Despite the fact that I had brilliant holidays at Butlins as a child – and didn’t actually go abroad until I was nine – I have been quite snobby about Butlins as an adult. And yet I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because it hasn’t been regarded as the trendy holiday destination for modern mummies. Maybe I thought that holidays have moved on since then and that children today want more from a short break away. Maybe it’s because when I mentioned Butlins to friends I am met with rather quizzical looks as if to say ‘are you really thinking about going to the costa-del-Skeg?’ And yet how wrong could I be. We’ve now been to Butlins three times in the last two years and we’re going back again later this year. It’s all my toddler knows. When I told him we were going back, he jumped up and down, screaming ‘yeah we’re going back to Skegness… now mummy?’
So what changed my perception of the holiday resort? Well the answer is simple… because my 2 year old loves it. He loves it because there’s so much for him to do. We love it because he’s happy and virtually all of the activities he wants to do are included in the cost of the holiday. There’s Splash Waterworld which is three indoor pools. One is a larger pool, the other has rapids and the third which is a toddler pool that is shallow enough for most young children to paddle in. There’s a good size soft play which he really enjoys running around in. There’s a little fairground – he gets to pretend to drive in the little cars. There are shows in the big pavilion every day – we have previously seen Thomas the tank engine, Angelina Ballerina and Mike the Knight. You can just wander in and out of them as you please.
There are character appearances, an outdoor play area and a nursery full of little tikes toys. There’s evening entertainment in the large family rooms which I can’t really comment on – it’s on at my toddlers bedtime so we tend to head back to the chalet – but there’s always a big queue for the most popular shows like Scooby-Doo. It still has many of the traditional seaside attractions like the slot machines, (some are still 2p but I reckon they’re emptied regularly I never seem to win much!) for an extra charge you can hire bikes, and of course if you have glorious weather like we did last September then the beach is very pleasant too. The entrance is marked with some giant beach objects which are fun to take pictures of.
We tend to go during the ‘just for tots’ weeks which are aimed at under 5s. It’s partly because they’re out of the school holidays so it’s cheaper; there are extra arts and crafts activities on as well as an additional Little Tikes area; and we tend to find there are families with similar aged children and that’s been better for my toddler when doing certain activities. We have paid between £140 and £240 to go for a mon-fri break. You can go self catering, pay and eat in the restaurants in the resort, or pay in advance for one of the dining options (we do this as we can’t be bothered to cook!).
So what are the downsides? Well we’ve found the accommodation is fairly basic when we’ve stayed in a standard or silver apartment – but I think you pay for what you get, and we don’t really spend much time in there. If you have school-age children and have to go in the school holidays then the breaks (like anywhere) are more expensive and can get booked up quickly. We’ve also heard that when Diversity are there the shows are incredibly popular and you have to queue for a long time to try and see them. What else? Well if you have slightly older children there’s still loads to do – bowling, go-karts, cinema, high ropes, archery, quaser, adventure golf – but you do pay for those activities (between £2.50 and £10 although certain cheaper passes are available).
Yes admittedly at times Butlins can be a bit cheesy, a bit noisy, and a bit cliché. BUT it’s also immense fun for young children. And if the kids are happy then the parents are usually happy to.
We last went in Sept 2015 to Butlins Skegness, we haven’t been to the other resorts in Bognor and Minehead – do check their website for up to date prices and availability.
TIME FROM MK – 2hr 30 mins APPROX (traffic can be really slow through Boston – avoid in rush hour!)