Reviewed by Karen Bleakley
The kids didn’t know what to do first – check out the incredible sea view from the balcony, chase after the cute bunnies that were scampering under the trees, run full pelt at all of the rides with flashing lights or hurl themselves down the nearest curly slide.
During our term time Just for Tots break, we were surrounded by families with pre-school children, so for once we felt completely at home with our four-year-old twin boys and our 21-month-old daughter.
Butlins has come a long way since I last visited as a child. We were staying in a Blueskies apartment – Minehead’s flagship accommodation. Our luxury apartment had a double bedroom with en-suite, a comfortable twin bedroom that included a television, a family bathroom, a well equipped kitchen with washing machine and dishwasher and a spacious living area with sofa bed and large dining table. The best part was the sliding glass doors that opened out onto a balcony which overlooked the sandy beach. The balcony was the perfect place to watch the kite surfers do their tricks and to see families building sand castles well into the evening. It was also the best place to watch the sun go down.
A huge bonus of staying in a Blueskies apartment was being able to park underneath, as it meant unloading the car via the lift was easy. As everyone with multiple young children knows, it’s impossible to travel light, even for four nights! On our last day we really appreciated the on-site parking, as after a glorious week of sunshine, the rain decided to make an appearance and we were able to load the car completely undercover.
When going on holiday with babies and toddlers, you spend a little more time in your room as there is only so much fun small people can have before the exhaustion induced tantrums take over. Staying in luxury accommodation gave my husband and I a chance to unwind after the little ones had gone to bed. After an evening of exhausting toddler discos and shows, we were free to enjoy a bottle of wine on the balcony much the same as we would if we’d gone abroad for a holiday. The view alone would be enough to entice us back to the Blueskies apartment, because I really could look out at the sea all day long without getting bored.
Every member of staff we encountered during our trip, from the reception staff and the shop staff, through to the ride attendants and the staff in the restaurants, were warm and approachable. Nothing was too much trouble for anyone, and we felt really looked after. Members of staff constantly stopped to take time to chat to our children and ask them what shows they’d seen that day and it really made our kids feel special. Every member of staff looked like they really enjoyed their job which is pretty impressive considering it must have been hard work entertaining and clearing up after so many small children.
We had the premium dining package, which gave us breakfast and dinner in either the Deck or the Yacht Club restaurants. The Deck offered international meals, along with a café style interior, where the Yacht Club offered a slightly more formal decor and an English menu. Both offered the same breakfast options, with the Deck also providing omelettes and other food cooked to order.
The food in both restaurants was great, and the only disappointing thing was that when eating with multiple young children you don’t get chance to go back for more because they are only willing to sit still at a table for so long before they want to run to the playground again. I’d have happily gone back for seconds or thirds if I’d had the chance.
Our picky four-year-olds were happy to find plenty of their plain favourites (chicken nuggets/sausages/fish fingers) while our more adventurous one-year-old has never eaten so much with meatballs, pasta dishes and roast dinners and plenty of fresh vegetables keeping her happy.
At lunchtime we popped back to our apartment for some quiet time and a sandwich, although there were lots of options of places to grab a pub meal, burger or pizza for people who hadn’t over indulged at breakfast.
There is so much to do on site it is almost impossible to get your head around where to begin. Even as a grown up, I felt bamboozled just by the size of the resort and the attractions on offer, let alone all of the added entertainment that was running. You could easily be occupied every moment from morning until night. From the fairground rides, through to the indoor and outdoor pools, crazy golf, climbing walls, playgrounds and the arcades. That’s not even to mention the stages with shows such as Mr Maker, Thomas the Tank Engine and Mike the Knight or the extra activities such as swimming lessons, messy play or tots football. There was plenty to choose from in the evenings, and sometimes we chose the main show and other nights we just milled about playing in the arcades and on the playgrounds until everyone was beyond exhausted.
My three were super excited every day from the second they woke up. Had it not been for the help of the free DVD library in the Blueskies reception I think we’d have struggled to get them to have any quiet time at all. As everyone had little ones, tantrums weren’t a problem. When it was our turn to have a child laying on the ground screaming because we were trying to prise them away from the bouncy castle for dinner, we were just met with nods and knowing smiles from everyone as we were all in this together. We couldn’t even persuade the kids to explore the beautiful beach outside the door to christen their new buckets and spades as they just wanted to ride the go karts and helter skelter some more.
Most of the rides were free but there were some extras that you could pay to do such as bungee trampolining, donkey rides and bumper boats.
Butlins really was a dream for families, especially those with multiple young children as going anywhere can be a huge challenge. I really appreciated being on a holiday where all of the other children around us were under five.
My children cried when it came time to leave, and they kept crying on and off all day afterwards because they wanted to go back to their Butlins home.
We had a fantastic time, and I would definitely go back. It’s just worth planning in a few days to recover from all the excitement afterwards, because it’s even exhausting for the grown-ups.
Butlins ‘Just For Tots’ breaks are taking place across our three resorts over the summer and through to December 2014. To take your place, there must be at least one young child on your booking. 4-night breaks run across the resorts and begin on the following dates in 2014:
Bognor Regis: 30 June, 15 September, 15 December
Minehead: 8 September, 22 September
Skegness: 15 September, 15 December
For more information or to book your place click here.
Butlins Minehead Resort, Warren Road, Minehead, Somerset, TA24 5SH | 0845 070 4754