In September I went on my first family holiday to Butlin’s… since the 1980s! I loved Butlin’s when I was a kid and it has changed a lot since then – but is still absolutely brilliant for children. We had a fantastic holiday – there were some aspects that weren’t so great, but overall my sceptical husband was converted and I remembered why I found Butlin’s such a magical place all those years ago. Here is my review of the Just for Tots break at Butlin’s Bognor Regis – as there is a lot to fit in, I will cover the food and accommodation in a separate post. Each section has its own heading so if you want to find out about particular shows or activities, scroll on down – and if you are wondering what are the best shows and activities to book on a Just for Tots break, I’ve helpfully listed them all in my order of preference at the end!
What is a Butlin’s Just for Tots break?
At Butlin’s there are different types of holidays which are designated as term time midweek breaks, summer holidays and so on – and Just for Tots. These are either four or seven nights, take place in term time and you need to have one child under 5 in your party to book – you can have older children as well e.g. an older sibling. All the entertainment is aimed primarily at under 5s – so there are lots of things that you would find on any other Butlin’s break, but some of the activities aimed at older children won’t be running, and there are more things aimed at younger children that you won’t find on the other breaks. And the headline act is someone that would appeal to toddlers – we saw Justin Fletcher, and other breaks had Rebecca Keatley from CBeebies – whereas on breaks aimed at older children and adults, you would see people like Shane Richie or Diversity.
What can toddlers do at Butlin’s Bognor Regis?
There are so many things for young children to do at Butlin’s Bognor Regis– it is a family resort that aims to cater to all ages but in my opinion the best age to take advantage of the most you can do would be about 3-8. My daughter was three and a half when we went, and had a brilliant time. Here is my review of all the different things that we did.
The fairground wasn’t actually as big as I expected but there were plenty of rides and almost never any queue – and the best thing is, it’s all included in the price so you don’t have to pay per ride or buy a wristband. There is a tots fairground inside the Skyline pavilion which had four rides (I think) – ladybirds, little planes that go up and down (but not very high), a mini carousel and a little convoy of cars. My daughter loved all of them and went on them several times.
Outside in the main fairground, there is a traditional carousel, a chair-o-plane ride for small children which my daughter loved (she went on it three times in a row), and another one for older children and adults, a helter skelter (we didn’t go on it but I’ve read they will only let you on it if you have a long sleeved top, so come prepared), a Trabant which is a big flat wheel that tilts, waltzers, swing boats (which my daughter could go on based on her height but didn’t want to) and trampolines. So in terms of toddlers, not that many that they can go on, but after a couple of rides perhaps most small children will have had enough.
There are also traditional fairground stalls of hook a duck, darts, throwing balls at tin cans and so on – which were quite expensive at £3 a go or £5 for two gos, but you are guaranteed a prize every time (even if the consolation prizes if you don’t win aren’t worth that much, but my three year old was happy with them!). Overall I thought the fairground was very good, but I’m glad we had good weather when we were there given how much of it is outdoors.
The swimming pool
A £40 million brand new complex built in 2019, the Butlin’s swimming pool is one of the best attractions there in my opinion. We went twice on our three-and-a-half day break and loved it. You can’t take photos in the swimming pool but there is an official photographer doing the rounds – we saw her there one day so had our photos taken (which you pick up later from the Skyline pavilion; prices start at £10). Since I can’t show you what the pool looks like, have a look at this.
Bright and colourful and crammed full of slides, sprinklers and things to play on, this really was a toddler’s paradise – and offers something for the whole family. There is a large area dedicated to under 5s with very shallow water (ankle height) and lots of fun things to do – three boats to climb in and steer, one with a water cannon and another with a small slide. Lots of sprinklers, fountains, buckets of water that fill up and tip over; two Little Tikes pirate ship water tables, a treasure chest containing floats, buckets, watering cans and more that are free to help yourself to.
There’s a large fountain in the middle, and two jacuzzis which my daughter really liked; off to one side, five or six red slides that graduate in height and speed – my three and a half year old went on two of them by herself (with me waiting at the bottom) and would probably have been fine on all of them. There’s also a helter skelter slide which is really unusual, but we didn’t go on it.
And the fun doesn’t stop there – there’s a wave pool which is great fun, and a ‘lazy river’/ rapids where I was able to sit my daughter on my lap and go around. Our combined weight made it a bit hard going at times and I had to use my hands to propel us along – then we would come across a sudden steep drop, whizz down it and get turned around backwards by the current (though it’s gentle enough that we never flipped over or went underwater and my daughter stayed put on my lap). Be warned though – as you get near to the end you can go either left or right. Choose right and you go down one more drop and then out into the pool at the end – go left and there are three or four drops, all quite sudden and steep! My daughter enjoyed it but did get pretty splashed and decided she didn’t want to go on it again.
We didn’t use any of the flumes or the bigger ‘stick of rock’ slides as she was probably too small and I don’t like going on those myself! Instead we had a swim in the only section of the pool that is properly deep enough to swim – and even that has fountains spraying water in it.
There are beach huts and seats along the back and also a seating area at the front, but for both of these you need to be in swimwear and have come in to the pool area. There is also a café outside the pool – within the complex, next to the entrance to the changing room – where the grandparents in our party sat. There are windows but you can only see a small area of the pool from the window – not like the old days when I remember coming to Butlin’s Bognor Regis in the 1980s and the café/restaurant was at basement level, with giant windows where you could watch the swimmers legs from the waist down!
There are communal changing rooms where you find a cubicle – they are big enough for a couple of people – and you need a pound coin for the locker, which you get back afterwards. We had no problem getting a locker or a changing room but the floor is very slippery, and dirty – as people walk in wearing shoes, then walk out across the same part to get in and out of the pool. There was always a staff member washing down the floors and sweeping away the excess water but that meant it was even more slippery.
Check opening times for the pool on your specific break – when we were there it closed at 4pm which I thought was a little early – but on other days they have pool parties later on.
Justin Fletcher Live Show
Justin Fletcher was the headline act on our Just for Tots break and the reason we booked these particular dates. I was super anxious about getting a space for the show, as there were three time slots on one day and that was it. So I made it my priority when it came to booking activities and shows and we were able to get the time I wanted.
By the time the show came around we had already been at butlins for two nights so I had some idea that people queued for shows early to get good seats. I wasn’t fussed about sitting near the front but wanted to make sure we could find a table as we were a group of six, and that we wouldn’t be stuck having to find odd chairs here and there. We had dinner a bit earlier but even so weren’t finished dinner very early as service in the dinearound restaurant always tended to be quite slow, so in the end we went to join the queue half an hour before the show started. I was expecting a queue to have already formed but I wasn’t prepared to see it start at Studio 36 and run all the way up through the Atlantic village apartments – it felt like almost every single person on site at Butlins today was in that queue!
Doors open at 6.30 which was the time we joined the queue so it started moving straight away fairly fast considering staff were checking tickets on the door and we were inside by about ten to 7. I did hear someone say a lot of people were queuing an hour before the show started and the people at the front of the queue had been waiting an hour and a half, but I don’t think queuing that long is very easy for children (or adults!) so I was quite happy joining the queue when we did. We managed to get a table easily about three quarters of the way back but could see fine.
Justin’s show consisted of him and two female sidekicks singing nursery rhymes which was not very imaginative I didn’t think – I wasn’t expecting anything like Justin’s House but surely he could have done something a bit different, but all the kids loved him anyway!
Peppa Pig’s Singalong Surprise
The daytime shows on Just for Tots breaks are quite short, often 30 minutes or less. The Peppa Pig show (which also takes place on normal breaks) involved a Butlin’s entertainer interacting with Peppa on stage and singing along to some nursery rhymes. It was a bit cheesy and I was hoping for a bit more of a show with a story but the event is called a ‘singalong’ and that is basically what it is. It took place in Studio 36, a venue which is all on one level but even if you sit near the back you can see quite well and the layout makes it easy to find a table when you get in, unlike the centre stage venue which is a bit trickier due to barriers and pillars and it’s not so easy if you aren’t among the first in to pick a suitable table with a decent view.
Thomas the Tank Engine show – Thomas’ Race Day
I enjoyed this show more than Peppa Pig as it had a decent storyline, even though my daughter preferred Peppa as she doesn’t really watch the Thomas cartoons. A giant Thomas model comes on stage via two doors that open in the middle, but it remains static apart from the eyes that move, while the acting goes on around it, and via a big screen that shows the race portion of the story. I thought that was actually done quite well as I couldn’t see how they would have trains racing on stage, but perhaps it isn’t quite as interesting for smaller children. If your kid is a Thomas fan it’s a must-see, and if they aren’t, it’s still worth doing.
PJ Masks show – PJ Masks Experience
My daughter had become a big fan of PJ Masks, and Owlette in particular, in the couple of months leading up to our Butlin’s trip which was good timing. She was super excited to see her heroes in action and even though this was a really short show – 15 minutes long, and the PJ Masks characters don’t appear until half way through, which I know from Facebook posts I’ve seen has left a lot of people feeling short-changed. My daughter didn’t seem to mind at all and loved the show.
It’s billed as an interactive experience but really it’s a show with a bit of audience participation. Each table had one cardboard mask – they were laid out with the left hand side of the room having a red Owlette mask, the middle section a blue Catboy mask and the right hand section (as you face the stage) a green Gecko mask. It was pure luck we got the one my daughter wanted (Owlette) – though I’m not sure what happens if you have more than one child in your group unless there are empty tables you can take another mask from. The audience were asked to cheer and do actions at appropriate moments during the show – the plot was so thin I can’t even remember what it was, but my daughter thought it was great!
Character Photo Meet and Greets
Many of the characters who you can see in the shows can also be found doing meet and greet photo opportunities – the times they will appear can be found on the Butlin’s website (there is a full timetable in the ‘Before you go’ section). They only tend to last for 20 minutes and if you want a photo, you need to be queuing before they start. One day we happened to be in the Skyline pavilion when the PJ Masks characters walked past – my daughter was thrilled so we immediately followed them around to the Skyline stage where we found a long queue had already formed. We joined the queue and not long after, the Redcoats announced that the queue was closed, in other words if you weren’t already in the queue you wouldn’t be able to meet the characters.
When it was our turn, my daughter walked out in front of a backdrop and got to meet all three characters – each gave her a hug or a high five, and she then posed for a photo with them. What I liked was that we were allowed to take our own photos, though there is an exact spot on the floor you have to stand on, from where you can get a pretty good photo but not quite as good an angle as the official photographer (of course). If you want to purchase the photos you pick them up later (or any other day) from a small booth at the side of the Skyline stage. We paid £25 for a package of two photos – one from meeting PJ Masks and one from the swimming pool – where we got two large prints, two small wallet sized prints, two keyrings and two fridge magnets, as well as a code for a digital download. (NB – a lot of people have problems with the download code, try swapping the 0s for Os). The photos were definitely worth the money as a great momento and I think meeting PJ Masks was probably the highlight of my daughter’s holiday!
Billie and Bonnie Bear in Robin Hood
Billie and Bonnie Bear are the Butlin’s mascots – and you can’t miss them as they are pretty big! We watched a Robin Hood pantomime-style show where I thought my daughter may have found the story a little hard to follow (I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on the whole time) but was quite entertained by the bears and the big bad wolf. It was our first evening show at Butlin’s and we’d had to rush out of the restaurant, skipping our desserts, to make it on time as the service in the Fish and Chip Restaurant was so slow. We managed to get a table with a reasonable view and ordered drinks via the B Serve app which was brilliant as they came to our table in just a few minutes.
A large area inside the Skyline pavilion is given over to the arcade, which has small rides and various games ranging from simple 2p coin drop machines to ones involving more skill – though ultimately it always comes down to luck! The arcade is open quite late so we often found ourselves spending a bit of time here after the evening show. When you win games – or even if you don’t win, I couldn’t quite work it out – the machines sometimes spit out a row of little tokens. Feed your tokens into one of the counting machines nearby and it will print you a receipt telling you how many points you have got – you then take these receipts to the shop to claim your prize.
It goes without saying avoid queuing at the shop right at the end of your break as there will be a lot of people wanting to do the same thing! We went to turn in our tickets just before heading back to our room for bed on the last night of our break. But be warned, you need a lot of tickets to get anything worthwhile – and I mean thousands! We had about 700 which I thought was pretty good going – and must have represented a spend of at least £30 if not more, over the course of four days – and all it got us was a little plastic Transformers toy. Not even a full size one but a sort of ‘blind bag’ (only in a box) that doesn’t even transform. My daughter was quite happy with it – and there were a few other things she could have had for 700 tokens like fairy wings, but she already had those exact ones – but it did make me wonder quite how much money you would need to spend in the arcade to get one of the bigger prizes!
The Little Mermaid pantomime
The Butlin’s pantomime changes every year and we got to see the Little Mermaid, which we thought was brilliant. At a full hour it was the longest show we saw, and the venue – Centre Stage – was much more like being in a theatre than the daytime show venues. It wasn’t that easy to find a table as even though we arrived before the start time it was already quite full, and some of the tables had views partially obscured by pillars, but we managed to find a table where we could see ok. The show is based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale, but it isn’t exactly the same as the Little Mermaid Disney movie – so make sure your little ones aren’t expecting to see Ariel and Ursula. But the characters are similar and just as good – we found ourselves saying ‘That’s crabulous!’ for a while afterwards (one character’s catchphrase). The Sea Witch’s performance was particularly good – in typical panto style it’s a man in drag – and it was a colourful, vibrant, lively show that my daughter really enjoyed – and so did the adults!
Skyline Gang Shows
The Skyline Gang is a group of entertainers at Butlin’s who perform as characters, each with a very distinct look and appeal. There is Candi (wearing pink dungarees with pink hair), Sprout (green, with spiky green hair), Mimi (in yellow, blonde hair and a high pitched voice), and so on and so on – there are seven all together, with a large shaggy dog called Rainbow as well. You can buy toys and even the outfits for your child to dress up as your favourite character in the Butlin’s shop.
During our visit there were two shows with different storylines, which were on twice a day for three days – but always when we were doing other things or usually eating dinner. One day we did manage to catch the show – it’s on stage in the middle of the Skyline pavilion so you don’t need to book, but was very full so we ended up sitting on the floor in front of the stage. The story was set in the Wild West and involved one of the Skyline gang, Misty, portrayed as a villain who the other characters were trying to catch. It was a bit over the top and panto-esque for me but my daughter seemed to enjoy most of it, though she got bored and wanted to leave before the end. But given the number of children I saw dressed as Skyline Gang characters during our visit they are obviously quite popular!
This is a Just for Tots break only activity where children are given their own pot of Play-Doh (which you can take home afterwards) and a paper chef’s hat. Parents sit at a table and the child goes to a table nearby which has a selection of Play-Doh kitchen equipment, to make whatever they like. And that’s about it really. There were a couple of Redcoats circling and chatting to people, and I ended up kneeling next to my daughter to help her with the cutters. Not the most exciting activity but a nice break if you have been doing a lot of physical or over-stimulating activities and shows – though this was actually the very first thing we did when we got to Butlin’s and it would have been better I think to do a bit later.
The Sooty Show
We only watched a few minutes of this before my daughter got bored, as she had no idea who Sooty and his friends were. It is also a little hard for small children to see as it was in a fairly big venue and the puppets on stage are quite small. Perhaps more one for the grandparents!
Peter Rabbit silent cinema
The Peter Rabbit movie was showing in the evening on the stage in the Skyline pavilion as we happened to be walking past. We hadn’t booked but there was plenty of space to sit down and watch. You get headphones to listen to the sound and there were plenty of spare seats so we paused for a few minutes until my daughter decided she had had enough. It’s a nice idea but probably something for slightly older children and parents to enjoy together.
Mini Bow Archery
I was looking forward to seeing my daughter try this ever since she saw an archery activity at Hever Castle in the summer and was very disappointed she was too young to take part. Mini Bow at Butlins – on a Just for Tots break – is for age 2-4 so she was just the right age (there is also separate archery for older children). We almost couldn’t find the venue for it – which was next to Burger King inside the Skyline pavilion – and when we arrived we were told that only one adult could supervise each child, though there was a small seating area where the rest of the family could wait and watch.
There were only four targets set up, which surprised me – given everything I had heard about how difficult it is to book activities at Butlins and how quickly everything is sold out, when there are hundreds if not probably thousands of people on site, that there were only four places in each archery session. Each child was given a plastic crossbow and some foam darts and we were told how to use it – I needed to give my daughter quite a lot of help in setting it up then she was able to fire the arrow herself. She did struggle to hit the target though managed a couple of times, but after ten minutes decided she had had enough and didn’t want to do it any more – so not quite the successful activity that I was expecting!
There are a couple of outdoor playgrounds that are worth knowing about (if the weather is nice, anyway). Opposite the Diner restaurant, with the entrance marked by a giant statue of the Butlins mascot Billy Bear, is a sandpit-based play area with swings and a climbing frame, plus various pieces of equipment to scoop and channel sand – but do bring a bucket and spade! There’s also a seating area with a cover that provides some shade on a hot day, so we sat here to eat some lunch and to watch my daughter play.
There’s another playground by the Beachcomber restaurant, with two large climbing structures -one for younger children and one for older children. It’s enclosed with picnic bench style seating nearby so your children can play while you have a drink or meal.
Aimed at children aged 2-4 years so you can probably imagine the chaos… it’s not easy to corral that many toddlers into doing the same thing at the same time! The two people running the training did a good job of trying to keep the kids engaged and teach them some skills but it’s basically a bit of a kickabout. It was a little difficult to find the football pitch (don’t get me started on Butlin’s maps and directions) – it’s part of the outdoor sports area but accessed by a little path where you can’t immediately see it when you are on the main thoroughfare and there are no signposts pointing the right way. There’s plenty of seating in the form of stone bleachers; they are quite steep to climb up but lots of space so you can sit on the bottom one if you don’t want to go to the top. The children were divided into two teams with all the balls in the middle of the pitch; they had to choose a ball and kick it down the pitch and into the goal then run back and get another ball and do it again, and the coaches counted which goal had the most balls in it at the end to declare a winner. My daughter had fun though it was a shame there wasn’t anything that involved interacting more with other children. She can kick a ball into a goal on her own in the garden at home and I’d hoped she might be able to play with other children a bit, though I know they are quite young so it probably wouldn’t have worked. My verdict on the football was that it was a fun activity but wouldn’t have been the end of the world if we had missed it.
Located in the middle of the Skyline pavilion, the soft play area had only recently re-opened post-Covid when we visited. There are two separate sections; one for children over one metre tall (up to a maximum I think if 1.5 metres) and one for children under one metre, which is a much smaller area. My daughter at three and a half was just over a metre- they do measure the child’s height at the entrance, without shoes – so she was able to go into the main area. However, parents aren’t allowed to go in – I’m not sure if this is Covid-related or if it has always been that way, but to me this was a bonus as I hate having to clamber around inside soft play! My daughter Sophie was a little bit unsure at first and got a case of the wobbles about half way up, but since parents can’t go inside, there are staff members who roam the structure so I was able to speak to the one at the entrance (as I could see Sophie looking upset) who radioed up to a colleague, who went to help her down. But by the next day, Sophie had gained her confidence and was merrily climbing the entire thing, at times with two or three other children in tow who she seemed to be leading!
You don’t need to book soft play and it is open most of the day (though we found it shut one day over lunch for cleaning, I don’t know if this is every day) and most of the time when we walked through the Skyline pavilion my daughter either wanted to go in the soft play or arcade or both. The only downside was that it closed at 4 which I thought was a bit early. It’s a really good size to keep younger children entertained and it is right next to Burger King so we were able to sit down with a drink and watch.
Little Tikes Town
This is basically an area where children can choose different Little Tikes vehicles and pedal them around an enclosed field. There’s nowhere to sit if you are watching – most parents were standing outside looking over the fence, while some were within the enclosure with their children. As well as the standard Little Tikes red and yellow cars there were tractors and princess carriages pulled by a horse – or rather, pulled by mummy who was pulling the horse! You don’t need to book and there is no time limit though it is outside. We also had difficulty finding it so it’s worth mentioning that it’s behind the driving school (which is much easier to spot).
A paid-for activity where children and adults can drive battery-operated cars around a track. You put in a £2 coin and off you go, steering and using the pedals to go forwards and backwards. Younger children need an adult sitting on the back as a passenger – my daughter really liked this and we did it twice on our four-day break.
Not a Butlin’s activity strictly speaking but in case you aren’t aware, the Butlin’s Bognor Regis resort is literally across the road from the beach. You need to use the day visitors’ entrance by the Atlantic Bay apartments to leave the site then it’s right in front of you. But be warned, it’s a pebble beach – there is some sand (of the mainly wet variety) at low tide and you can check tide times online, but by the time we were ready to go, it was high tide and we didn’t fancy just sitting on the pebbles. My daughter preferred the sandy play area within Butlin’s! There is also a land train that runs along the promenade down to the Bognor pier and back – the pier has small shops and an amusement arcade, as well as a fish and chip shop, though as we had all of that on site, we didn’t bother – the train ride in itself might have been fun but we didn’t have time that day and we didn’t end up going off-site again.
The Puppet Castle puppet show
These don’t need to be booked and are on a couple of times a day, in the area at the top of the Skyline pavilion that is decorated to look like a castle courtyard. Every time we went past my daughter wanted to go in and have a look; I thought it was a shame the space wasn’t used for something else in between.
The puppet show we saw was quite basic, it basically introduced different puppets and they sang a song, so it wasn’t really a show with a storyline. It kept my three year-old’s attention at any rate! It would have been nice if there had been chairs around the edge for adults as we had to sit on the floor; my mum would have liked to watch but wasn’t able to sit on the floor or stand for that long. The puppet show wasn’t top of our agenda of things to do at Butlin’s but it was enjoyable.
If you want something a bit different from the other activities on offer, stop off at the Discover Animals room – in the Skyline pavilion near the entrance to the toilets. Open for a few hours each day, you can wander around and look at snakes, tarantulas and other creepy crawlies inside glass tanks, and while we were there a member of staff had taken a large snake out of a tank and were allowing children to touch it and even have the snake placed around their neck. My daughter was too scared to do that but she did have a close look at the snake and found looking in the glass tanks quite interesting.
If you want something to do on your last day as you have to check out in the morning, I recommend a visit to nearby Hotham Park – it’s literally five minutes away. Check out my review here.
Things we didn’t do and why
There were lots of other things on offer at Butlin’s that we didn’t try, for various reasons – here’s a quick rundown of what else is on offer on a Just for Tots break at Bognor Regis.
Tots Arts and Crafts
Fully booked so we weren’t able to take part – so I can’t say what was involved.
A paid for activity which costs £10 to cover the paints and you pay extra depending on what item you want to paint, so it can add up. It wasn’t open most of the time when we walked past, and we decided there were enough free activities to take part in that we wouldn’t pay to do this. But I think it’s something my daughter would probably enjoy, and certainly doesn’t cost any more than going to a similar pottery painting venue (we have one in our home town) so we might try it next time.
Theo the Mouse show
We did intend to go to this, but were still in the swimming pool and my daughter didn’t want to get out!
Some sort of dinosaur-themed puppet show that I thought my daughter may also have liked, though I have seen a few reviews saying it doesn’t really keep the attention of younger children. But again we were still in the swimming pool at the time!
I did want to take my daughter to the disco but it was only on from 6-6.15pm each day (I’m not sure why such a short time) when we were always in the restaurants eating dinner.
£5 for a choice of different creatures – the only reason I didn’t point this out to my daughter was because I knew the minute she had it done she would want to go in the swimming pool and wash it all off! It’s fairly unobtrusive in a black booth near the toilets in the Skyline pavilion, so it was easy to walk past without noticing. It also seemed to be shut a lot of the time when we walked past.
I liked the sound of this activity, where children would learn to ride/ practice riding a balance bike and get a certificate at the end of it. My daughter has a balance bike at home and this is a paid-for activity (£6) so I decided not to – but I think if we went again I probably would encourage her to try this.
Which are the best shows and activities to book at Butlin’s Bognor Regis on a Just for Tots break?
As I know a lot of people are worried about being able to book the activities they want, or finding they don’t manage to book in time and shows are fully booked, I thought I would share my verdict about which ones were the best, which are really worthwhile, and which ones are fun but I wouldn’t lose any sleep if I hadn’t managed to book them.
Here are my preferred activities in order that my three year old daughter enjoyed them, and that I would prioritise on our agenda if we go back:
Must do activities at Butlin’s:
- The fairground
- The swimming pool
- Character meet and greet photo shoot
- Justin Fletcher show
- PJ Masks show
- Little Mermaid Pantomime
- The arcades
- Peppa Pig Singalong
- The playgrounds – especially the one with sand
- Driving school
- Little Tikes Town
- Thomas the Tank Engine show – Thomas’ Race Day
- Mini bow archery
- Billie and Bonnie Bear in Robin Hood
- The beach
- Skyline Gang shows
- Discover animals
- Tots football
- The Puppet Castle puppet show
- Play Doh kitchen
- The Sooty Show
- Peter Rabbit silent cinema
If you’ve been to Butlin’s on a Just for Tots break, do you agree with my ranking? Which was your favourite activity?
What needs to be improved at Butlin’s?
There is a schedule in the Before You Go section of the website, but it was only updated about two days before our break. So I could see the times of the bookable activities in the app, but not everything else. Ideally you need to print it or make your own schedule with the activities you have booked and anything else you are interested in, as we did. I had expected we might be given a copy of the schedule in our welcome pack but we weren’t, and there were no signs with it up around the site, so having our own printed personalised timetable was usually the only way we could remember where we were supposed to be and when!
It’s also a bit of a shame that most things closed at 4pm on a Just for Tots break – I think 5 would have been much better as we generally wanted to go for dinner at 5 and it was a bit annoying that the only thing we could do before that was either play in the playground or spend money in the arcade.
|Finding your way around|
There is an app with an interactive map that shows you where everything is and the route you need to get there – but we couldn’t always get the app to work and when we did, the locations weren’t 100% accurate. For example when we were trying to find the mini bow archery which was in a studio inside the skyline pavilion, the map was directing to roughly the same place but outside the pavilion. I was surprised as well at how few maps on signs outdoors (the kind where you get a ‘you are here’ dot) there were, and indeed how few signposts pointing to different things. It made it very difficult to find activities on several occasions meaning we often felt like we were running around in a hurry not to be late and a few times got completely lost. This is definitely something where Butlin’s needs to up its game – or even hand out paper maps inside the welcome pack!
While it is fun and part of a traditional British seaside break, it’s a shame that you have to pretty much walk through the arcade any time you want to get anywhere – and that there are so many toddler rides that cost £1 or £2 each when children that age can’t really understand why they are being told they can’t go on some rides but they can go on others (i.e. the free ones). I would have preferred if the arcade had been in a separate building you could choose to go into, rather than in the middle of the Skyline pavilion!
|The booking system|
Butlin’s introduced a system where you have to book shows and activities during Covid and has decided to continue. In some ways I think this is good – I dread to think what time we would have had to queue for some of the shows to be sure we would get in if we hadn’t already booked a ticket. But on the other hand, the booking system means some people will get to do absolutely everything they want, and some people almost nothing.
Butlin’s won’t tell you when the slot to book activities for your particular break will go live, so I joined the Butlin’s Bognor Regis Facebook group and learned from other people’s posts that it could be anywhere from 7 to 14 days before your break, at any time of day. Great! But in the few weeks preceeding our trip the slots repeatedly went live 14 days exactly before, some time in the morning from 10am onwards. It was sheer luck that I wasn’t working on that particular day and was able to check the website and the app repeatedly, so I was able to book everything I wanted to – and yet an hour later, people were complaining on Facebook that everything had sold out. So it does seem a rather unfair way of running the booking system!
There are standby queues and from the Facebook group I gather that people who didn’t have tickets to shows were generally able to get in, though they had to wait until all ticket holders had entered (and presumably then only get whatever seats were left). But with activities that have only a small number of places it’s a bit of a risk and they don’t operate standby queues – but given the number of people who book an activity in advance then on the day change their mind, or their child is having a nap or doesn’t want to get out of the swimming pool, I would say it’s still worth trying. Though how you manage your child’s expectations so they aren’t disappointed is a whole other story. So I’m very glad we were able to book what we wanted but as we are planning to go again I don’t expect we will be quite so lucky next time, and am not so sure what we would do then!