Butlins stays the same – and yet it’s different every year

You might think we would be bored with Butlins after our eighth holiday there. But you would be wrong.

Every year since 2010, we have visited either Minehead or Bognor Regis. Every year we have done mostly the same things as the year before but with incremental variations as the kids have grown older. And every year the experience is slightly different.

Like individual markings on a height chart, our trips to Butlins may not seem to change much from year to year, but when you look at the bigger picture you realise how much difference there is.

Gone are the days when we travelled with strollers, both toddler and baby nappies and various other small child paraphernalia. Gone are the days when we would have to plan our days around kids’ nap times. And gone are the days when we had to watch every child like a hawk for every minute of the day.

Nowadays our kids stride past the soft play and the gentle toddler rides and head straight for the fairground, with its dodgems and stomach-churning alternatives. Nowadays there are a host of shows and activities open to them that previously they were too young for. And nowadays the kids are old enough and familiar enough with the layout that Isaac can go off to the fairground on his own while the other two can be left watching a show or playing in the amusement arcade while Heather and I enjoy a quiet coffee.

Butlins hasn’t changed at all during those eight years. But we have.

What we like about Butlins

Every year we wonder if we are on the point of outgrowing Butlins. And yet we return home having already booked for next year.

We like the fact that there is so much to do in such a contained space. You can walk to anywhere on the campsite within five minutes.

We like that so much of it – the fairground rides, the pools and most shows and activities – is included as part of your package. So once you’ve paid for your holiday, your only other major expenses are food (there are several reasonably priced eateries on site) and arcade machines. I did a quick tot-up and between the pool and the fairground alone, it would have cost the five of us around £80-£100 per day if we had gone to our local pool and then paid for rides at a funfair.

Most of all, we like the fact the kids enjoy it so much. On every visit, they benefit from the familiarity of previous holidays while still finding something new to capture their interest. Sometimes it’s simple things. Without the distraction of computers and Sky, this year we all spent lots of time playing the stack of card and board games we had brought with us.

Also, the last couple of years we have gone at the back end of half-term week, which means the kids do pumpkin carving for Halloween and get to see Butlins’ own (really rather impressive) fireworks display. Perfect.

Butlins has historically been the venue for many of our family ‘firsts’. It was the first place we went on holiday as a family of four. (Toby was aged three months at the time.) It was where he took his first walking steps a year later. It was our first holiday after Kara was born. (She was just six weeks old.) It was the first time we brought the grandparents with us on holiday.

Now it’s less about firsts and more about the kids having the confidence and freedom to pursue individual interests independent of one another. This has the added benefit of creating opportunities for Heather and me to have one-to-one time with each child. This more than anything is my favourite thing about Butlins. When we go on other holidays, we tend to do everything as a pack of five. At Butlins, we split up more and are able to give each child some individual focus. I love that.

I will admit that I used to be a little bit snobbish about Butlins. Now, however, it’s a place I wholeheartedly recommend to others. As much as the children have changed over the course of our eight trips there, maybe the person who has changed the most is me.

I was not paid or incentivised in any way to write this post. All opinions are my own.

You can also read about our previous trips to Butlins:

2010 (Minehead): part 1, part 2

2011 (Bognor Regis)

2012 (Minehead)

2013 (Minehead)

2014 (Bognor Regis)

2015 (Bognor Regis)

2016 (Bognor Regis)


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