ESCAPE LONDON – A holiday created just for tots, yes please!
As a child I used to spend many a holiday in Butlins with my family. Going back 30 odd years later, the place hasn’t changed. It still has that magical charm it always had, but is slightly more modernised. Some of the indoor funfair rides such as the caterpillar were there when I was younger and I remember the thrill of going on what at the time I felt was a scary roller coaster
I visited Butlins over half term during halloween with my husband, 3 year old and 16 month old.
The directions are very easy and the welcoming staff guide you effortlessly to your specific car park. I was surprised at how big it was. It was very compact yet there was plenty to do. What was really lovely is that your accommodation was never too far should you need to go back for a nap or any other reason.
We decided to go for a Tots Only week, which basically means that the children going can be no older than 5. What I loved about this was there was no fear of any bigger kids accidentally pushing my kids or the fear that there wouldn’t be enough for them to do. The whole village was tailored specifically to that age.
The staff I found to be helpful and friendly, they were very good at making sure each child felt special during their holiday. There was Bonnie and Billy bear (the Butlins mascots) walking around from time to time greeting the kids and meeting them at breakfast time or reading stories at bedtime. Things like this added to the magic of the whole place.
The check in was a bit of a nightmare as the queues were long and my two year old did not want to stand still for 45 minutes while we waited, but we were lucky enough to be given access to our room early as some were available. I would recommend bringing plenty to keep your kids occupied while you wait.
We stayed in the Ocean Hotel which was lovely. It had a very smart luxury feel to it. The walls were brightly painted in the kids room which made it more fun for my son. We had views of the fairground and a lovely little balcony. I have previously stayed at the Shoreline hotel which I preferred slightly more as the rooms had a nautical theme throughout and were much more fun for the kids, but one thing to know is that all accommodation, whether its hotels or self catering apartments are all in easy access of everything.
One lovely touch that the restaurants have is that they can access your details when you produce your room card to get a table meaning they call your kids by their names which is so sweet and personal. The staff would often coo at my little girl and she was offered Ella pouches by staff to eat which was great if she was being a fussy eater, I always knew I had another option for her. It gave me peace of mind.
The outdoor fairground itself was fun lots of different rides for all different ages. Some are free some cost extra but it was very enjoyable just walking around taking in the atmosphere.
The house of mirrors is good fun and they had dressed it up like Halloween so there were lots of places to take pics. I think there was a pumpkin carving place too, we didn’t go there but it looked really fun. The swimming pool was great. Lots of lovely fun slides for all different ages and a wave machine, plus water features for kids of all ages. My two never wanted to leave. When I came in the summer once it was freezing cold as they hadn’t put any heating on but when I went during October half term they had heating which made the pool a lot cosier.
The skyline pavilion is great with so many different things to do. There are often Butlins staff dressed up performing magic, or pretending to be bee keepers which would make my son laugh a lot. I wished the soft play for the younger kids was a it better though as it seems like all they could do was climb up and down but the older kids had much more soft play space.
The arcades were great fun and all four of us spend ages playing all the different games. The shows are fantastic. Watching Justin was the highlight of my sons week. He was just so excited that he was there in front of him. Such a variety of different acts and they were really good fun. I loved the variety of restaurants but wished the treat shop and ice cream shop opened earlier as they seemed to open quite late every day. They had so many different treats and ice cream flavours we ended up in one of those shops at least once a day!
We ended up needing to take food back to our hotel a few times as my youngest needed to nap and unfortunately we were limited with which restaurants did take always but we managed to find some that worked. What I would say though is that a lot of the restaurants had an outdoor play area which was great fun for my kids. They would go up and down the slides while we sat having a drink watching them.
The supermarket was a life saver. We were able to buy our daughters milk form there and there are microwaves conveniently located all over butlins so it was easy to heat up her milk when she wanted it. The promenade studio had play doh for half a day and arts and crafts for the other half which was great as there was always something going on for the kids to join in and do creatively. There was a hairdressers place that does spa days for little girls which I cannot wait to do with my daughter when she’s old enough. There is pottery painting, rock climbing, balance bike classes, the list is endless.
When you arrive you are given a itinerary of all the activities on during your week which is great al letting you plan what you want you for each day. There is an area for driving lots of little vehicles around a race track. It was one my kids favourite things to do. They literally spent hours jumping from police car to taxi driving round and round. There were Wendy houses scattered around that area too. It never felt too crowded but busy enough to have lots of fun
I can see that there is so much more stuff to do for older kids which wasn’t open when we were there due to it being tots only but that is why we have already booked ourselves to go back next year and have decide to make this an annual holiday.
If you want to go away on holiday where you don’t have to think of any activities for your kids because it’s all been done for you, then Butlins is your place. It suits all budgets and I couldn’t recommend it highly enough!
I can’t wait to go back!
Pooja, Heart London Magazine