13 July 2008
I've already posted a link to a Photo Diary of our recent holiday to Butlins Skegness through the eyes of a toddler. Here is a review of the holiday through the eyes of a parent.
We paid the extra for Gold standard accommodation which I think was probably worth it. I last went to Butlins over 15 years ago, but back then the cheaper accommodation was poor quality. I've also had a very bad experience with the Silver accommodation at a former Butlins (currently Haven) site.
The accommodation was to a high standard. I was however disappointed that the first floor was accessed using external stairs, although these were of better quality than the Ayr Haven site they are not very good for Babies and Toddlers. Stairs to the second floor were internal - although we were thankfully on the first floor. If booking early enough it's worth paying the extra to get a ground floor appartment.
Although the accommodation is showing it's age on the outside it has been recently redecorated on the inside and was very well looked after. It included a TV in the bedroom, although that had a portable aerial which was not very good. There was a note saying that remote controls were removed for "environmentally friendly" reasons, this seams a little tenuous at best. Fortunately this was not the case for the main TV (at least in Gold accommodation) as having a remote control was useful for ceefax and checking the weather, which is useful when on holiday.
There are two free fun-fairs on site. There is an outdoor fun-fair designed for all ages with a couple of rides suitable for toddlers. There is a second toddler fun-fair in "Bob's Building Yard" with 4 rides designed for younger guests.
The swimming pool is good, though hard-work with a toddler and a baby. The changing rooms were not particularly baby friendly. There were only a few family cubicles and non of those had baby changing tables. There were two baby changing tables in the locker area, but not as convenient as if they were in the changing cubicle.
TV Characters - Bob The Builder, Fireman Sam and friends
Our daughter is a big fan of Bob The Builder and as such was in her element. Bob is the main character attraction for Butlins, but there are also many others including Fireman Sam, Angelina Ballerina and Pingu. We paid £30 for a special character lunch with Bob, Wendy, Spud and even Pilchard the Cat. This was a great activity and well worth the money as it included a Bob The Builder rucksack, toys, photo and lots of contact with the characters who joined in the games and spent time around the children. There was about 15 children in the session which was a good number, without getting too crowded.
If you didn't want to pay this expense then there we a number of photo sessions, where you could meet the character. A photo was taken by the on site photographer with no obligation to buy. I was disappointed by the quality of the "professional" photographs. Considering that they had professional equipment, including flash boxes, they overexposed the photo that we had taken with Fireman Sam.
There was also a show with most of the characters on during the evening entertainment.
Butlins Skegness is fortunate in having a great beach directly off the site. There is a bit of a climb to get out of the site (ramp or a few stairs), but then it's straight onto the beach.
The evening entertainment was good (especially the character show for the children), but the location was less than ideal. It was upstairs with only one lift which was in a very bad state. It seamed a very poor decision to have the family venue upstairs, or at least they could have provided better access for pushchairs etc.
The choice for eating out was a bit limited, although junk food is well catered for :-( The Sun and Moon pub served good traditional food at a reasonable price and was our favourite. It included an outdoor play area.
In general the site is baby friendly with good baby changing facilities in most locations. Some of the staff were not as clued up as you would expect at a family resort, including someone who put the baby bottle straight into a microwave without asking us first or any regard to the government guidelines against heating baby bottles in a microwave.
Apart from the access to the evening entertainment most places are suitable for pushchairs and there are indoor parking areas where required (e.g. swimming pool).
We had a great holiday and we'll definitely be considering Butlins again for a future holiday. It's more expensive than most other self-catering holidays (except for Center Parcs) but it was well worth it.