7 November 2012
For this years main summer holiday we went to Butlins in Bognor Regis. We have been on holiday to Butlins before, but this was our first time staying in one of the Butlins hotels.
We went during the summer holidays. The holiday was fairly expensive, especially when you consider it was only 4 nights long (Monday to Friday). We took the half-board food option as there was a Kids-eat-free offer at the time. After taking into consideration the other online booking discounts the cost was more reasonable.
We chose the Shoreline hotel as this is the most child oriented hotel and home of "Billy Bear", the Butlin's main children's character. This meant that there were lots of opportunities to meet the characters in the hotel and "Billy's bedtime"
We arrived a little before the official check-in time. Our room was already ready and we were provided with the key straight away, with no queuing required. The hotel room was in good condition with bunk beds. There was a TV in the main bedroom / lounge area and the children's bedroom
The fun fair is very old. Many of the rides were already very old when I used to visit Butlins as a child and are still older now my children are that age. The rides are still working except for the carousel which was in the process of being refurbished, they are still enjoyable and still free (or at least included in the cost of the holiday). There are also a number of rides for younger children which are indoors and open earlier than the outdoor funfair. Queues within the fun fair were quite acceptable.
[I've since heard that the funfair is to have a new fairground for 2013. It sounds like they will still have some of the old favourites, but with a few new ones as well.]
One of the big things about Butlins is the splash world swimming pool. The changing rooms were very good. The Splash World is showing some signs of it's age, but is still in good working condition and has plenty to make it enjoyable including a Master Blaster inflatable boat ride and a space bowl flume. Most of the slides have age and/or height restrictions, although one slide was suitable for everyone.
There are also some playgrounds and other children's activities, so much to do in fact that the only time we left site was to spend a day on the excellent beach on one of the rare hot sunny days.
The entertainment was very good. Many of the children's shows were on the Skyline stage, which were very good, but had a fairly small seating area. As a result it was difficult to get a good position to watch some of the shows.
We went into the Reds venue in the evening which was good and had plenty of spare tables (at most times). The more popular evening shows were in the Centre Stage area. The ones we went to were both afternoon shows. The first was a ticketed event available for all hotel guests (ticket provided at check-in). It was a Dick and Dom show. I hadn't heard of Dick and Dom before we went, although my daughter assured me they were funny. Whilst Dick and Dom are associated with children's TV the stage show was very funny and worked well for the whole family.
The other show we went to see was a traditional pantomime of Beauty and the Beast [oh no we didn't, oh yes we did ...]
The staff at the hotel and throughout Butlins were all really good. All the staff were all very friendly and helpful and went out of their way to make the holiday special. There are lots of Redcoats many of which just had spare time to spend with the guests, including children, which was really good.
We had gone for the half board option. Breakfast was normally within our hotel. The restaurant was not very big, but there wasn't really any problems getting a table, except for the last day when they opened an overflow breakfast in nearby Papa John's. We were also able to swap for a Character breakfast earlier in the week which was at Papa John's. Our children really enjoyed the character breakfast which include a chance to make lots of noise with musical so if not awake already you certainly were at the end.
In the evening we could eat in the hotel, which did a reasonable buffet or swap for a voucher that could be used at some of the other restaurants around Butlins.
The Shoreline hotel was good for a family buffet.
The Kaleidoscope restaurant at the Ocean hotel was a little more formal, but also provided a good family friendly buffet (we went as we were unable to get the time we wanted at the Shoreline hotel whereas the Kaleidoscope had availability)
Beachcomber Inn provided a traditional pub meal, although to use the voucher dessert had to be ordered with the main course.
We also went to the Turner's restaurant as a special meal out. This is a restaurant managed by celebrity chef Brian Turner, who happened to be at the restaurant when we visited. It was a little more expensive than the other restaurants, but still only cost about £15 extra for the food (excluding drinks) which was for a family of four (although only one child had dessert).
We had a great holiday. A little more expensive than some other UK destinations, but with lots for the whole family it was worth paying. The hotel was particularly good, even better than the gold standard accommodation that we have stayed at before. I'm sure that Butlins will be featuring in another future holiday.
See more photos in the Butlin's Bognor Regis photo gallery.