Saturday, 12 July 2014

Butlins Minehead- holidays in our reach

Since we have returned home we remain positive that if we walk a minute up the road, and gaze across the Channel, we can see the familiar scape of the Butlin's Skyline Pavillion.
It does nothing to reduce the ten or so times a day the little people ask when we're going back.

Because, despite all of my fear and trepidation about holidaying in the half term- our first school holiday break in a family focused resort- was more enjoyable than we could have imagined, and nearly two months on, I'd still summarize it as stress free.
We visited Butlin's Minehead. As the crow flies it is probably 30 mins, in a car, it is just over 2 hours. With recently toilet-trained boys, and with us ignoring traffic warnings, we'll call it three hours.
Which, for us as parents, makes it a perfect holiday destination.
For the children, well there was a little patience involved in the arrival queue. No more than any other holiday park, and no more than an airport, but with a fairground in sight, it just heightened the excitement.
On arrival, we were surprised by the efficiency. Because of the queue on the way in, I jumped out of the car to check in to save time. Apart from there were no queues, I picked up our keys and given our directions, and found Mr J pulling into a car parking space.
We were back out and to the parking for our accommodation quickly, and got to explore the resort before the 3pm timing to unload the car into our bungalow.
Our accommodation for the break was a silver bungalow. We had three bedrooms which made it a perfect home from home, and with a lounge and kitchen there was the space Mr J and I needed at the end of the day to relax.

Accommodation-wise I'd definitely recommend the silver bungalows, with a double buggy it was hassle free storage, and we felt completely sound proofed (although it would be interesting to know if our neighbours felt the same!). As we were staying half board, the kitchen was a grateful addition, and as we weren't reliant on it, the lack of a dishwasher was fine (we don't actually have one at home, but who wants to be washing stacks of dishes on holiday?!).
Everyone slept like babies and we had all the home-from-home amenities to make it a perfect landing.

On arrival, we explored the Skyline Pavillion and tried our best to find our bearings- which for Mr J means establishing where we'll be eating for the week, and where his adrenaline rushes will be found in the Fairground.
For me it meant where I'd find a little respite- coffee and softplay. And of course, comparing it to the much loved Bognor Regis resort!
Oddly, it took us until Wednesday to find the little people's fairground- the highlight of our time at Bognor Regis had been flitting between the performances at the Skyline Pavillion and the little people's rides. With the children a little older we tended to try a few of the traditional fairground rides on offer.

And yet, it transpired, outside of the Skyline Pavillion there is a fantastic indoor Little Stars Fairground. And we would go on to spend plenty of time there. With so much to do it made it perfect on the days there was rain, and oddly, even though it was raining and half term, there were no ridiculous queues or frayed tempers.

We stayed half board, which meant we were able to eat breakfast and evening meals in either The Deck or The Yacht Club, although it didn't stop us from enjoying the amazing ice-cream and sorbets at Scoop!
The Yacht Club offers a more traditional British menu, whereas The Deck offers a wider variety of cuisines, and feels more buffet style.
We loved The Deck, I imagine with older children The Yacht offers the perfect evening meal. With our three, trial and error alongside variety means we fell hook, line and sinker for The Deck.
I loved the children's menu, and the availability of plastic crockery and cutlery, but more so I loved the variety of food.
The children ate well, and ate lots throughout the stay. So much so,between us and them, I wonder how Butlin's make it work, and scare myself by how much we would have wasted (and how hungry the children may have been) if we were paying for three course meals each evening.
In terms of our week- the children loved it, ergo we loved it. With the added bonus I managed to read two books and drank great coffee everyday.

It is true that you can spend as much or as little as you want on holiday- and Butlin's is no different.
We assessed that we spent little, mainly on coffee and 2p machines. So on Thursday we decided to splash the funds the grandparents had offered for ice-cream money and a bit more- to get each a Skyline Gang outfit.
Because this holiday our children discovered, and fell hook, line and sinker, for the Skyline Gang.

The one element of Butlin's I defy anyone to be unhappy with is the entertainment.
I worry about how little children experience the theatre, and yet Butlin's are amazing at offering this experience- of imagination, creativity, and escapism.
And whilst the boys still adored Fireman Sam and Thomas the Tank, it seems they have all grown up a little too much from Billy and Bonnie, and they all needed something more.
And how completely overwhelmed were they do meet their new found crushes!
What else can I say?
My pro's and con's of Butlin's Minehead? Well, admittedly this is more comparison, but here we go.

I loved the Little Stars Fairground being indoors, and having so much more 'little people's rides' than appear to be on offer at the other resorts.
I loved the Soft Play, especially being so close to the Pavillion stage and a coffee shop.
I preferred Bognor Regis for being able to convert your meal for vouchers to eat at the restaurants around the resort.
I preferred Skegness hands down, and then Bognor Regis for Splash Waterworld. We loved Minehead- because we have inherited water babies, but it didn't seem to have as much for the littlest little people (under 1m).
We loved the accommodation. Of course the hotels at Bognor Regis are better, of course gold accommodation is better, but Mr J and I loved our bungalow as it completely met our needs.
I preferred The Deck to Bognor Regis, but not as much as Skegness. It offered great variety, child focus, in a stress free (or stress as much as you want) environment.

My real assessment of Butlin's is offered from a parent perspective. Mr J wants to go back with his mum and Seren in the summer holidays. For Mr J to want to do this, speaks realms. He is from Yorkshire, ergo a bargain hunter, and he knows Butlin's offers value for money.
Additionally, he had no qualms on our recent holiday to take the children off for the day on his own. Anyone who knows me, knows how ridiculous work is, which doesn't let up when I'm on leave. Mr J being so confident that he can keep three little people happy for a day, and keep his sanity, shows how great Butlin's is for keeping little people happy.

And, what I've missed, which I think is key to any holiday choice, is that we felt safe, the resort is clean, well maintained, and Butlin's seem to have such a focus customer service, that if you're going to Butlin's looking to get the most out of it, to create memories of great family holidays for your little ones- then, why wouldn't you go to Butlin's?

Disclosure: We are Butlin's Ambassadors and received a five day break to Butlin's Minehead, staying in silver accommodation with a dining package. All views and opinions contained are our own.

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