Just For Tots at Butlin's - the highs and lows
To be frank Butlin's had never been on my radar for a mini-break.
In my mind I had ideas of an old fashioned, jaded resort and quite honestly, there were other places in the UK I’d rather visit.
Then my husband found himself at Butlin's Bognor Regis, staying at one of their hotels when his workplace took over the resort for a conference. He FaceTimed, giving me a tour of his hotel room and sent pictures of the set-up. It looked better than I expected and there was a Spa - this was getting tempting.
A few months later Butlin's was mentioned again. There was a Just for Tots break coming up. Aimed at Under 5s, it featured Mr Bloom as the headline event. My husband was keen so we decided to give it a try - on condition I could book a massage at the spa.
So on a Friday afternoon we caught the train to Butlin's Bognor Regis and by 4pm we were settled into our hotel room. We spent 3 nights at the resort with our two girls aged 4 and 2. Here are our highs and lows:
The campus style set-up - everything is in easy reach. The hotels and self catering are a short walk from the restaurants, bars and entertainment. The resort is a 10-15 minute walk from Bognor Regis train station.
Room set-up - the hotel rooms have a separate den area for children to sleep. At the Ocean Hotel this featured two single beds with a TV (other hotels have bunk beds). A separate double bed lies in the main part of the room for adults. Having the two separate areas works brilliantly (no more hiding out in the bathroom while the kids try to get to sleep).
Mr Bloom - Mr Bloom was the headline event for this break. He took us on a musical adventure with classic songs remastered to have a vegetable theme. He’s a great entertainer and does not disappoint live on stage. Having seen Justin Fletcher on stage in Wimbledon, I’m sure his Butlin’s set would be brilliant - our girls loved it.
Pottery Painting- a studio had just opened when we arrived (you can book slots on the day). You pay £5 per item and there’s all sorts to choose from to paint - Unicorns, Castles, Robots, mugs etc. The paint is quick drying so you can take it with you when you leave after your session. The kids really enjoyed this activity. Just bring a bag to carry your painted craft back to the hotel (the studio were not able to provide any.)
Little Tikes Town - a mini freestyle racetrack filled with Little Tikes cars, taxis, scooters and bicycles. Little Tikes castles and playhouses are dotted around the sides too. Great fun for the Under 5s.
Ocean Spa - I went for my promised massage at the spa located in the Ocean Hotel. I was really impressed with the massage itself which ran to time and was incredibly relaxing. The treatment room was modern, comfortable and clean and the staff friendly. You can use the steam room, sauna, snow cave, jacuzzi and plunge pool for a separate charge.
Air Con - it was snowing in Bognor Regis and that meant the heating was on full blast in the hotel. Our room was like a sauna when we arrived. We quickly went to turn on the air con but we were told that there’s no air con at this time of year. Actually this isn’t quite the case. We complained at 4am when all four of us were wide awake and the reception staff switched it on. Apparently it works on a floor by floor basis so I imagine tricky to keep everyone happy. It is an option though if you ask for it.
Busy mealtimes - the breakfast buffet was quite chaotic. Not so bad if you eat at 7.30 but around 9.00 it was very hectic. They completely ran out of yoghurts one morning (even in their store room) and some of the pastries (stored in a refrigerated section) were absolutely rock hard.
Splash Waterworld pool. A few people had said it was quite cold and my husband (who took our eldest daughter swimming) agreed. It also gets really busy but around 11am seemed like a slightly better time to go. The changing room was still rammed though.
Showtimes- our tickets for the headline shows on both days were for 2pm. I thought this was an odd time to hold the main headline event for Under 5s as many nap around this time. I would definitely say morning or late afternoon would make more sense. Some of the shows run at 7pm too so this might be an option if you can get your ticket changed.
WiFi - if this is important to you or you expect/need to be online throughout your stay, you may need to pay extra. The ‘basic’ free package includes 300mb free data per day. This lasted me about 10 minutes per day (briefly checking emails, Instagram and Twitter) before I was locked out and told I had used up my daily allowance. WiFi is provided by another provider and problems can’t be handled by Butlin’s staff directly, I was told.
Book the restaurants in advance for dinner. If you have a meal package which includes dinner, you can book some of the other restaurants onsite some of which are table service if you don’t fancy the buffet. You can book on the day with the Butler at the hotel.
There’s a well stocked supermarket with all the essentials on site. In Bognor Regis itself there’s a Morrison’s just off the high street if you need more specific bits. There's also a few pharmacies and about 10 charity shops in the town centre.
If there’s a sunny and dry day, make the most of the outside fairground activities (Carousel/Helter Skelter) If it’s raining or snowing some of them close and won’t run.