Move over Center Parcs, Butlin’s is where it’s at! Following a successful trip to the UK’s Butlin’s in Bognor Regis last October, my sister took her 3 and 5 year old to Butlin’s Skegness over February half term.
As February half-term approached, we decided to give Butlin’s another try. We had absolutely loved it at Butlin’s Bognor Regis last October, and thought we would visit a different resort this time. When we told our children that we were returning to Butlin’s, they were over the moon. I honestly don’t think they would have responded differently if we had told them that we were returning to Disneyland. They were just so excited about all of the activities and shows, and seeing the Redcoats and the ‘Skyline Gang’ again.
I called Butlin’s directly to discuss the different options available, and the prices were similar across all three sites. We opted for Skegness as we had already been to Bognor, and Skegness was the next closest option.
If you’d like more information on the accommodation types, have a look at my review from our previous stay.
We opted for a ‘Seaside apartment’ again. These are pretty newly built, nicely kitted out, and are located close to the main Skyline Pavilion and the Splash Waterworld. We booked a Monday to Friday self-catering stay in a two-bedroom Seaside Apartment during February half-term, and paid around £580. This included daily housekeeping, and a small extra charge to have a ground-floor apartment with a small patio.
It takes around 3 hours to get to Butlin’s Skegness from our home in NW London. Skegness is in Lincolnshire and this is the site of the very first Butlin’s which started back in 1936!
We arrived on the Monday afternoon, around an hour after check-in opened. The trademark Butlin’s pavilion is clearly visible from a distance, but our first impressions were underwhelming as we approached the tatty looking buildings at the entrance to the drive-through check-in. This poor first impression was soon swept away by the warm and friendly welcome we received by the check-in staff. Once we had received our paperwork and key cards (no wristbands at this site) we drove around the site and parked near to our apartment block. The colour of our keycard identified us as guests who had paid for the entertainment package. Guests with a prepaid meal plan have a different colour key card. We had practically no mobile phone signal on our side of the site, although the signal was better in the pavilion and towards the fairground area. Guests can access wireless for free for 30 minutes each day, and you can buy a wireless package if you’ll need to use it more than this.
Our apartment had a double room, a twin room, a small shower room, and a kitchen/lounge/diner.
The kitchen was equipped with a fridge (with small freezer compartment), kettle, microwave, hob and oven. There was a TV in the lounge and in the double bedroom. The apartment was clean and bright and newly finished, although the buildings did look as if they had been constructed/updated quickly and cheaply. We were lucky to be in a fairly quiet area of the site, as the apartments are not very well insulated from noise.
We were provided with a dishtowel, a tiny bottle of washing up liquid and a sponge. I brought the basics from home: hand soap, washing up liquid, dishcloths, washing up brush, antibacterial wipes, clingfilm, foil, eggs, butter, milk, cereal, cafetiere, ground coffee and teabags. We ate out for lunch and dinner each day.
Once again we were incredibly impressed by the programme of activities and entertainment for the children, especially given that that most of them are included in the price, and many don’t require booking in advance. The printed schedule is easy to understand, and there is also an app listing all of the activities (although you can’t use it for booking like you can at Center Parcs). I went to one of the booking offices a few hours after our arrival to see if we could book any of the free sessions for our children. Many were already full, but we managed to book our older daughter onto a Circus Skills workshop and a Messy Play session.
There is no crèche or on-site babysitting at the Skegness site. Our previous visit had been during term-time, so most of the activities had been aimed at the 3-5yr age range. This time, as it was half-term, there were more formal activities for older children, both 5-8 yrs and 9-12 yrs. I would say that it will be perfect for our children for the next couple of years (they are currently age 3yrs and 5yrs).
Here’s what we did!
– Live Shows
There are 4 venues for the live shows at Butlin’s:
** Skyline stage (in the pavilion)
During our term-time break at Bognor, these shows had featured pre-school favourites, such as Fireman Sam and Bob the Builder. For our half-term break at Skegness the only ‘branded’ show that we saw here was the Teletubbies (at 8.30am, perfect for early rising little ones) but there were plenty of others to keep the kids entertained, including Butlin’s own Redcoats, Skyline Gang and Billy & Bonnie. It’s a casual arrangement with children sitting on the floor, and adults sitting/standing nearby. There were always a couple of Redcoats around during the show to encourage the kids, and to ensure that everyone was sitting nicely. Our children absolutely loved these shows, and we really enjoyed the fact that we could sit close by, enjoying a bottle of wine.
** Centre stage (in the pavilion)
This is the main theatre. We didn’t make it to any of these, but ‘Whittington Rocks’ was showing while we were there.
** Castle Courtyard (in the pavilion)
This is a sweet little stage showing puppet shows.
** Reds (in a separate building, this venue is only open during peak holiday time)
Reds is another entertainment venue, with its own stage, dance floor, bar and arcade. This had been shut during our term-time visit to Butlin’s Bognor, so it was nice to experience a different venue at Skegness. Our children’s loved the 7pm ‘Tots Disco’ in there.
There are two screens at the cinema in the Skyline Pavilion and we paid £20 for a family ticket (2 adults and 2 children) to see a film. It was a nice way to break up our day of activities, especially with a tired toddler who doesn’t nap any more.
– Soft play
At Butlin’s Bognor the soft play area was inside the pavilion, along with a number of indoor rides that were included in the price. At Skegness, the soft play area (‘Billy’s Den’) is housed in a separate building, along with lots of arcade games. It felt a bit tatty, and unfortunately there were no free indoor rides available.
– Arcade games
Our kids loved playing on the 2p machines in the old-school arcades. It was difficult to avoid them as they are located right next to the stage in the pavilion, and right next to ‘Billy’s Den’, the soft play area. At Butlin’s Bognor we had been able to distract the kids in the pavilion by sending them onto the soft play or the indoor rides, but this wasn’t so easy at Skegness as the soft play was housed elsewhere and there weren’t any indoor rides. We decided that we didn’t mind spending a few extra pounds each day for the kids to play on the machines and small rides, but I think it would be quite hard work to drag your kids away if you really wanted to avoid them.
– Little Stars Studio (for under 5s)
This is located in a separate building, near to our apartment. It was a real highlight for both of our children, and contains a large room with small soft play for little ones (Tots Town), plus another large room for activities. At Butlin’s Bognor these facilities had been pretty dark and depressing, but I’m pleased to report that at Skegness this was a lovely, bright building, with lovely staff. It felt like it was a purpose-built facility, and I wonder if it had once been a crèche/nursery for visitors. Our children enjoyed playing in Tots Town and doing a Messy Play session.
We didn’t try it as our kids were too young, but there is a Quasar building located near to the Little Stars Studio
– The Studio
This is located just by the Fairground, and it’s where some of the indoor sessions for over 5s take place. Our daughter loved the Circus Skills session run by the ‘Skyline Gang’.
– Fairground rides open 10am to 4pm
There is a great selection of rides for kids, almost all of which are included in the price, although it would have been great if the opening hours were longer.
We didn’t even make it out onto the beach! We were so busy having fun on site that we just didn’t get there.
– Chargeable activities
There is a small additional charge for Adventure Golf, Archery, Bowling, Climbing, and a couple of the rides.
The Splash Waterworld is a swimming pool complex with plenty of slides. We thought that this one was much nicer than the one at Butlin’s Bognor. The Bognor site had a better toddler splash area, but the pool at Skegness felt cleaner, less heavily chlorinated, and generally more inviting. Don’t forget you need £1 coins for the lockers and 50p coins for the hairdryers.
EATING AND DRINKING
Eating in – If you’re staying in an apartment you can easily cook all of your meals for your entire stay. The shop stocks a range of basic food items on site, and Ludo’s Italian offers takeaway.
Eating out – There are plenty of restaurants around the site. The only one that you can book in advance before you arrive is Ludo’s Italian. I called and booked this for our first evening to make sure that we would be able to eat when we wanted to.
We thought that the general quality of the food was significantly better at Butlin’s Skegness than at Butlin’s Bognor. We particularly enjoyed Ludo’s Italian and the Deck buffet restaurant.
The staff were lovely everywhere, and all of the restaurants were very child friendly. Our son fell asleep at the table at Ludo’s Italian and we stayed for an extra hour, and they didn’t bat an eyelid.
We are now firm Butlin’s fans, having experienced it during term-time and during the school holidays. I had been really worried that it would feel very busy and be full of queues, but they handle the capacity of the site well by opening all of the restaurants (some are closed during term-time) and laying on extra shows. There is an additional option to book a ‘B-Line’ pass, which allows you to jump the queues at the Splash Waterworld, Centre Stage, and Reds. We didn’t pay the extra for this (it would have been over £100 extra) and luckily it didn’t matter. We didn’t have to queue for the pool, we didn’t go and see any shows at Centre Stage, and we were able to get a table for the evening at Reds without needing the pass.
The staff at Butlin’s were simply exceptional. Virtually everyone we encountered was warm, friendly, and went out of their way to make sure that we were having a lovely time.