If you are thinking of booking a break at Butlin’s, or have already booked, you may have heard that you now have to book the activities and shows you want to enjoy during your holiday. You may also have read that the activities get booked up right away, leaving a lot of people unable to book anything. But don’t worry! Read on to find out my top tips for booking activities and what to do if you can’t book any before you go. We have just come back from a Just for Tots break and I was able to book everything I wanted, from evening shows to daytime activities to eating meals at the times we wanted to fit around our schedule.
How do you book activities at Butlin’s?
When Butlin’s was able to reopen after Covid-related lockdowns first eased, they were operating at a limited capacity and had to enforce social distancing, so they made most of the activities pre-bookable. They have then decided to keep the booking system for the foreseeable future. In some ways I think this is better, because you know if you have booked that you are guaranteed a space, rather than having to queue for ages for the popular shows or going along to the smaller activities where space is much more limited and not knowing if you will get in. However, there are big problems at the same time. The booking window for activities on your break could open any time between 7 and 14 days before your break, at any time of day – Butlin’s will send an email when the window is open, but if you wait for the window you are probably already too late. I was stalking a Facebook group called Butlin’s Bognor Regis (an unofficial page) where people had been discussing when the windows went live and how quickly the activities were fully booked. Typically, all spaces were gone about an hour after the booking window went live.
I had worked out from the Facebook group that the window could open any time from the Monday but it could also be later that week, and the most common time seemed to be around 10am. Luckily I wasn’t working that day and was able to check constantly and was online when the window went live at 11.30am on the Monday exactly two weeks before our break.
How do you find out what’s on at Butlin’s?
There are two ways you can book activities – in the Butlin’s app or on the Plan My Day section of their website. Make sure you bookmark the web page (or even add it to your home screen on your phone). You can see what’s on about a month in advance of your break – enter the dates in the activities section of the app. You won’t be able to book anything yet, but it will show you the schedule and you can make a plan. This is the time when you need to sit down either alone or with your family and decide what you want to do, as you won’t have time when the booking window goes live – it’s literally a case of fastest finger first.
The app will only show you the bookable activities however – the shows and things that take place at set times which on a Just for Tots break range from arts and crafts and Play-Doh kitchen to mini bow archery, tots football and more. The app won’t show anything that you don’t need to book – and there is quite a long list, spanning swimming, soft play, the fairground, things like face painting (which is £5), Discover Animals (a room containing various reptiles), tots disco and also the Skyline Gang shows, which are the in-house entertainers dressed up as colourful characters who sing and dance. You can see a full schedule on the Before You Go section of the website, but this wasn’t available until two days before our break so we had already had to book everything, which meant we ended up missing the tots disco every night and all but one of the Skyline Gang shows.
What’s the best way of booking activities at Butlin’s?
So once you have your plan of activities, write them down in order of priority, in case you don’t get to book everything you want. For instance my list ran: Weds 7pm – Justin Fletcher. Tues 10am – Peppa Pig singalong…. etc. This way you are more likely to get the things that are more important to you. Then, if you are on a dining plan where you need to book mealtimes, write down which times you want to eat as you also need to be quick to book that if you want to have dinner in time before seeing a show for instance. We left 1.5 hours for dinner each time so booked to eat at either 5 or 5.30 when we had a 6.30 or 7pm show, as we were eating in different restaurants on the dinearound plan. Twice we had plenty of time, and twice because service was so slow, we needed two hours for dinner – the first time we left before getting the desserts we had ordered and paid for in order to not miss the show and the second time we stayed in the restaurant and missed the show.
It’s also crucial to make sure you have your booking reference to hand. When you log in to Plan My Day on the website, you will need to add the two-letter code for your resort as well, so BG for Bognor Regis for instance. It does say this on the login page but I saw from Facebook a lot of people saying they hadn’t read that and were wondering why their booking reference wasn’t working.
Give a copy of the booking reference and your intended schedule of activities to book to anyone else in your party as well to maximise your chances – in case you are not able to go online when the booking window opens. I had given my husband instructions on what to do in case he was free and I wasn’t but luckily I was able to do it all myself.
Also, check both the app and Plan My Day. In my case, the slots went live on the app shortly before they did on Plan My Day on the website, but there was one activity (arts and crafts) that didn’t show up on the app but was on Plan My Day. Also, the restaurant bookings can only be done through Plan My Day.
Which are the best activities to book for toddlers on a Just for Tots break at Butlin’s?
Read my other blog post about the best activities to book for toddlers on a Just for Tots break at Butlin’s and find out which ones we liked best!
What happens if you can’t book activities on your Butlin’s break?
There were a lot of disgruntled people on the Facebook group I joined saying they had been unable to book anything – though they said you could still join a standby queue and would almost certainly get in as people book activities and then don’t go to them. However, while that might work for the bigger shows where you could get a seat at the back (the standby queue is let in after people with tickets) you are less likely to be able to do one of the smaller activities. Mini bow archery for instance only had four targets set up in a small room when we took part, so there wouldn’t have been much point in more than one or two other families turning up to see if there was a no-show and they could take their place – bearing in mind that there are thousands of people at Butlin’s when they are at full capacity.
People were also commenting that they had been told by Butlin’s representatives that more slots are released at 7am each day during your break; I went onto the app one morning just after 7 but there were no activities showing as available. Other people had more luck going to the leisure hub on site and asking to be booked in.
Of course, people can – and are encouraged to – cancel their places if they change their mind or know they won’t be doing a particular activity but I don’t think many people do so. I have to admit to being guilty of this myself, as we missed a couple of things we had booked because my three year old didn’t want to get out of the swimming pool and I wasn’t going to force her – but being in the pool meant I didn’t have access to my phone to cancel our booking!
And don’t forget there are plenty of activities that don’t need booking, which will depend on your break. On our Just for Tots break, we found the following activities that didn’t need booking:
– Skyline Gang shows (usually two a day most days, at 5 and 7pm)
– Swimming pool. Check opening times as it varies between breaks and on different days. The pool is brilliant with slides, rapids, flumes, and all sorts of things for children to play with.
– The fairground. There is a small tots playground for young children and a larger fairground outside, though on our Just for Tots break it shut at 4 which we thought was a bit too early.
– Character meet and greets – you can queue in the Skyline pavilion to meet various characters including Billie and Bonnie Bear, Peppa Pig and PJ Masks. Times are listed in the schedule you can find in the Before You Go section of the website.
– Tots disco (6-6.20pm)
– Little Tikes Town – driving around in little cars
– Driving school (£2 cost) – driving motorised vehicles; young children need to be accompanied by an adult
– Go Karts – for older children/adults, £6 a time
– The arcade – the main one is in the Skyline pavilion with a smaller one near the fairground. Be careful though or you could spend a fortune in there!
– Scoop ice cream café – though I found the selection a bit disappointing, and it’s technically a place to eat rather than an activity but I do sometimes consider going for an ice cream an activity!
– Puppet shows in the Castle Courtyard inside the Skyline pavilion (on Just for Tots breaks at least)
– Soft play in the Skyline Pavillion. There is an under 2s area and a bigger area which you have to be over 1 metre tall to use. Earlier this year the smaller soft play was closed but it has now reopened. Adults aren’t allowed in to either section which was brilliant for my three year old to gain confidence as she is usually quite hesitant in soft play – by her second time inside, she was climbing right to the top and had a great time. I was glad that we were on a Just for Tots break though as I wouldn’t have liked the idea of older children running around inside it and bumping into little ones. Since adults aren’t allowed in, there are three members of staff who move around checking on the children and can help if needed.
– Face painting – £5 a time, in the Skyline pavilion – though it was randomly closed on the last full day of our break.
– Discover Animals – open from 11-2 in the Skyline pavilion, you can see snakes, toads, geckos, mice and more inside glass cages – and maybe even touch a snake or have it draped around your neck
– Playgrounds – there is one by the Beachcomber with two large climbing frames with slides, one for under 6 year olds and the other for over 6. It’s handily next to picnic benches where you can eat or drink either food from the Beachcomber or your own. There was another playground my daughter loved opposite the Diner restaurant, as it has a large sandpit as well as swings and a climbing frame. Don’t forget your bucket and spade!
– The beach is literally over the road from Butlin’s, though it is a pebble beach, and don’t forget to look up online what time the low and high tides are. There is also a little land train that runs along the promenade from outside Butlin’s down to Bognor pier, which is £1 a ride or £2 return.
So if you don’t manage to book any activities there is still plenty to do – though it helps if the weather is nice – but hopefully by following my tips you will stand a good chance of being able to book the activities you want!