Jo and Reuben behind a VW Camper

Our First Family Holiday as Four; Butlins Review

7th May 2017

We’re just back from our very first family holiday as a four! We went to Butlins, Skegness for the Just for Tots week.
We’ve been to Butlins before when Reuben was a baby and it was a nightmare! Reuben didn’t sleep so we didn’t sleep. Then we had a long drive back as we went to Minehead. This time we decided that we would go to Skegness as it is closer to home and we chose a week that was ‘Just for Tots’

Normally we pick CentreParcs for a family holiday but after seeing a review from the lovely Kelly-Anne over at Mimi Rose and Me (if you haven’t checked her out already you need to when you’ve finished here) about her Tiny Tots holiday at Butlins, I decided to look into it more. We decided that Butlins would suit us better this time, the cost was very similar to CentreParcs but there was a lot more included, lots of activities, swimming, a fair and shows to name a few!

Here is how our week went.

The Day Before

The day before we were due to go I received a call from Butlins. We had booked to stay in their newly refurbished Fairground Apartments. The lady called to tell us that our room had been flooded due to the shower and so we couldn’t stay there but they wanted to upgrade us to a Seaside Apartment, she was making sure that it was OK. Obviously we agreed. The lady told me that she would sort everything out for when we arrived and the check in was still 3pm.

We Finally Arrived on our Family Holiday!

Off we went. Both kids slept for pretty much the whole journey avoiding the ‘Are we nearly there yet’ chorus that we would have undoubtably got from Reuben. When we arrived at the main gate they asked where we were staying, we advised Seaside as we were upgraded and they pointed us in the direction of the check in gate.

I must say their check in gate runs well. It was extremely busy but we only waited about ten minutes. I assume this is because they get you to queue according to your surname initial.

When we got to the check in gate they couldn’t find us. We explained what had happened. Seems that not everything had been sorted for our arrival as our pack was at the other check in entrance. Brills! Cue Reuben needing a wee! Bloody marvellous! The lady on the gate told us how to get to the other gate to collect our keys. Luckily the other gate was completely empty!

On the way to the gate we did notice that there was a whole bunch of apartments blocked off and the gates all said Fairground development. I can only assume that none of the apartments were ready.

The Seaside Apartment

We went to the apartment just after 3pm, with access being from 3pm we wanted to get in and get sorted ready for Jessica’s dinner. The key card didn’t work. There was a cleaner nearby who checked our details and let us in. Once we were in Sam went to the help desk about the key cards not working and was told ‘they will work soon’. They finally started to work at 4pm which is the standard check in time, not the time that it should have been for Fairground apartments, or Seaside for that matter. Never mind, we were in so it didn’t cause too much issue.

We unpacked and then decided to set up Jessica’s travel cot which we had paid to hire from them. It wasn’t there. We spoke to the desk who said it would be delivered shortly. This was just after 3pm. A lady came to see if everything was OK, we said we needed a travel cot and she said it would be with us soon.

6pm came and still no bed. A bit of a concern with bedtime looming. We went back to the helpdesk and they rang housekeeping.
It had been delivered they said.
We took collection of it at 4.15pm they said.
Erm, nope. We definitely do not have a bed. The head of housekeeping said she was going to check and sort it out. When we got back to the room at about 6.45pm the travel cot was there.

The apartment was nice enough. It was clean and well planned although the kitchen felt very small. I do think it would have been a struggle to cook full meals in there. Or certainly it would for me as I tend to space out. The only complaint I had about the room was that our bed was extremely creaky. With Jessica being in our room every time we turned over it made her stir and wake up. Settling her again took quite a while.

Wifi Upgrade

We paid £30 to upgrade the WIFI for two devices. Sam and I use our phones a lot for updating family to downloading films and so paying the extra seemed a good idea. We logged our phones into the WIFI with the codes provided. Nothing. It connected and then dropped out. We just couldn’t connect at all so now we were paying again or using our allowance. Back to the helpdesk we went. The lady was so apologetic and immediately issued a refund. I expected it to be refunded back to my card as I had pre-booked it and paid on card but she gave it to us in cash.

She did advise that they were in the process of changing company so that everyone would have free WIFI and then the upgrades would be if you wanted to stream films. If this comes in it will be a big improvement.

Entertainment

I cannot fault the entertainment. There was so much to do. Even with the weather being poor we were not bored at all.

There were parks, messy play areas, sports areas, and swimming to name a few. And then there were the shows. We saw The Teletubbies, Mister Maker and The Shapes, Billie and Bonnie and some puppet shows. There were so many others that we didn’t get to see.

The shows were all great, although they were busy. You needed to be at the shows early. Very early in some cases. For example the Mister Maker show started at 2pm. Doors open at 1pm. We were there at 1.15pm and it was already busy. By 1.30pm it was standing only. For these types of shows they did offer them in the evening as well however, with a 3 year old and 8 month old, a show starting at 7.30pm wasn’t an option, the kids couldn’t get to that time if they wanted to.

Swimming Pool

Reuben’s favourite part of our family holiday was the swimming pool.
We went on a day it was raining, we thought it was going to be bedlam, thinking everyone would have the same idea. It was busy but because of the size of the pool it didn’t feel overcrowded at all. We did go in the morning when the slides weren’t on so maybe the afternoons are busier.

When we arrived we needed to put our pushchair away. The system they have is great. They give you a ticket and take your pushchair for you. When you leave, you give them the ticket and they bring the pushchair to you. No fuss or hassle (unless you lose the ticket I guess).

We went into the changing area. There appeared to be a lack of family changing rooms or baby changing benches. Sam and I were ready under our clothes. We picked a small cubicle, Sam held Jessica outside whilst I sorted out Reuben. Once he was done I sorted out Jessica. The problem with this was I was in a single changing cubicle so no baby changing facility. There were no tables outside to use, and if there had been I would have been undressing her in the corridor (which was what I had to do when we came out). I ended up folding a towel on the bench so it was cushioned, and laid her on that to change her. It was awkward. As it is a family resort, I am surprised there weren’t more family units. But we made do with what we had.

The pool area was clean and warm. There seemed to be a lot of areas and to begin with we couldn’t see where the walk in pool was. We did find it and made our way there. There were some floating aids by the side of the pool. We didn’t use them and so I’m not sure if they needed to be paid for but it appeared that people were just helping themselves to them. I was impressed with the amount of lifeguards there.

It was also a nice touch that they had a photographer in the pool. It isn’t often you can get a family photo, let alone one in the pool.

Jessica and I left early, being a baby she tired very quickly. Sam and Reuben stayed and spent some time on the lazy river which they both seemed to enjoy.

Jo, Sam, Reuben & Jessica in Swimming pool

Food

We considered adding the premium food package to our family holiday but at £230 we decided that it was quite expensive. As food packages go it isn’t the most expensive price I have ever seen, costing £26.25 per adult per night, £6.75 for children 2-5 years old per night and under 2’s free. But we decided that we could probably do it cheaper. Especially as this was for breakfast and dinner only. Lunch and drinks would still need to be catered for, and we aren’t really people who have a second helping at an all you can eat, and desserts aren’t something that we have often. We decided we would arrange food ourselves with the view we would have more flexibility on where to eat.

So, we opted to have breakfast and lunch in the apartment. Due to just arriving, unpacking and just wanting to get settled we decided to have our dinner in the apartment on the first night. The rest of the week we ate out.

We spent approximately £210. This covered all food and drink. Please do bear in mind that we were back in the room each night by 7pm and so this only included one alcoholic drink (approximately) per day.

Places We Ate.

Firehouse

We went to the Firehouse on Tuesday. I was really looking forward to a BBQ style dinner. The smell coming from the restaurant was amazing. We tried to book a table for 5pm but was told that 5.30pm would be better as it would make it easier on the waitresses as they had three other tables in at 5pm. That made sense and so we agreed.

When we got to the restaurant it was busy, not really busy but there were a few tables. I can only assume they had accepted walk ins as we were advised there was a 45 minute wait on food. I couldn’t see that it was busy enough for a 45 minute wait and so thought they were being over-cautious on their estimation.

We ordered our food. The food came out in about 35 minutes. A life time with a three year old but they had told us so we went with it. Sam and Reuben really enjoyed their burgers. Unfortunately what I ordered was not what I had expected. I thought I was getting a chicken burger in a seeded bun but what I actually got was a piece of chicken coated in sesame seeds. My meal was bland and not really very appetising at all.

The waitress offered us desserts. I said we didn’t want one but Reuben would have ice cream as it was included in his kid’s meal. She said she would get a bowl and bring it out as it was help yourself, all you can eat. We waited about fifteen minutes for her to bring a bowl. She was taking items to other tables and we couldn’t grab her attention. As we wanted to get seats for a show we collared the hostess and asked for the bill. Paid and was about to leave.

Unfortunately Reuben was quite upset about not having his ice cream. The hostess asked him what was wrong and he said they didn’t come back to him. She was obviously quite confused and so I explained what had happened. She was very apologetic and said she was going to refund us. I told her not to worry, it was just an ice cream.

She responded by saying we weren’t going to pay for something we didn’t have and that she was refunding us the whole price of the kid’s meal. I had already paid, she had to cancel the payment and take a new payment, as I was putting my details in she went on to say she had refunded his drink. I couldn’t be bothered to question it – we had now waited 25 minutes for ice cream related issues and all I wanted was get to the show (which we missed as by the time we arrived there were no seats).

Burger King

As we wanted to see Billy and Bonnie’s sing along on the Wednesday we opted for Burger King for dinner. It meant we were able to grab tables and watch the shows as we ate. As we had missed the show the night before we wanted Reuben to be able to watch this one.

Ludo’s Italian

We decided to try Ludo’s on the Thursday night. I loved the look of the menu as it really does cater for everyone. From pizzas to pasta to salad.

When we arrived the hostess was so friendly. She immediately struck up conversation with Reuben about his iron man face paint. I love this when I go to a restaurant as it immediately gives the feel of a family friendly place. There was a buggy park where we could leave our buggy if we wanted, the hostess said we were able to take it to the table if we wanted. Good job really as Jessica couldn’t keep her eyes open!

We were served quickly, the boys opted for pizza’s (obviously), and I went for the meatball pasta dish (and a strawberry bellini! A must for the end of our family holiday). I was really impressed with the speed from ordering to service. We waited maybe 15 minutes at the most. The food was absolutely delicious. I cannot recommend this place enough if you want great food at a reasonable price.

Our Final Thoughts

We had a great time and were all tired at the end of it as there is so much to do. Will we go again? For sure! We are likely to pick a tots week again as it means that the kids are less likely to be disturbed at night and that suits us.

Thanks Butlins for a great family holiday!

Please note that we chose and paid for the holiday ourselves. All views and opinions are my own.

Twin Mummy and Daddy
  • Nige

    Never been but it’s looks an looks like you had a great time Thanks for linking to the #THAT FRIDAY LINKY come back next week please

  • Twinmumanddad

    I”ve been hearing lots of good things about Butlins recently. Sounds like you had fun. Thanks for linking up to #ThatFridayLInky

  • suz

    Sounds like you had a great time. Nice to find it was so family friendly
    #thatfridaylinky

    • Really family friendly – perfect holiday especially as it was raining x

  • It’s such a great holiday, isn’t it? Thanks for the mention too. I’m glad you all had such a fabulous time too, we can’t wait to go back to Butlins. Just for all those smiles. 👍🏼