I was desperate for a stress free holiday, as a Mum to a 2 year old, i was desperately missing my luxury holidays. I tried the abroad holidays and my little boy didn’t enjoy it so i was on the lookout for something new when a friend mentioned Butlins. Now i won’t mince my words when i say i am a bit of a holiday snob, and adjusting to child friendly holidays has been somewhat of a challenge to me, but after calling up and chatting to a guy called Maz on the phone at Butlins, i was booked! He had massively impressed me with everything on offer for my toddler and said convincingly that my son would love it and i would have a great holiday. Here we go, my first ever trip to Butlins!
The Hotel: On arrival, i was surprised at how modern it looked, i really don’t know what i was expecting but i was surprised. Clearly my toddler was too as he just kept repeating WOW as we drove in past the hotel and Butlins sign. We were staying in the Wave Hotel in the Reef Apartment which as well as your rooms, has a living area, table and chairs and kitchen. As we checked in, it looked amazing! Everything was really clean, the staff were all super helpful, i loved the cool decor and we had a quick nose around the ground floor – there was a modern coffee shop “SOHO” and a really cool games hub which had a selection of bean bags and computer consoles for all the family.
Our apartment: We hopped into the lift up to the 4th floor to our apartment and after being greeted by a fab towel crab, we looked around. Again everything was super clean, the beds were comfortable and pillows/duvets all soft. The colour scheme was bright and airy and the kitchen came equipped with everything you’d need to cook a meal, right down to a dishwasher to save you washing up! Tv in all rooms with CBeebies – win! We asked for a bed guard which arrived very quickly although The Wave hotel is aimed at older children, so even with the bed guard, it still left one side to fall out of and you couldn’t butt it up to the wall as there were wardrobes in the way. So that is something worth baring in mind if you have small children, you may be better suited to the Ocean or Shoreline Hotels on site which are, i’ve heard better suited to younger children. Saying that, we absolutely loved the space in The Wave Reef Apartment and when we go back we will definitely stay here again. The bathrooms were modern and very clean, with a range of toiletries. I loved the little touches for children such as a lower sink, and step stool. Each day when we returned to our room, the housekeeping staff had left a new towel animal and my toddler was delighted to see a towel elephant playing with his toys on one of the days!
The Activities: I was amazed at how much was on offer for my toddler with pretty much everything included in the price we paid. During out trip we tried out:
- outdoor play parks,
- little library
- Little Tikes town (a brilliant race trace with various Little Tikes cars, trikes and trollies to ride round on, with castles, houses, slides etc at the sides of the track to stop and play on)
- play-doh activity
- Teletubby Show
- Justin Fletcher Show
All were fantastic, organised, clean, fun and stress free. My little boy, who is just 2 was in his absolute element! I have never seen him quite so happy, he little had the best week ever! We also took a stroll down to the beach and he enjoyed stomping down to the sea over the stones and shells. All the staff on any of the activities were so engaging with the children, friendly and happy, it really did make the week so enjoyable.
The food: As we were staying in The Wave, we were allocated “Premium Dining” and ate in The Deck restaurant. I have really mixed opinions on our experience with the food due to our dairy/soya allergy which did impact our eating experience. If you have no allergies, there is a brilliant range of foods, each night was a different theme so there was something to suit all tastes. They had school dinner style trays which my little boy absolutely loved. In our premium dining package, we could eat breakfast and lunch at The Deck every day, with unlimited water, coffee, tea, juice and squashes. You also have a little bell on your table if you wanted to order soft or alcohol drinks from the bar. We never had trouble finding a free table, and they gave us a little disposable bib for my son which was handy. You can also have free Ellas Kitchen pouches if you have babies with you so all the family are happy.
Regarding our allergies. I found it simply unacceptable that there wasn’t ever an allergy menu available and was all verbal only. Any allergy parent will know this complicates things tenfold and we like to see things on paper so we can be sure what we are feeding our children won’t make them sick, or have a serious reaction. I brought up my concerns with one of the managers at The Deck who explained they use a star chef system and work on a verbal basis. I explained how this makes holidaying with an allergy child really difficult and i would have expected better from a large holiday company that caters mostly for children. She was very helpful and said for the rest of my trip she would type out and print a menu for me each day with our allergy options, which she did, and made the rest of our trip so much easier and stress free. She caught up with me the following day to say she had spoken with her Manager who had advised her that following a huge amount of feedback from allergy parents, new printed clear allergy menus will be being introduced later that year. This was a huge relief for me to hear as we really wanted to go back and the allergy menu situation was literally the only thing that made me question my trip. They did advise its always good to call up in advance if you have certain allergies so they can make sure the relevant options are available for you (Gluten Free bread for example). I am delighted to hear that Butlins are improving their allergy menus as this really will make life easy for us allergy parents.
Swimming: On on of the rainy days, we visited the pool, which i’ll be honest is a little dated and a bit grubby however their brand new Splash Waterworld is opening in 2019 and after seeing the photos of what it will be like, i think this will be a game changer and really finish off the Butlins experience.
Overall, we really did have an amazing holiday, it is the perfect place to take an under 5 and it made for a stress free and enjoyable holiday for my husband and I because our toddler was enjoying himself. We have already booked to go back! It was nothing like what i expected at all, and i think it is brilliant that there are so many accommodation options so you really can visit to suit your own personal budgets.
If you are thinking of going, we can highly recommend it! We also invested in a B-Line pass which was very handy with a restless toddler in tow. No queuing for a variety of activities like the shows and swimming! Definitely worth going if you have an under 5! We can’t wait to go back!