Thursday 5 June 2014

Butlins Bognor Regis – Is it good for a family holiday?

We have been to Butlins to stay so many times now and that must speak volumes. The vast majority of our holidays we have paid for and there is always a great deal to be had, especially if you can go out of school holidays. Term time holidays are perfect for families with toddlers and babies as it is quieter on resort but there is still a whole abundance of fun.  Probably my favourite Butlins holidays were those when my kids were toddlers and we had a great mixture of relaxation and full-on fun.

Nowadays my children are 6, 6 and 10 and they just want to go, go, go non-stop and this gets a bit tiring for me if I am honest. Coming to Butlins in the school holidays is mega busy and it is not somewhere you would go for down-time and really you would not be getting your money’s worth if you just relaxed here. The point of Butlins is to be busy and to have fun.

So much to do
I’ve written before about all the entertainment and activities on site, there really is so much to do and each year the main shows are updated and changed so you do not get bored. Some of the character shows in the Skyline pavilion did appear to be the same but the 3 and 4 year olds these are aimed at would not mind at all I'm sure.

What is included?
You might wonder what is included in your holiday price and I can confirm it is enough to keep you going for far more days than you are at Butlins. You can use the funfair, splash waterworld flumes, soft play, under 5’s rides, character shows, live shows (both afternoon and evening), messy time activities, two play parks for different ages, sports coaching, kids clubs, Skyline gang shows and fun sessions, falconry display, live music, panto and even watch live wrestling. There really is so much on without putting your hand in your pocket at all.

Plan your time
Make sure that before you arrive at Butlins you download the free app for your iOS or Android device and you can start to plan your time here. On arrival you are given a planner and also a book for the relevant kidsclubs (Get Busy 5-8 year olds, Reds 9-12 year olds and VIP 13 – 16 year olds) and these give all the details of what will be going on during your stay. Do plan out your time and also make sure you book well in advance for any sessions you definitely want to be involved with as things can get busy.

Extra paid activities
The majority of activities on site are included in your holiday price but there are also some pay extra activities and these are great fun additions but you do not have to do them.  We have been on loads of Butlins holidays were we choose to not pay for anything on top of the included activities and the kids still had a ball. Mostly the paid activities seem to be about £5.00 each, these are things like water walkers (where you walk on water inside giant balls), climbing wall, free fall, zip wire, go-karts, rent-a-bikes, archery, giant bungee trampolines and bowling. You can also buy some activity packs when you purchase online in advance and these save you money.

On this holiday the only extra paid activities we did was go on the crazy golf (£2.50 per child) and go bowling (£5.00 per adult and £4.00 per child) and we enjoyed both of these and would happily do them again.

Eating at Butlins
There are loads of food and drinks venues on site, from a Burger King, to traditional English pub and from a 50’s inspired Diner to the Skyline café. There is something for everyone, I’m not going to lie, none of it is cheap, this is a holiday resort after all but with some smart moves of buying the odd drink from the shop it does not have to be too expensive.

We have chosen for the last few holidays go half-board and have the premium dining experience. This is a bit more expensive than classic food court dining but it gives us longer opening hours (8am – 11am and 4pm – 8pm in contrast to 8.30 – 10.30am and 4.30 – 6.30pm), a much nicer environment to eat in (The Deck, Yacht Club or Coast) and a wider variety of food. I have no complaints about the food at all, we found it all to be good quality and very tasty. The variety is great and you can satisfy even the pickiest of children.

The provision for babies and toddlers seems to be good too, with plenty of high-chairs, booster seats and specific cutlery available on the tables. I also saw a nice area for baby food preparation with warmers, microwaves and free Heinz baby food.

Both holidays were we have used the Deck I have found there to be plenty of seating and tables are cleared quickly. We did have to queue for about 10 minutes on our first night but all other times we only had a maximum of one family in front of us and we went at a variety of times.

You can go to the buffet as many times as you like. We filled up well on breakfast each day so we did not need lunch.  I really enjoyed the omelette's cooked to order in the morning and you can also have a BLT club sandwich made to order for you or otherwise it is either self or assisted service buffet with a full English, pancakes, kippers, fruits, toast, meats and cheese, bread rolls, porridge and yoghurt.

Then in the evening you can choose from a choice of about six different meals including a veggie choice, a carvery meat cut to order and also have pasta cooked and prepared to your specification or grilled foods prepared for you while you wait (burgers, Tuscan chicken and veggie kebabs). There are various chilled starters and soup and rolls available each day and then after your meal you can choose from about four different cold desserts, a hot dessert and custard or cheese and biscuits. Oh and of course there is always fresh fruit too. We really had no complaints.

Half board in Hotels
If you choose to have the half-board option as a hotel guest you can either eat in the allocated Deck premier buffet restaurant every day or you can swap your evening meal for a voucher for £13.50 per adult or £6.50 per child to eat at the other food venues on site. Those being Turners fine dining, the Ocean hotel Kaleidoscope restaurant, the Beachcomber Inn,  the Diner or Papa Johns pizza restaurant. You need never be bored!

Butlins look after their guests
I can honestly tell you that Butlins staff give great customer service, they are friendly and attentive. This last holiday we discovered that you can swap the pin badges with staff, so my kids pestered tons of staff from red Coats to cleaners to swap badges and without exception, they all stopped their job and took time to talk the kids.

Also one evening Miss E was sick, in the restaurant of all places. I think perhaps it was excitement in her case as it was just once but I was super impressed with the staff who came over to fill out some paperwork with me and took details of what she had eaten for the last three days so they could make appropriate investigations. Two staff also came over to our apartment a few hours later to check on us and offer their help. We did not need them but I felt confident I could call for help at any time if I needed to.

Getting out in the local area
Bognor Regis is very accessible to many other local towns and attractions and I always find it is nice to get out and about at least one of the days. This time we headed to a historic market town, Chichester and took in the beautiful Cathedral flower festival and a spot of shopping, as well as finding the beautiful Priory park.

You can also head to Littlehampton for a beautiful sandy beach, Brighton for some big city fun or just in Bognor Regis centre for a traditional seaside town.

In conclusion
I think Butlins, Bognor Regis is a fabulous place for a family holiday and we will happily visit again. There is so much to do on site but it is also a great base if you want to travel out and just enjoy the evening entertainment and the odd swim.

Take a peek at this short video to see a summary of our week -

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.

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