|S, on a ride around with Redcoats Wes and Shannon|
Ah, Butlins. With your redcoats and green dinosaurs, you are a stalwart of the British holiday season. We had our first visit to Butlins last September when S was 2 and a half, paid for entirely with Clubcard Vouchers - and it was so fantastic we immediately booked a return visit for this September. We have just returned from that visit - and we're now pricing up another one for this Christmas! It is such unbelievably good value. We went to one of their Just For Tots short breaks and everything was included; the swimming pool, family entertainment, the fairground, sports coaching and meet and greets with the entertainers plus lots more. The Just For Tots breaks are new at Butlins for 2014, and everything is focused on under 5s.
On our arrival at the site (very well signposted) we were welcomed very warmly and given our welcome packs, which included a map of the site (including a buggy friendly walk) and a timetable of all the activities. We were informed that our accommodation would be ready from 4pm but that we were welcome to enjoy the site before then, so off we went to the fairground. This is an amazing facility that includes five rides and a trampoline, all suitable for under 5s. The rides are very safe and individually managed by Butlins team members so there is always someone supervising the behaviour of the children. On several occasions I saw the ride being stopped so that an upset child could be returned to their parents.
|All the fun of the fair|
After the fairground we headed over to the Skyline Pavilion, the hub of all the action at Butlins. This is where the majority of the shows take place, and again, they're all included in the price of your holiday. Over the week we saw Thomas and Friends, Mike the Knight, Angelina Ballerina, Barney the Dinosaur, Mister Maker (yes, the actual real life Phil Gallagher!) and our personal favourites, the Skyline Gang (more on them later!). The shows last around 30 minutes, perfect for short attention spans, and are interactive - in the case of Angelina there was a dance to learn, and with Thomas two funny characters called Rusty and Dusty came out into the audience to make people laugh. Often at the end of the shows there is an opportunity to have your photo taken with the performers; there is a professional photographer there but you're under no obligation to buy these photos and can use your own camera too.
|Meeting Thomas and the Fat Controller|
There are plenty of sports activity sessions for the little ones too, and Butlins seem to have taken a leaf out of Center Parcs book with their ideas this year. S took part in football coaching, mini tennis, sports play, fun fencing and mini crossbows, all of which he really enjoyed. The sessions were led by sports instructors who were great at connecting with the kids and getting them involved in things they may not have tried before. There are also swimming lessons at the Splash Waterworld, although we did not take part in these. The pool itself is brilliant - lovely warm water and lots of different areas with the depths marked out clearly. Outside the pool is a splash water park with fountains that run every 20 minutes with different lights and musical themes - great fun on a hot (or even cool!) day! If your little one needs a relaxing break, the Little Stars studio is open every day for a drop in arts and crafts or messy play session.
To the main point of my review. The Skyline Gang! A wonderful group of entertainers that had the children transfixed from start to finish. Candi (pink), Sprout (green), Mimi (yellow), Dude (blue), Pip (purple), Bud (red), Rainbow the dog (orange) and new member Misty (black), they each had their own individual personalities.
|The Skyline Gang in 'Lost in Space'. Image copyright Butlins.|
They performed three different shows; 'Beside the Sea'; 'Lost in Space'; and 'Caveman Capers'; and aside from those they also held balloon modelling and meet and greet sessions.
|S and the Skyline Gang|
The children, not least our little S, were captivated by them, and the appearance of so many of them in full Skyline Gang costume by the end of the week is testament to how loved they were. They were so friendly as well, and just brilliant with the kids. We now have a little boy who has his first crush! Have a look below for a video of them in action.
Our accommodation was lovely and clean, and very modern with everything we needed. It was self catering allowing us to save money by eating some of our meals in the apartment, although you can pre-book a dining plan which gives you breakfast and dinner. If you don't book a dining plan there are also plenty of restaurants on site that are good value for money - our favourite was the new Firehouse restaurant, which was similar in style and menu to Nandos, but there are also Italian and traditional fish and chip options, as well as plenty of cafes and a pub-restaurant (with an awesome wooden climbing play area outside!).
All in all, it's an amazing place to take children, especially if you're on a budget. I'd highly advise booking in for one of their Just for Tots breaks, or just generally any break would be great!