This past year, we have been working with Butlins as part of their ambassador program. Our ambassador role saw us visiting two of the three Butlins resorts, taking one term-time trip, and one school holiday trip, sharing our experiences as we go along.
Doing two separate visits at different times of year enabled us to get a really in-depth insight into the Butlins experience. This wasn’t a run-of-the-mill one-time review opportunity, but a chance for us to really cement our views on the Butlins brand across a number of resorts, forming a carefully considered opinion over the course of a year.
In September of last year, we visited Butlins Bognor Regis, and a couple of months back, we went on our second trip to the Butlins Skegness resort. (Sam and I have also been to Butlins Minehead several times for ATP’s Music Festival, pre-kids, but we like to think our time there still gave us a good idea of the resort and facilities).
This post will focus mainly on Butlins Skegness, and how it compares to our experience of Butlins Bognor Regis.
The arrivals process
Our first positive impression of the Skegness resort was the drive-through check in for our chalet accommodation. Incredibly simple, there was no queue, and it meant we got our room number before parking up so could park as close to our accommodation as possible. Butlins Bognor Regis had been a desk check-in, also very straightforward, but we loved the convenience of the drive-through check in.
The Skyline Pavilion at Skegness seemed to have more options for snacky or lunchtime eateries – there was Soho Coffee House with sandwiches and soups, and Rock and Salt fish and chip takeaway. At Bognor, the only options for a quick and easy ‘eat at the chalet takeaway’ were Burger King or Papa Johns.
We also loved the Firehouse Grill at Skegness (think Nandos), and it’s happy, colourful decor.
If you are doing the premium dining plan, you have two dining options: The Yacht Club and The Deck. Essentially, the Yacht Club is an overspill option for busy periods. Otherwise, it’s very much the same as The Deck. The same food is served, except The Yacht Club has none of the ‘made to order’ stations for pasta, grilled meats or omelettes.
There is a clear winner here. The swimming pool at Skegness has recently undergone a massive refurbishment and is miles above the pool at Bognor Regis. We found Skegness a far better bet for little ones lacking in pool confidence. As arlo explains in our video, it was very important to him that he could stand in the water in the children’s pool, and he could easily avoid any splashy fountains – not particularly easy to do at the Bognor swimming pool. He also loved the rope bridge that hangs above the pool.
The play areas
The soft play frame at Bognor is superior to the one at Skegness, and it’s better suited for the over threes. On the flipside, the soft play is comparatively underwhelming for babies and toddlers, but the Billy’s Buddies area nearby makes up for that. Bognor’s soft play is in the Skyline Pavilion, with easy access to refreshments and caffeine whilst you watch your child play. The soft play at Skegness was in a separate building, with no shop or cafe, leaving parents a bit stranded for refreshments whilst watching their children play. For this reason, Butlins Bognor Regis wins out for us on this one. However, one thing Skegness had that Bognor didn’t was the Little Stars indoor play area, which Arlo raves about in our video. Ride-ons, slides, Little Tikes Cars – great for younger children and toddlers.
Term time or school holiday?
Our Skegness break fell on February half term, whereas our Bognor break had been during term time. In terms of busyness, I’d say there was no difference. I was expecting queues for premium dining, and shows in the smaller venues at full capacity. We found none of that. We were able to walk into shows at any point, and eat whenever without a wait. The only discernible difference was that, catering to a predominately older crowd of tweens and school age children in the holidays, some of the evening shows had a later start time (8.30pm for skyline gang as opposed to 7pm during our term time break), and the shows for the 0-5 crowd were in Reds, the smaller venue, rather than on the main stage in the Skyline Pavilion.
Summer or winter break?
Winter seems like a great time to go to Butlins, because it’s notoriously difficult to entertain small children at home, and there is just so much to keep them busy and happy at Butlins.
Seeing how much the kids enjoyed themselves, the fact that they genuinely thought we’d taken them to the best place ever, just made it for us. We’ve already discussed going back to Butlins next year if we see a good deal.
To hear more from Arlo on the subject of Butlins, watch the video below where he discusses what he likes about the two resorts we’ve visited; Butlins Skegness and Butlins Bognor Regis.
Butlins is not a holiday for parents to relax and unwind. It is unashamedly an experience for the kids, or, more aptly, an opportunity for the whole family to have fun together. If your preschooler likes the shows and activities featured in my Butlins posts, guaranteed they will be in complete awe.
You might even find yourself with a contender to steal Arlo’s title as the biggest fan of Butlins.