Friday 27 June 2014

What I'm loving right now - a year in photos (Weeks 23 - 26)

Time to update my year in photos project.  I tried to stay away from blogging for the last few weeks and honestly I've not been that successful, I keep finding myself on here but I have definitely done less and spent a lot more time with my family, been enjoying gardening and generally having fun.

Life is good....  Here are a few things in photos that I am loving right now.

Trips to Bexhill on Sea, both on my own to think, pray and take photos and also with the family to have fun.

Going for nice long walks around the grounds of my home and shooting pictures of all the beauty I see around me. thank you Lord.

Spending time with one of our gardening team Jay, getting to know her better and getting fitter whilst wedding and helping our grounds look more presentable.

Taking the kids down to our lake on the warm days after school and they play with their friends and the volunteers who live here on site.

Using my macro filters that the fab Jenny recommended for me.  I'm loving combining them and practising my photography.

Making good choices and losing a bit of weight, whilst still enjoying myself.

As I said at the start, life is good and I'm going to keep on doing it my way with the help of the big I AM!

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend. Mich x

TheBoyandMe's 365 Linky
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Thursday 26 June 2014

Aren't all opticians the same?

In the last six months I've been to the opticians more times than I have in the rest of my forty years. I've been to three different opticians and experienced a whole range of styles of service and commitment and do you know what my answer is to that question?  Are all opticians the same?  It is a resounding no.

Yes, they all conduct eye tests, check eye health and offer glasses and contact lenses but each one is very different and to be frank I'd say they are only as good as the staff they employ. I'll take you through my journey over the last few months and you can see which opticians I'm choosing to use in the future and why.

The Back Story
For the last couple of years my little Miss E (aged 6 years) has been struggling with her reading and we were worried about a diagnosis of dyslexia, so a friend recommended that I take her for an eye test and rule out any sight difficulties. On impulse I booked an appointment for her at the Boots Opticians in Hastings as I knew my Mum advocated Boots as the best for sight tests. A week later we were back for her sight test and she was incredibly nervous but there was no need as each of the staff members made her feel at ease and explained what they were doing. The optician got her involved with the tests and talked her though the results, showing her the x-rays.

Over the next couple of weeks we were back at Boots Opticians two more time, first for her to have a further test with dye to dilate her pupils and then for her glasses to be fitted and taken home. By the time we left with the glasses Miss E treated the staff as if they were her friends and her siblings were jealous that Miss E was special and had glasses and a place she went to on her own.

Knowing I needed to get my other twos eyes tested as well, I wanted to book them into Boots Opticians but as the store is about 10 miles from us I decided to go for a test at a local opticians to make it more convenient so we could go after school. The local store looked very nice and was easy to book with but they did not perform any of the the tests with machines that Boots did, the kids just headed straight in to see the Optometrist (well I say straight, there was quite a wait actually). I accompanied Miss M as she is the younger of the two of them and whilst there was nothing wrong with the test that was performed I found the Optom's manner to be very brisk and not at all child friendly.

About half way through I had to go into the other room as the other Optom had found that JJ did have quite a prescription need and we had to talk it through.  The man Optom seemed much nicer and JJ was very happy with him. We then met a nice lady who helped JJ choose glasses. There really was nothing wrong with the service in the local shop, it was professional and courteous but it just seemed less than what we had received in Boots.

With all the children now having their sight checked I felt it was probably time that I got mine looked at too. A free sight test voucher on the back of a parking ticket meant that I headed off to Specsavers in Bexhill for my sight test. On entering the store it was super busy and felt quite claustrophobic, I was put in a corner for a couple of tests with an assistant and then I went upstairs with the Optom for my test.  He had a very thick accent and I found it quite hard to understand what he was saying. I walked downstairs with a prescription for glasses and the Optom saying that whilst I didn't really need glasses at the moment, taking them now and wearing them would help me in the longer term.

I declined to look at frames that day and I walked out a bit dazed.  You know when something just does not feel right and you want a second opinion? That was exactly how I was. I said to my Mum I would book a sight test at the Hastings Boots Opticians as Miss E had been so happy there. Looking online you can print off a voucher to have a sight test for £10 (normal price £25) and this includes digital retinal photography, which is the part that no other optician we visited did.

Boots Opticians Service Review
By chance Boots Opticians then got in contact with me a couple of weeks ago and asked me if I'd like to work with them as a sponsor for BritMums Live. I nearly bit off their hand and explained about my rushed and rubbish test at Specsavers and that I wanted to go back to Boots Opticians for a test, so they organised this for me. Let me be clear that this test and my frames being complimentary have not coloured my opinion of Boots Opticians at all as I already had the independent experience as a customer with Miss E a couple of months before.

So a couple of weeks ago I arrived for my sight test in Hastings and I was greeted by Kerry, one of the Optical Assistants, she is probably one of the best customer service assistants I have ever encountered in any kind of business. She took me through a health questionnaire and then each of the tests that she would perform with me - Tonometer to check the pressure at the back of my eyes, auto-refractor to give the Optom an idea of any prescription need I have, digital retinol camera to take photos of my eyes and a machine to test my field of vision. Each was explained to me and my comfort was checked as well as the machined being sanitised between use.

After these tests I was handed over to the Optometrist Salma and a full debrief happened in front of me between the two ladies. Salma had a lovely manner and she explained everything she was doing, after the checks to look at the health of my eyes she explained that I had blocked glands and this was causing my eyes to be dry. She used a special yellow dye to look at my cornea more closely and found I had some scratching due to the dryness. I was advised to use eye drops each day and also to bath my eyes with boiled water on cotton pads. Salma reassured me these glands should clear within a couple of weeks and told me my eye health was really good.

I then did the traditional eye tests reading the different letters and looking through various lens to see which helped me to see clearer. At the end of the test Salma explained to me that I have good eye sight in general, my left eye is weaker and has a prescription need but when my eyes work together I have 20:20 vision. She said that as I did not have any symptoms of problems such as headaches, blurring or flashing lights she was very happy for me to not have glasses. We then discussed that I needed new sunglasses and I would have prescription lenses put in those to start me getting used to having a prescription lens.

Salma then explained that my pressure test had come up at the high end of the normal range and they would like to test me again to double check this. I had another test that same day and sadly the same high reading, so when I went back today I also had a test and it had reduced slightly but Salma was not in today so she will call and update me next week. I'm very pleased Boots Opticians are taking this seriously though and keeping an eye on me.

On the day of my original test I was handed over to another Optical Assistant Hayley and she spent lots of time with me explaining about the frames I could choose, what different lenses there are available and also how all Boots glasses come with UV protection as standard now. She was extremely patient and happy to help me try on lots of different types of frames, in fact she told me this was her favourite part of the job. I did not feel any pressure to buy any particular frames and although Hayley explained to me about the upgrades I could choose from in regards to lens again there was no pressure to buy and I felt happy that the pricing structure was clear and fair.

Today I went back and picked up my lens and met with Paulina and although I met with four different staff on my visits to Boots Opticians this did not feel a problem to me as each was as professional as the last and they all had a friendly manner and big smile. Today Paulina adjusted my frames to ensure a perfect fit and she explained me to me about the benefits of my Boots Protect Plus Lens.

I left the store today with the message that I should come back if I needed help with anything, nothing was too much trouble.

Personally I won't be going to any other opticians in the future, Boots have established themselves as the best from the three I tried. It is clear that they are a health led retailer first and foremost, their approach was holistic and about my well-being not about making money.

I'll be honest the Boots Optician I visited was situated in the back of a big Boots store in a shopping centre and it was not particularly modern or flashy in its design but this did nt mater at all as the care and service are far more important to me. Thanks you Boots Opticians Hastings, you have excelled yourself.

In the end I decided to really treat myself and go for a pair of Ray Bans, so here I am today enjoying them.

Disclosure: Boots Opticians sponsored me for BritMums Live and they covered the cost of my sight test and glasses.  At the time of my sight test the staff at Hastings did not know I was reviewing their service but I did tell them once it was complete. They have not instructed me what to write and I remain honest.

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Tuesday 24 June 2014

I love to live by the sea

After the busy weekend that was BritMums Live I felt the urge to spend time with my family and to just kick back and relax. Due to the lovely weather I suggested a stroll along the prom and maybe a play in the park. Not content with that the kids wanted to go in the sea and do some rock pooling on the beach so we headed to Bexhill-on-Sea which is about 7 miles from us.

I have to be honest and say I have fallen in love with Bexhill and the East Sussex coastline in general really. I always thought I was a sandy beach girl and Bournemouth has reigned supreme for years but I'm being turned.  There is a lot to be said for a stony beach and if you go along at the right time tide-wise you can still dig the sand and make castles.  I have discovered you just need to make sure you have the right footwear on so you can climb the stones without it being the most painful thing.

After church and lunch with all the staff we did not get to the beach until gone 3pm but the sun was still beautiful and bright. What a surprise to find that we could park easily and that there was loads of room on the beach. I suppose I have become more used to commercial seaside resorts and have not had the joy before of having loads of room to run and play with the kids. Although if I'm honest dh did more of the running and playing and I took the photos and delighted in watching them have a great time. Next time I'll be more organised and take my water shoes and cossie.

I love that the kids can all do their own thing at the beach, Miss E was very content to dig the sand, wash shells and find a baby crab -

Whereas my two loonies wanted to jump waves and experience the thrill of the beach. They kept giving me a heart attack by going out too far, luckily it was all shallow for a very long way but you just never know with the sea, it is unpredictable!

So I sent Daddy in to chase them back ashore again!

I don't have a particular reason for adding in this next picture, I just liked it -

Once everyone had cleaned up and changed into day clothes we headed into the town and ate our tea of sausage and chips on the grass by the beautiful De La Warr pavilion, watching all the sailing ships out at sea and again dh played running games with the kids. I'm proud to say they could not catch him often to make him IT!
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Monday 23 June 2014

#BritMumsLive - a whole new perspective

I've been to quite a few blogger conferences now and never are they the same. Even when they are in the same venue, there is still always something new to learn but I got a whole new perspective this time by moderating a room. For the uninitiated, this means I stayed in one room for the whole conference and introduced the speakers and kept the Q&A on time. I can honestly say I really enjoyed it and it meant that I got to listen in to sessions I might never have gone to if I had just been looking at the program.

So here's a thought for you, next time you go to a conference and the agenda looks too big and overwhelming and you find yourself wondering what on earth you might do I'd say find a room where there is a few sessions you like the look of and go and sit in there. 

There are many plus points for this - 
  • you can retain the best seat in the room for the whole day
  • all the bloggers you fancy chatting with will come to you (as you can tweet out where you are)
  • you'll remain calm and sweat free as you don't have to run from the second floor to lower ground in under 5 minutes!
  • you'll learn things you never even realised you needed to know and you never know they might just have some bloggy benefits to come out of them
  • you can make friends with the moderator
I had a great time at the conference, BritMums Live has always been my favourite but I do wonder if it had got just a bit too big this year, 700 people all together is pretty overwhelming, even for an old timer like me.

What I learnt
Even though I was working rather than attending as a delegate I still learnt some new things and now have a list of jobs that I must get on with over the next couple of months.
  1. Don't just accept the offers that come through to me. When offered an idea for a sponsored post pitch back to them with something that interests me and my readers more but still fits their need. Jen at Mum in the Madhouse
  2. When working with brands, change your perspective, it is not about you, it is about the brand. We have all got so hung up on 'what is in it for me?' and actually lots of good things come out of relationships where I am looking to satisfy them and go the extra mile (whilst of course still making it worth my while). Kirsty at the Family Adventure Project
  3. Gleam is a newer and easier version of Rafflecopter, I'm keen to give it a try. Di at SuperLucky
  4. When I write a post that is of interest to other well connected people, contact them and ask them to RT my post or share it in their circles. SEO Jo Blogs
  5. G+ has already overtaken twitter, I need to use it more wisely. Create better circles and take some time to move people into the right ones, have two way follows with people, Google likes that. 510 pixles is the magic number for getting large G+ images in the feed. James Dearsley
  6. I must sort out my Google authorship, I have tried to do it a number times and it does not work for me but apparently there is a great help page in G+
  7. I need to learn more about YouTube. There is a YouTube playbook with all sorts of advice for me to read and I learnt how to annotate my videos so I can link to my blog from within them! Greg Brand
  8. There is never enough time, you see a ton of people that you want to chat to and they are gone in minutes!
  9. That a quiet Friday night is a sensible option when you need to be up early on the Saturday.  I'm showing my age but three glasses of wine and an Indian were plenty for me and Clare.
  10. That the Montcalm at the Brewery is a very lovely hotel and I want to stay there again! Really good breakfast too!

All in all I really enjoyed my weekend and I hope you had a fab time too.  Tell me, what was your favourite session, so I can go and seek out some notes and maybe the find the presentation if I'm lucky!  Mich x

Wednesday 18 June 2014

A family trip to Belfast?

Image Credit

I love to get away with the family and to experience somewhere new. I'm ashamed to say that I've never been to Northern Ireland and only a couple of times to Southern Ireland, so surely it must be high time for this to be rectified.

Belfast seems the perfect place to travel to for a first visit, it is the capital city after all. So what can Belfast offer to a family like mine with primary school-aged kids who like variety, fun and somewhere new to explore?

Loads is the answer I found when I started to investigate.  There is everything you would expect of a big city, like fabulous and varied shops, nice gardens and grounds to walk around and superb quality hotels, like the Fitzwilliam Hotel from Hotel Direct. There are also loads of places to explore -

Belfast Zoo
Like most kids, mine love to see the animals and enjoy a zoo experience and I'm sure this 55-acre zoo won't disappoint. I was super glad to see that there are giraffes, elephants, bears and other large animals there. Of course, there are lots of small ones too with over 150 species and 1000 animals. The newest of which are baby twin pygmy marmosets.

Image Credit

Botanic Gardens
I love looking around gardens and seeing all the different flower species and of course, the beauty of gardens is that they have loads of space and the kids can run free and enjoy exploring and just being young. Also during June they can enjoy some children's entertainment sessions including face painting, balloon modelling, music performances and a bouncy castle.

Titantic Belfast
You can visit the worlds largest Titantic state-of-the-art visitor experience and discover the story of Belfast's most famous creation. This iconic six-story building is easily assessable and not to be missed, it has won various industry awards in the last couple of years.

T13 Urban Sports Park
My 10-year-old son JJ might think I'm the coolest parent ever if I take him to T13. Here he can discover a world of BMX, Skateboarding, Kick Scooter, Break Dancing, Urban Art & DJing. You can get involved by grabbing a BMX or Skateboard and having a go, joining in with a Break Dance or Free Running class, or just popping in to check out the live DJ's and the amazing space and art galleries.

Image credit

Peace Walls
I think it is really important for our children to learn about their countries history and at the moment over 60 peace walls still stand in parts of Belfast. Many were built to be temporary protection between the catholic and protestant fighting of years gone by but they still stand over 15 years after the Good Friday Agreement which ended the troubles.

This just gives you a taster of the kind of things you can find in Belfast, there is so much more and it is worth checking out the Discover Northern Ireland and the Visit Belfast websites.

I hope you have a great visit if you decide to travel to Belfast.

Tuesday 17 June 2014

Not long now.... #BritMumsLive

About ten days ago I let my bloggy mates know that I was all up to date with my blogging commitments and I'd be having the rest of June off. I fancied just being my own boss for a couple of weeks and not being a slave to my blog and PC.  I've done quite well, I've not spent much time online at all, my social media channels have been pretty quiet and I've been enjoying my kids and the house has not looked so good in a long while but I just can't keep quiet.

BritMums Live is almost here and it is my favourite blogging conference of the year. I remember back to early 2010 when it was CyberMummy and I was not confident enough to buy a ticket but then I sat there in June and watched the twitter stream and vowed I would go the next year and I've been each year since. In 2011 I angst over what to wear and worried myself silly and then had the best time and in 2012 and 2013 I was a speaker and was also a BiBs finalist and then this year I asked if I could work the conference. So I'll be moderating room 3 and you can come and see me if you fancy learning more about running fabulous and legal giveaways, the power of SEO or making the most of Google +, they are all happening in my little room.

I really can't wait and my choice of sessions has been made very easy for me this time, I'll just see everything that is in room 3! So that is one less thing to think about, which is good as I've just realised I have nothing suitable to wear. As I'm a room moderator I feel I need to look smart and sadly my wardrobe swings from casual daywear to formal workwear, I don't seem to have anything in the middle nowadays (well, not that fits anyway!). So tomorrow I need to find at least one nice outfit so I can feel presentable. Oh well, at least I know this conference is a friendly one and whatever I wear no-one but me will care, that takes the pressure off somewhat.

Also tomorrow I'm going to visit my sponsor. Yes sponsor, how unexpected is that?  I haven't had one since 2011 as I'm super fussy about who I will represent, I have to be totally in tune with their brand and product. But when Boots Opticians got in contact with me and asked if I wanted to be an ambassador for them this year at BritMums Live I was very happy to say yes straight away as Miss E has her eyes tested at our local Boots Opticians a few months back and we got her glasses from there and the service was just top-notch. I know this as JJ a month or so later went to an independent optician that is closer to our home and I had a free sight test at Specsavers in May and neither of them lived up to our experience at Boots Opticians. So tomorrow I'll have my eyes tested again and then I'll write up a full review.

You can visit Boots Opticians whilst you are at BritMums Live on stand 22 and they will have a super competition running, which you can find out more about at the conference.

I look forward to seeing you there...  are you as excited as I am?

and in case you are not sure - this is me....

Disclosure: Boots Opticians are paying for my travel, hotel room, an eye check and new glasses in exchange for me acting as an Ambassador for them at BritMums Live and honestly reviewing their optical service.

Monday 16 June 2014

How I love to see you @SightSavers #mysight

As I walk I look around and I marvel at what I see, 
to one side fields as green and gold as can be,
to the other the water glistening under the sun,
the ducks they play, it looks like such fun.

I see the flowers so bright, 
purples, pinks, reds and white,
and I appreciate the trees, every one of them unique,
changing and growing week to week.

But what if I could see no more?
How my life would change, I'd feel so poor.
How would I cope if all I could do was hear the bees,
or smell the flowers and feel the breeze?

I'd be OK of course I would,
but for sure life would not feel quite so good.
I love to be able to see,
it makes a real difference to me 
and for that I must cherish my sight.

I felt compelled to write that poem as a good blogger friend of mine Becky asked if anyone was interested in supporting the charity SightSavers. Straight away I replied yes as SightSavers is a charity I have financially supported for a number of years. A representative came to my church a few years back and I was amazed to find out that roughly 39 million people around the world are blind and amazingly 80% of that blindness is avoidable. It really does not take much to ensure that less people go blind - health professionals to undertake basic tests and then operations that can cost as little as £8-28 make a real difference. Or the answer could be as simple as someone receiving an annual dose of antibiotics that cost just 7-35p.

Yes you read that right, by someone having 35p spent on them each year they could avoid blindness. Sadly in some of the poorest countries in the world there is not a spare 35p for each person who needs it and thus it is up to us to help.  Poverty is both a cause and effect of blindness, a cycle is created that can be hard for communities to break out of, so if you’re moved to give someone their sight please visit

We all deserve to be able to see our world around us, my poem was about the beauty I find walking through the grounds of where I live but I could just have easily of written about the joy of watching my children play or seeing the ocean crashing against the rocks.

Our eye sight in valuable and peoples lives are valuable, lets do our little bit and invest in them and in case you are worried that SightSavers are one of those charities who spend loads of money on admin, they don't. Out of every £1 you donate 94.5p goes directly to help to prevent blindness, restore sight and support people who are blind and visually impaired.

Can you help?  I have and will continue to......

Linking up with Vic as well on Prose 4T
Prose for Thought
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Sunday 15 June 2014

Fun at the lake

Many of my regular readers will know that we live in the most idyllic place.We have 220 acres of land to explore and that includes three lakes and lots of woodland.

With the weather cheering up in the last couple of weeks all my kids have wanted to do is go to the lake after school for a swim. It has been amazing to see JJ's confidence in the water grow, he is happy to swim out of his depth now and Miss M is just fearless which scares me as she cannot actually swim yet!

Miss E is happy to sit on the steps and dip herself in but not yet has she been brave enough to go fully in, apparently she is waiting for the water shoes I've ordered to arrive and then we can go in together.  I can't wait....  fish, eels, snakes and mussels are all the animals I know are in the lake!

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Wednesday 11 June 2014

How things change over time.... JJ's School Days

I've been thinking about starting school and how significant it is as next year JJ will move up to secondary education and have to start a new school. It's not long until September when we will start looking around the local schools and making decisions of where he might go. Scary stuff! At the moment he is just saying he wants to go to our most local one as there is a bus that goes straight there from the end of the back road, but truth be told I'm a little nervous he might prefer one of the others when we look around and I can't say I fancy him being at school 20 miles away when he is just 12. My boy is growing up!

It does not feel like that long ago that he was starting primary school. Where do the years go? I was trying to recall his first day and I'm ashamed to say I was not having a lot of success. I think that might have been due to the fact that he started in Sept 2007 when his twin sisters were just a couple of months old and my head was a little fuzzy due to lack of sleep!

First day back in September 2007.  I'm not sure Miss M is as pleased as JJ about him starting school!

JJ took to school like a duck to water, when he wasn't there it was all he talked about and at home time he never really wanted to leave. He would grab the last few moments on the play equipment or run off to greet a friend in the distance and I would be left like an old fish wife shouting JJ!

When I was tidying out the other day I came across all the kids early school reports and as I read what the teachers had to say about JJ it was like reading about a different child. This boy who was intelligent beyond his years but had little spaciall awareness and no empathy for his peers. I was taken back to all the times I had to go in and talk to his teachers as he had hurt someone without meaning to. I recall there was one time when him and another lad collided on the playground, no-ones fault but because JJ was a good head taller than all the other kids he just got a bruise and poor kids front teeth got knocked out! It is not always easy being a parent, so many times I felt guilty for the behaviour of my over zealous little man. Never did he mean to hurt anyone but that does not make it any easier.

It is a different story now, JJ just seemed to grow into his own skin. He still has moments of being over enthusiastic but he does not step on anyone any more as he crosses the carpet and he remembers to say sorry if necessary. It makes such a difference and it eases my worries as a parent.

I'm so pleased to say that things can change, not everything though mind you. I'll tell you one thing that has not really changed at all - JJ's ability to wreck his school uniform! I just don't know how he manages it, his white polo shirts always manage to get stained and end up looking years old when he has only had them a week or so. Whiteboard marker, ketchup, brio, dirt, you name it and some of the stains are so hard to get out, thank the Lord for good value school uniforms and fabulous 150 day guarantees, like Asda has.

If you like what you have read and want to stay up-to-date then subscribe by email for free and receive blog posts directly to your in-box - just click the link Subscribe to Mummy From The Heart... by Email or perhaps you like to keep all your blog reading in one place, if that is the case you can follow me on BlogLovin too!Follow on Bloglovin

Which Butlins accommodation should you choose?

Having been to Butlins quite a number of times now I have stayed in most grades of accommodation and I often find that when I talk to people about Butlins they ask me where they should stay. “Are the hotels best if I’m going to Bognor Regis and if yes, which one?” and “Is there much difference between a standard and a silver room?” are the sorts of question I receive, so I thought it was high time that I shared my perspective of all the accommodation grades in one post and I’ll also link to some other reviews to help you gain a wider perspective.

Types of accommodation

Probably the first thing to clarify is the types of accommodation that you can book at Butlins. In my experience all three resorts have very similar rooms but there might just be small differences, whereas Skegness might have showers in one grade of accommodation, Minehead might have baths in the same and often the external views of the accommodation is different. So it is always worth reading carefully what it says on the web when you book if you have specific requirements.

First off there are the rooms, these generally do not have a lounge or kitchen area and they are the accommodation you book when you want to stay half board and have your meals provided by Butlins. Apartments are for self-catering guests and these will feature a kitchen and dining area; how well equipped they are will depend on the grade of accommodation you book but I’ll go into that more in a minute. You can add meals to your package when you stay in an apartment but be aware this is going to cost you quite a bit more as you get a lot more space than in a room. Lastly at Bognor Regis there are three hotels and these can be booked as room only or add on breakfast or half board accommodation and at Minehead there are the luxury Blue Skies apartments.

Grades of accommodation

– This is the most basic accommodation that Butlins offers and the last time I stayed in standard was in April 2012, so it has been a little while but knowing Butlins I can only expect that it has got better rather than worse. They are exceptionally good at updating things and refurbishing their bedroom stock. At some holiday villages I would not want to stay in the basic but I can honestly say we were happy in our standard accommodation, it was slightly more dated than other grades and the décor and furniture is more basic and plain.

Silver – Pretty much like the standard accommodation to be honest but better decorated in a more contemporary style and the web says the main difference is that you get a microwave in the apartment. Personally we found that when we stayed in a silver bungalow at Minehead last year we got all sorts of extras like an iron and board, hairdryer. For value this is probably my favourite grade of accommodation. You can read my Silver Bungalow at Minehead review or check out Hex Mum’s review of a Silver room at Skegness.

Gold – There is a separate reception for the guests staying in the gold accommodation, which is a nice touch and means you can easily find someone close at hand to answer any queries or to book activity sessions. This accommodation is fairly similar in its styling to the silver grade but you also get a dishwasher in the apartment and also iron and board, hairdryer, widescreen TV with DVD, second TV in the master bedroom, personal safe and early check-in from 3pm. There are towels and toiletries provided in the bathroom and the rooms also come with daily housekeeping. Some also have balconies or terraces but generally you pay a little more for these.  You can read my review of a gold apartment at Minehead or check out A Strong Coffee’s review of a Gold apartment at Skegness.

Deluxe – This is the best grade of the traditional chalet style accommodation and the décor is very tasteful. Cream walls, brown leather sofas, glass shelves, black-out curtains, silver door handles and switches etc. You will find everything in the Deluxe grade that you find in the Gold with early check-in, daily housekeeping, towels provided etc. There are also normally a balcony or terrace area provided and they all come with a dedicated parking space, which is really convenient and outside your door. Unlike the Gold accommodation, there is not a dedicated reception for Deluxe. In my opinion unless a parking space makes a lot of difference to you then I personally think Gold is the better option. You can read my review of the Deluxe Suite at Bognor Regis.

Hotels – Bognor Regis – There are three hotels on site with the Wave being the newest, then the Ocean and the Shoreline being the first that was built.  I personally have only ever stayed in the Wave but my understanding is that the Shoreline Hotel is best for those with younger children as you can breakfast with Billy Bear and put him to bed at night, it is also right next door to the Billy’s playground area. You can read One Dad 3 Girls review too.

The Wave hotel is better for older kids as it has a games downstairs with things like Wii’s, Macs etc and the bedrooms all have a pod for the kids to share with bunk beds and DVD’s at the end of each bed. The styling of the Wave is very funky and modern and there are interconnecting rooms for big families and also self-catering apartments which sleep up to 6. You can read my review or Lakes Single Mum’s of the Wave hotel and Inside the Wendy House reviewed one of the Reef apartments.

The Ocean Hotel is the most luxurious of the hotels with a spa and butler service, I’ve not stayed here yet but this is the one I’m dreaming about. You can check out the reviews from Twins Tiaras and Tantrums or The Boy and Me's.

Blue Skies – Minehead – I’ve seen the apartments from the outside but never been in but boy do they look fantastic but having checked out the prices a few times they should do as they are considerably more expensive.  I can see why though as the sea views are uninterrupted and really stunning. 

Final considerations -

*  When you are booking what I would say is not to make any assumptions, look at the price for all accommodation grades as sometimes you are surprised when you do a search, as accommodation you would not expect comes up cheaper, for instance I stayed on holiday this year in May and found that a Deluxe lodge (meant for self-catering, so it has a dining area/ kitchen) actually came up slightly cheaper (£40) than the Deluxe Suite we stayed in.

*  Think about the age of your children and how much time you will spend in the accommodation.  If you have older kids and you know you are activity hungry then chances are you will spend all day busy and all evening at the shows and just use the accommodation to sleep in, that way a standard room might just make sense and will be so much cheaper. For us we know our younger children need to be in bed by about 9pm most nights and thus we like to have a lounge to relax in once the kids are in bed. 

We've always really enjoyed our Butlins breaks but now it is time for something different and Helen at Actually Mummy is making me think that Center Parcs would be find to try. Check her Center Parcs holiday review out.

Disclosure: I am a Butlins Ambassador this year and as such we were provided with a 4 night break for 5 people for the purpose of undertaking a review. I have not been told what to write and I remain honest.