going there. Don’t get me wrong, I do think some improvements could be made and I’ll go in to those later, but all in all we’ve had excellent holidays. Only read on though if you accept it’ll be a bit cheesy, a bit noisy, a bit cliché, but lots and lots of fun. Just for tots weeks are on in March, April, May, June, September and October at all the Butlins resorts. The other two resorts are in Bognor Regis and Minehead.
- So many activities are included in the cost of your holiday. I’m putting this at the top of the list as there are some fab destinations that you can take the children to, but it can be difficult to budget as you have to pay out so much more money on top of the price of the accommodation. Yes there’s some stuff you can pay to do at Butlins like crazy golf or aerial ropes but there’s more than enough to keep little ones occupied without spending much more money.
2. Splash Waterworld. There are four pools – a big circular pool, a lazy river with a cave, a wave pool and a toddler pool. There’s also three big waterslides – so much to keep children and big kids happy. My children enjoy all the pools and if it wasn’t for the baby boy getting tired could probably spend hours in there. During just for tots weeks the spray jets and water slides aren’t open until after 12pm and they also allow the children to hand pedal boats in the cave area. A few tips… the pools are at their busiest on the mornings after everyone arrives so if you don’t want a scramble for changing rooms then wait to go a bit later in the day. There are family changing rooms which four of you can fit in which are great if you have a baby and need a changing table, but if they’re busy there are red tables dotted around which you can also lay them down on. Children aged 3 and over can go on the big yellow slide with the rings – great fun! The red slide is really really fast so mums and dads only go on there if you’re feeling fearless – I needed a lie down afterwards.
3. The shows. I could do a blog post about this alone for the number that are on offer. We first took my eldest little boy when he was 15 months old and as he gets older the shows are increasingly becoming one of the highlights of his holiday. There are shows every day. In the pavilion – this is the main big building which houses a stage, restaurants, shops and some of the arcades – we enjoyed Thomas the tank engine, Angelina Ballerina, Fireman Sam and Mike the Knight. They’re about half an hour long and you can wander in and you can find a seat and sit down and watch them. The Skyline Gang are a brilliant group of singers and dancers who put on a number of shows throughout the week. They’re fun and sing catchy tunes. There are several bigger shows throughout the week too which take place in Centre Stage – a venue within the pavilion – or in Reds – the building next to the pavilion. These shows last about an hour. We watched ‘Aladdin Rocks’ – a musical rock version of the classic story; ‘I want to be’ – a story which features a Redcoat who can’t decide which job she wants to do so enlists the help of her favourite characters; and ‘Treasure Island’ – a musical version featuring Sid and Rebecca from CBeebies. We enjoyed them all. They’re not ticketed but if you want a front row seat you’ll have to queue up early.
4. Soft play – There’s a really good sized soft play frame suitable for all ages split in to two sections. At around 15 months my toddler was quite happy in the smaller of the two. Now that he’s three he loves the bigger frame. There’s also a ball pool and lots of shapes for babies to crawl around. There’s some seating for parents to sit and watch and it is gated with staff members at the entrance. It does lead into the amusement arcade and to outside.
5. The beach – If you’re going to travel to Skegness one of the biggest benefits of Butlins is it’s proximity to the beach. You can walk into it from the resort and literally sit down on the sand. Remember to take your door card to get back in. We love the big beach objects like the sunbed, sandcastles and parasol – great for pictures. We found the beach was clean and enjoyed paddling in the sea. If you like walking or have a tired baby or toddler who wants a nap in the buggy then as you step out of Butlins you can turn left and walk to Ingoldmells or right to Skegness.
6. The Rides. The ‘big’ fairground is a bit of a mish mash of rides with some suitable for small children and some not. It includes a carousel, waltzers, dodgems, tug boat and small train amongst other rides. There’s also a paid for go-kart circuit which older children and adults may enjoy.The little fairground is much more age appropriate with 5 rides (I think!) like a car circuit, ladybirds, rockets and tea-cups all perfect for little ones and very exciting if you’re 2, 3 or 4 years old. I allowed my then 15 month old to go on a few of them on his first holiday and he hasn’t looked back since. I can’t wait for the baby boy to be big enough so they can both go on.
7. Places for babies. The first time we took my eldest to Butlins he had been walking a couple of months and so was able to enjoy most of the activities. However if you’re like me and have a toddler and a baby then you’ll always be thinking about what the baby can enjoy too. This time around my baby boy (bottom shuffler, not crawling but desperate to walk) enjoyed the soft play area but also liked being in the Little Tikes area in the pavilion. This area’s got a house in, a small climbing frame and lots of cars. His favourite thing currently is opening and closing doors so it pleased him greatly. I had to keep a close eye on him but he was ok. There’s also a ‘nursery’ which has lots of toys in. In all honesty it could do with a revamp but it’s another indoor place to go and play.
8. You can walk everywhere. Once you’ve found somewhere relatively close to park next to your chalet, unless you intend to go on day trips, then you can leave your car there for the duration of your stay. You can tell I was a child of the 80s I still call them chalets. They’re referred to as apartments now. Anyway, even if you’re staying at one end of the resort or the other nowhere is too far to get to. We take a buggy for the baby boy and we do have a buggy board for my toddler but he’s at an age now where he just wants to run everywhere, so the freedom to do this without having to cross roads is one of the best bits of his trip. Genuinely. The last couple of times we’ve been we’ve asked him what his favourite thing was and his answer was ‘running’.
9. Cheap extras for mums and dads. Just for Tots weeks don’t offer as much late night entertainment for parents as other weeks do, there’s a few things mums and dads might enjoy that won’t break the bank. There is a cinema on site. It only shows family films and the latest showing is around 7pm but if one of you can put the children to bed (or if you’ve gone with friends or grandparents then they can help) then you can go and see a film for £6. There’s a spa. I really should have made use of it once at least but I never seem to get around to it. But if you can go then it’s probably the cheapest you’ll ever get to experience one at only £20 for 3 hours. Oh and the wine is relatively cheap, you can pick up a bottle in the on site Spar for around £5 or for a large glass of house red in the bars it’s £5.30.
10. The amusement arcades. Love ’em or loathe ’em the amusement arcades are still very much a party of a seaside holiday at Skeggy. I guess it’s been my toddler’s first introduction to gambling. But you can still have a good time dropping your 2ps into the slots in the hope you’ll get more out. You probably won’t. It seems to take a lot to push them off the edge. Most of the machines allow you to win tickets so you feel like you’re getting something back. You can then exchange them for prizes. My toddler hit the jackpot on one of the machines this time winning him 1000 tickets (we exchanged it for a punchbag). But usually it’s far fewer and we have enough for about a pot of bubbles. If you wait to exchange the tickets until the day you leave, be prepared for big queues.
A word about accommodation… We’ve stayed in both standard and silver apartments and they’re pretty basic, but fine. If you like to spend loads of time lounging about comfortably spending lots of time pottering about indoors then they’re probably not for you. They both have a kitchen and lounge area. Silver has a better tv and microwave. We’re happy in either as we’re out all day and just think of it as somewhere to sleep. We also pay for premium dining so we don’t cook in them. There is a gold option in which you get housekeeping, towels and an early check-in although we haven’t stayed in those. There are new seaside apartments which look good on the website, you do pay a fair bit more for them. If you’re on a budget there is a ‘room’ option. We did it on this holiday as we booked last minute and couldn’t get an apartment. They are very compact and are essentially just bedrooms with a bathroom and tea making facilities – nowhere to keep your wine cool.
Food wise there are a number of options. You can go self-catering but make sure you book an apartment so you have cooking facilities. You can pay for a dining plan. We have tried both. The main difference is that premium dining has ‘fresh’ stations so at breakfast time there are pancakes and at dinner there’s a grilled dish and pasta. I also think there’s more variety and additional extras with premium. So at breakfast time we’ve found there was extra fruit, yoghurts, pastries and pain au chocolats. At dinner time a few more dishes. But both plans are fine and generally offer a roast option, fish and vegetarian food. If you prefer a restaurant experience there’s a pub, fish and chip shop, Italian and grill style establishment.
So those are the 10 reasons why we love Just for Tots weeks at Skegness. Go during term-time on a different week and much is the same but there are fewer additional activities aimed specifically at young children. In the school holidays you’ll pay a lot more but there may be a star attraction. We like the atmosphere during the tots weeks – lots of people with young children. We have been during term-time and didn’t like it as much. What could be improved? The nursery could be updated with a fresh look, more modern feel, newer toys and a lovely outdoor space; the main fairground area doesn’t feel very exciting and has a mixture of rides for different ages, it also lacks the charm of a traditional seaside fairground; there is a nice outdoor play area near the pub but it’s quite small, it would be fab to have a big adventure playground, complete with sand and water areas. If you have visited Butlins during the just for tots week I’d love to know what you think about it, please do comment below. Oh and one last tip, you can download the app before you go which tells you what time everything is on that week.
I'm Laura, mum of two boys - aged five and three. I started this website at the end of Sept 2015 whilst on maternity leave. I now work four days a week and do this blog late at night once the little boys are sleeping. It's won several awards over the last three years and I continue to run it for free and mostly focus on free, cheap, and good value days out. Do drop me an email firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to contact me. Don't forget to follow all of our latest adventures on facebook, instagram and twitter and have a look at all of the videos of the places we visit on my new Milton Keynes Kids YouTube Channel - subscribe to it for notifications every time I add a new place. And remember... you may been reading this post months after we visited, do check with the destination you're visiting for up to date opening times and prices. If you find this blog useful then please do comment on my posts and leave me a Facebook review - it makes doing this all the more worthwhile.