Say what you want about British holiday parks but we love them! Honestly as much as I’d love a week in the sun, I just can’t even begin to think about trying to take my three on a plane, it brings me out in a cold sweat just typing the words. That along with the very off putting cost of buying three passports at once and the terrible exchange rates at the moment mean that we will most likely be sticking to UK holidays for the next couple of years at least. And it doesn’t bother me at all, there are so many beautiful and interesting parts of the UK to explore!
Now, Butlins Bognor Regis might not be particularly beautiful or interesting, however we have been there for 3 holidays and 2 days out now and we have never failed to have a good time. There’s just something great about having all the entertainment you could ever need set out infront of you. Especially with small children, it’s such a nice change to not have to think about how you are going to keep them occupied, where you are going to go or how you are going to get there, just step outside your front door and have a choice of character shows, funfair rides, swimming pool, and it’s all included in your holiday price. It’s definitely not the most glamourous holiday, but it is a nice and easy way to put huge smiles on the kids’ faces, and that’s good enough for me.
There is so much to do though that it can be quite full on and you can even end up getting stressed trying to fit in all the fun, so I’ve had a little think about my tops tips from what we’ve learned about taking young children to Butlins.
The entertainment guide for the next couple of breaks are posted on the Butlin’s website about a week in advance. We always have a look before we get there because we are eager beavers, but if not then definitely have a look as soon as you’ve checked in and got hold of your copy. Highlight any must do shows to make sure that you don’t miss them. Most character shows in the skyline are repeated through the week but we did find that some were only on once or twice and sometimes at bizarre times like 9am so you need to be organised if you want to get to them. I don’t recommend that you try and see every single show, but if your little one is Angelina Ballerina’s biggest fan, you don’t want to finish breakfast to find your one and only chance to see her has been and gone.
Get in early
If you want to do any of the bookable activities like balancabilty bikes or mini bow archery, then get to the booking shop as soon as you arrive. We didn’t realise the popularity and by the time we tried to book we were told they had all filled up completely by Monday afternoon.
Arrival day strategy
The swimming pool is usually quiet on arrival/departure days and the skyline and funfair are busy with people hanging around until they can get into their accommodation. My advice is to take advantage of the quiet pool and your only opportunity to walk straight into a family changing room all week and head straight for swimming when you arrive. We usually then send Carl to grab our bags and take them to the room while I stay with the kids (i.e. crane my neck trying to see them in the giant soft play area).
Find the oasis of calm
It does get a bit full on and a bit hectic running from show to ride to activity to arcade, and after a while it’s no surprise that we end up with crazy over-stimulated kids. There are a few places you can go to escape though. The Usborne cosy reading corner is a fab little reading nook with beanbags and a huge selection of books to chose from. The play area next to the shoreline hotel with a giant sandpit is brilliant for toddlers and is quiet in the mornings and evenings around meal times. A walk out to the pebbly beach is always a nice calming activity and great if you have a baby who needs a nap in their pushchair too.
Forget about the queues
People start queueing for the shows in centre stage ridiculously early. I don’t know about you but I have no interest in trying to get my children to stand in a queue for an hour, so I refuse to do it. We will get in the queue a maximum of 20 minutes before the doors open, but often later and we’ve never had a problem getting seats. Yes you won’t be sat front and centre, but it’s still a pretty good view, and the kids can go and sit on the floor in front of the stage with the redcoats if they want a better view and I’ve never had a problem with sitting down there with them if they don’t want to go on their own.
Have a break from cooking
Take it from someone who has tried to self cater in a standard apartment, it’s just not really possible. The ‘kitchen’ is tiny and it’s in the same room as your bed and TV. Not only that but the chances are that at dinner time you’ll be coming out from swimming and only have an hour before the evening show starts that you want to see, and going back to your room to cook doesn’t seem like an attractive option at the time. I’ve not stayed in any of the posher apartments because I don’t see the point in paying more when it’s just a base, but my advice for the cheap rooms is save yourself the stress. Last time we went we stayed in a silver room so we didn’t have a kitchen and it was actually the cheapest option but it was a bit nicer than the standard apartment. Previously on our attempts to self cater, we have ended up eating a lot of burger king, and/or spending a fortune on meal that the kids didn’t even eat because they were too hyped up. This time we pre-booked a food court half board dining plan and it did take a lot of the stress out of it knowing that the food was already sorted. There was plenty of food, a good variety and perfectly edible, however I think next time we would pay the extra for premium dining because the food wasn’t the best quality and it get a bit samey by the end of the week.
So you thought you were having a holiday?
This is not a holiday for you so don’t expect to be able to relax… put aside all visions you might have of reconnecting with your partner, relaxing drink in hand as the children play merrily by themselves. It’s not that kind of holiday. I would compare it more to the equivalent of a week in Magaluf for the under 5s. It’s hectic, it’s full on, it’s non stop, you’ll fall into bed straight after the kids at the end of each day and if you make it to Friday you’ll be wondering why you didn’t book the next week off work to recover. But, the kids absolutely love every single second of every single day and the smiles on their faces make it more than worth it. We went two months ago and the girls still sing the Skyline Gang songs and ask constantly when we are going back. And at the very least it is a holiday from having to think up things to do to entertain them. My best advice is just go with the flow, embrace the crazy, and make it up to yourself with a tranquil beach holiday next time.
We did make some videos while we were in Butins last time and you can find them all here if you want to see for yourself what it’s really like.
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