It would be fair to say that, prior to the birth of our sons Isaac and Toby, Butlins would have been pretty much our last resort in terms of holiday destinations. But, as they say, having children is a life-changing experience, and if there is one thing that demonstrates just how much my life has changed over the past two years, holiday choices are as good a discriminator as any.
Pre-kids, Butlins would not have even registered on our radar for manifold reasons, including:
1. What’s the point of staying in one place when there’s a big wide world out there to explore?
2. It brings to mind images of the 80s sitcom Hi-de-Hi.
3. It’s full of chavs.
But here we are at Butlins in Minehead – halfway through our five-day stay as I type this (on my iPhone, a painfully slow experience) – and I have to admit it’s been pretty good so far.
Sure, it’s much more crowded and downmarket than the distinctly middle-class experience that is Center Parcs. And, yes, it is overflowing with chavs, and the Welsh, and even Welsh chavs. But before I come across all snobbish (OK, OK, too late), it’s absolutely fine for what it is – which is about half the price of Center Parcs. Fair enough, the accommodation isn’t a patch on Center Parcs, the range of activities more limited, and you could never pretend that you were in a little isolated bubble far from the madding crowd (there’s a Tesco five minutes’ walk from our front door). But when you have an excitable toddler and a young infant, there’s a lot to be said for having all the facilities you want a short stroll away, and for having entertainments and activities which are slanted towards pre-schoolers and pre-teens, rather than catering for older kids and adults.
So far, Zac has worn himself out in the soft play area, on the rides in the funfair for smaller kids, swimming in the pool, playing on the old-style amusement arcade machines and generally running around everywhere at top speed.
Never mind that there’s nothing in particular for Heather and I to do – with the boys, it’s not as if we have the opportunity to do anything anyway – but then it’s satisfaction enough watching your toddler having so much fun that he doesn’t know what to do next. And that’s kind of the point, isn’t it?