During the first lockdown with the Prime Minister’s announcement that overnight stays could go ahead, we decided to book a break at Butlin’s Bognor Regis. We have never visited Butlin’s as a couple. Our only experiences of visiting have been for a hen or stag weekend. To be honest I had seen reviews that the queues for the shows could be quite long. Guaranteeing entrance to performances means queuing early. This is something I knew wouldn’t work for our autism family. The new Covid-19 restrictions mean you have to pre-book your entrance to the shows. I knew this would work well for us. So we booked our first family holiday at Butlin’s.
Our First Family Holiday At Butlin’s
Butlin’s Bognor Regis offers lots of different accommodation options. There are rooms, apartments and three different hotels to choose from. We always said if we visited Butlin’s we would like to stay at one of the hotels. There was an amazing deal for the Ocean Hotel with food. The Ocean Hotel worked well for us as the area where the children would sleep had twin beads. The other hotels have bunk beds. As Ethan needs support through the night the twin beds are the better option for our family.
The Ocean Hotel was a great base for us to explore Butlin’s Bognor Regis. Located next to the fairground and a short walk to the swimming pool complex, Splash. Due to the Covid-19 restrictions, none of the hotel amenities were open at the time of our stay. This didn’t impact our stay in any way. Being our first visit we didn’t have anything to compare it to.
The rooms have the same set up as the Legoland hotel. The children have their own area to sleep in with their own TV. This room style was one of the biggest we have ever stayed in. Our balcony overlooked the car park, a sea view costs extra. There are tea and coffee making facilities in the room as well as a fridge. We were able to stock up on fresh milk from the shop and store it without any issues.
Our Dining Plan
When we initially booked our break we added the Hotel Dining package to our stay. With the reopening of the Butlin’s resorts, our booking confirmation had been amended to the Premium Dining plan. The difference was that we would have to go to The Yacht Club for our meals rather than eat in the hotel restaurant. I did worry that the walk there and back would be a bit of a chore but it didn’t impact our stay in any way.
Breakfast and dinner were included in our dining plan. Each dinner had a theme. One night it was a roast and there was also a curry night. Along with vegetarian and children’s options. The food was amazing, we never had a bad meal and we had no complaints. Having this dining plan meant we ate in the same place during our stay. There is another dining option where you can dine around the resort. I would be happy with either option as there are some great places to eat at the resort.
The Butlin’s Entertainment Experience During Our First Family Holiday At Butlin’s
Roughly a week before our arrival we were sent an invitation to ‘Plan My Day’. It is at this point you can book the shows you want to watch and your swimming slots. I didn’t want to commit us to too much or any late shows. Some of the most popular shows were booking up quickly. Also, some of our choices clashed with others that we wanted to do but I think we got a good selection.
Our Ultimate Coldplay booking was really for us but the children loved it. They also knew more Coldplay songs than I thought they would. The music was performed by a Coldplay tribute band who were amazing. Their performance was on the outside stage. We were able to use the B-serve app to order our drinks and even food snacks to our table.
RAK-SU was one of the Butlin’s headline summer acts. I’m glad we were able to book a slot to go to see them perform. This was a booking for the children as I thought they would know more of their songs. To be honest I don’t think any of us knew many of their songs. They were a fun group to watch perform on stage. The children got the chance to jump about in our family bubble.
ABBA Tribute Show
Ethan loves to clap along to music and I thought the music of ABBA would be perfect for this. The ABBA tribute show took place on the indoor stage. I think some social distancing rules might have changed before our stay to let this happen. The show was re-staged for social distancing which was clear to see. But it didn’t impact the enjoyment of the show. It was a fantastic performance from the Butlin’s staff. It felt really good to watch a show like this and know that performers were able to work again after lock-down.
Silent Cinema Trolls World Tour
The children love the Trolls movies. We rented Trolls World Tour from Sky as a birthday treat for Ethan. I knew they would love to get the chance to watch it again. I quite liked the idea of experiencing a silent cinema for the first time. Unfortunately, Ethan wasn’t comfortable wearing the headphones. So the boys went to the fairground for a bit whilst I watched the film with Little E.
What Did The Children Love On Our First Family Holiday At Butlin’s
The Splash Swimming Pool
I was able to book two two-hour swimming slots for our three-night stay at Butlin’s. Splash is a new swimming pool complex at the Bognor Regis site. The children love swimming so I knew this would be a hit.
The swimming pool is very different from the swimming pool at Elveden Forest Center Parcs. You can see the whole pool area from one spot. There is a toddler area and an area of small slides. A pool area and a wave pool area. On either side of the wave pool are two groups of bigger slides. I really love this setup as if you need to split up as a family it is easy to find each other.
There are also some big slides and also a family raft slide. We were able to talk Little E into going down this slide with me. In typical me fashion I nearly managed to drown myself getting out of the raft!
There is also a rapids area of the pool that winds its way outside of the building. The queue was very long for that area so we didn’t bother with it. I also had a near drowning incident on my last rapids attempt. So I wasn’t totally unhappy about trying the rapids anyway. Me and water don’t really mix!
On our arrival day, our visit to the fairground wasn’t very successful. With the new Covid-19 cleaning precautions and social distancing in place, the queue for the carousel was taking some time. Ethan just didn’t understand and it was causing him a huge amount of stress and upset. We decided it was best to leave and go to the hotel. This gave Ethan the space to calm down and process the day. We think he was overwhelmed by the excitement of visiting a new place.
After our initial fairground failure our visits were very successful. Ethan got used to how the queuing worked but we also helped by avoiding it if we thought it was too busy for him.
All of the rides were an instant hit with the children. Ethan and Little E definitely have different likes when it comes to rides now. Ethan wanted to try more of the adult rides. Little E was happy to stick with the rides for younger children.
Not all of the rides were able to operate but there was enough open to keep everyone entertained. Ethan was also able to have a go on the go-karts. They have two person karts available meaning Daren could take him for a drive around the track.
You can see some of the rides the children enjoyed at the fairground in our below video.
Little Stars Fairground
The Little Stars Fairground is the perfect place for toddlers and younger children. Both Ethan and Little E were still the perfect size to enjoy these rides too.
This gave us the chance to jump between the two fairgrounds if one was too busy.
You can see the Little Stars Fairground rides that are perfect for toddlers in our video below.
We did discover that Butlin’s do have a wrist band system in place for people who struggle with queuing. Just like a queuing pass at other theme parks we have visited. This wrist band can be shown at the exit of the ride so that you can avoid the main queue. The only problem was I didn’t bring any of Ethan’s paperwork on this trip. Luckily I had photos on my phone as I had to send them to the travel agent for our recent trip to Disneyland Paris. Butlin’s was able to accept this and issued Ethan with a band. He was actually used to the queuing system by then and we didn’t feel the need to use it.
The Pottery Painting Studio
During our stay, I was able to book myself and Little E into the pottery painting studio. This is something I have wanted to do with her for a while. We had lots of fun painting our chosen pottery.
Little E decorated a unicorn money box and I decorated a cat money box. Little E loved getting the chance to spend some girlie time with me. It was a very relaxing activity and I hope we get the chance to do this again soon.
The Amusement Arcades
During our visit, the children did love visiting the amusement arcades. The penny machines were the biggest hit. We called them tipping point machines.
Suddenly we were obsessed with collecting the tickets from the machines. Such a simple task that entertained the children for hours.
There are lots of chances to meet characters at Butlin’s. They use the same character selfie spot idea as Disneyland Paris. We didn’t pay attention to the times to really go and meet any of them. But we did stumble on a chance to meet Laa-Laa. Ethan still loves CBeebies so was very excited about this.
Did We Enjoy Our First Family Holiday At Butlin’s?
We knew that the Covid-19 restrictions would make our experience at Butlin’s different from the norm. Booking the shows really worked in our favor and made the entertainment enjoyable for us all. The only extra activity I was able to book through the app was the Pottery Painting Studio. Everything else was fully booked. I’m not sure if that was because I misunderstood when you could book activities. I thought they become available the day before. Or I just wasn’t quick enough to book them.
A holiday at Butlin’s was different from any holiday we have experienced as a family before. There was enough to do which kept Ethan busy and we also got the chance to rest at the same time.
The children really enjoyed our stay. Little E cried every day for a week when we came home. I’m glad we decided to visit Butlin’s. In the future, we would like to visit the Minehead resort. We would like to stay in a chalet and also explore the local area.