Thursday, 4 October 2012

Pro's, Cons and Pingu: My Butlins Experience

When I saw the lovely Emma asking for guest bloggers on the subject of Butlins, I jumped at the chance. I had my first holiday there a few weeks ago and have been itching to review it ever since. I’ll be honest: When my other half mentioned going to the Skegness resort for a little break I automatically and involuntary rolled my eyes in the kind of snooty distaste that I loathe in people. I’ve never been to Butlins in my life but for some reason the mere mention of the place sent images of squawking toddlers, garish entertainment and bingo halls flashing through my tiny, prejudiced mind.

But with my 5 month old son, Jack, in tow it was the only viable (and affordable) holiday we could manage this year, so in the words of Peter Kay we booked it, packed it and…went. Again, I have to be honest and say that there were things that I didn’t love about the resort, but overall the whole experience was brilliant and now that I’ve been I feel able to impartially review my experience and pass on some advice to any other people who are thinking of heading there on their jollies. So here goes:

You should go to Butlins if you like:


We booked the standard dining option which meant we got breakfast and an evening meal every day in the food court - and between the 3 of us we certainly got our moneys worth! Yes, the dining hall was loud, chaotic and, at times, resembled a cattle market but I was really impressed with the choice and quality of the food. I’m talking full English breakfasts, soups, salads, roast dinners, daily specials and the kind of stodgy puddings and custard that you used to get at school. The service was great and I don’t think I ever collected a plateful of hearty grub without receiving an ‘enjoy your meal’ – kind of embarrassing when you’re going up for fourths! I also liked the fact that they dished out free, branded baby food for all stages which meant that Jack got to try some exciting new dinners too.

Good PR

I can’t fault Butlins on their correspondence and public relations. We received an informative brochure and grovelling letter of apology for a cancelled act (who we’d never heard about and certainly weren’t bothered about seeing) before we even arrived. Another nice touch, which I believe Emma took advantage of, was the kids letter from Billy Bear – a sure fire way to get the little ones excited about their impending holiday. After tweeting about our holiday I also received a lovely, personal reply from Serene at Butlins wishing Jack a magical first holiday. I know things like this aren’t rocket science and most businesses within leisure and hospitality are at it now, but little touches like this still go a long way with me.

Family Activities

At 5 months old, Jack was perhaps a bit too young to appreciate or enjoy any of the kid’s entertainment on offer. In fact, that’s putting it politely – he positively bawled when he came face to face with Pingu. But there’s so much to do for older kids and adults alike - shows, sports, play areas, crazy golf, a fairground, go-karting, arcades, giant orb balls, a cinema, the fabulous swimming pool and adjoining aqua park are all there to be enjoyed, usually for no additional fee. Organised events are on throughout the day and even walking around the resort is fun for the kids with random things such as giant deck chairs and spurting water fountains everywhere. I guess what I’m saying is that it’s just a fun place to be.

However, you shouldn’t go to Butlins if you dislike:

Excessive Happiness

This may not go down well and I hereby apologise to anyone who is/knows a red coat - but they got on my nerves. Dreadfully. I’ll explain - literally within 3 minutes of arriving on the resort (before we’d even checked in) we were accosted by a juggling, hyperactive teenager donning the infamous ‘red coat’ who stuck his head in Jack’s buggy (thus creating a tantrum fit to rival that of Pingu-gate) and then went on to ask us in unnaturally high octaves where we were from/were we excited about our holiday/what plans did we have etc. Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s in the job description to be a little bit obnoxious and overall he really was a very pleasant chap but it’s all just a bit much for me. Being the miserable bint that I am I find excessive enthusiasm hard to stomach, even more so when I know someone is being paid for it. It just seems so false. And how do you respond to it? It’s not in my nature to be gushy but chatting away in basic, monotone (albeit polite) dialogue just makes the whole conversation seem off balance and awkward. Just, no.

Hiring Basic Stuff

One major gripe that I had with Butlins was the way they declined to provide basic living equipment (such as towels) under the overused justification of ‘reducing their carbon footprint’. I applaud them for considering the environment, that’s totally their right and I think we should all make more effort to do our bit, but if you’re not going to provide basic things then make it clear. I thumbed through the info brochure several times before we set off our holiday and never saw any meaningful mention of this policy and therefore assumed towels would be provided. When we realised they weren’t we had no choice but to pay £5 (plus a returnable deposit of £10) out of our limited holiday spends to hire two, bleach stained, bobbly old towels for 4 days. Not impressed.
On a side note, I actually thought the other half was going to cry when he realised that there was no TV remote control (to stop people leaving their TV’s on standby and save electricity) and that he’d have to manually get up to change the channel. First world problems, ey?


If it’s peace and tranquillity you’re after then Butlins is not the place for you – I’m sure this will hardly come as a surprise what with it being a family resort and thus overrun with small people. I found the Skyline Pavilion (central hub of activity) ear bleedingly loud no matter what time of day you went in, and almost unbearable if there was some sort of show going on – by show I mean a raucous red coat prancing about on stage with Barney the dinosaur bellowing ‘head, shoulders, knees and toes’. If you think you can escape to your chalet for a bit of quiet time then don’t count on it. The walls and ceilings are paper thin as we discovered at when we were awoken at around 11pm every night by what can only be described as a herd of baby elephants break dancing in the room above ours.

So there you have it. My pros and cons of my first Butlins experience. I hope I haven’t given it too much of a hard time because despite a few small niggles, I thoroughly enjoyed my holiday and I think Butlins will always have a special place in my heart because it was our first, family holiday with Jack.

Laura from Me & Thee.