Having initially approached Butlin’s with some scepticism (my husband) and nothing more than a rose tinted memory from my childhood (me), we enjoyed our Just for Tots break at Bognor Regis in 2021 so much that we went back in 2022!
Our daughter was now four so still eligible for a Just for Tots break (as you have to have an under-five in your party to book one of those specific breaks) and I liked the idea of a ‘safe’ environment without bigger children or hen parties and stag nights around – plus going in term time means it was a lot cheaper!
We tried some different activities we didn’t do last time, stayed in a different hotel (the Shoreline rather than Ocean) and discovered some things have changed now all Covid restrictions have ended – including the return of Bedtime with Billy Bear! Read on to find out more about:
- – How have Covid restrictions changed at Butlin’s in 2022?
- – What’s new at Butlin’s in 2022?
- – Is a Just for Tots break worth doing?
- – What is Bedtime with Billy Bear at Butlin’s? Find out here!
- – Which hotel is better at Butlin’s for children?
- – Is Balanceability worth doing?
- – Are the shows different at Butlin’s in 2022?
- – How long are the PJ Masks on stage for at Butlin’s?
- – What is Nathan Connor’s Cosmic Quest? (Which I was wondering myself!)
- – What is the All Aboard Pirate Adventure Show?
First of all if you have never done a Just for Tots break before I would recommend starting by reading my previous post:
Even if you have been before but not for a while, in this previous post I cover the activities we did last time. Where we did the same ones this time I will cover them again but not in as much detail, apart from ones that have changed – mini bow archery was very different for example.
There are also some activities we didn’t do this time so they are available on Just for Tots breaks but won’t be covered in this post, so click here to find out about:
- – Thomas the Tank Engine Show – Thomas’ Race Day
- – Billy and Bonnie Bear in Robin Hood
- – Silent Cinema
- – Tots Football
- – Little Tikes Town
- – Driving school
- – The Beach
- – Puppet Show Puppet Castle
This time we stayed in the Shoreline hotel in the Nelson stateroom which was brilliant (and a bargain in the sale) – we had a panoramic sea view and were right next to the restaurants and very close to the car park, skyline pavilion and pool. Read my review of the hotel here including to find out how you can do Bedtime with Billy Bear!
If you are interested in the Ocean hotel my review from last year is here which also covers a bit about the dining plans.
This year we chose our Just for Tots activities based on what we most enjoyed last time and also some of the things we didn’t do last time.
What’s new at Butlin’s in 2022?
This year the pantomime is Goldilocks and the Three Bears; there are new shows on Just for Tots weeks including Nathan Connor’s Cosmic Quest and All Aboard Pirate Adventure Show, as well as old favourites like Justin Fletcher, PJ Masks and Peppa Pig. The PJ Masks and Peppa Pig shows have new storylines/ content and the PJ Masks show was much better than last time as the characters were on stage from the start. The Skyline Gang also have new shows but Discover Animals has closed. There are also new shows on the Skyline stage including Little Magic Train and Billy and Bonnie Get Up and Go. And Bedtime with Billy Bear is back!
How have Covid restrictions changed at Butlin’s in 2022?
We went in April, not long after the government lifted all Covid restrictions so social distancing and mask wearing was no longer required. It meant that unlike in 2021, you are no longer restricted to being seated at shows in groups of five and the hotel receptions are open again (though in the Shoreline only in the mornings apart from on check-in day) which is really good as it makes the whole thing a nicer experience. Bedtime with Billy Bear is back, which was stopped during the pandemic, and there are more ‘free flow’ shows which you don’t have to book, where numbers are not limited, on the Skyline stage in the main pavilion. Oh, and the spa in the Ocean hotel is open again now!
The viewing area at the swimming pool is open again too – last year the grandparents in our group could sit in the cafe and look through the window but the size and placement of the window means you can only see a fraction of the pool and can’t really watch anyone. Now, the whole viewing area has reopened – a long stretch of seats alongside the pool, far enough back that you won’t get wet, and accessed from outside the pool building.
Here are the activities we did, which I will cover in order of preference – starting with the best!
The swimming pool
Click here for a more detailed description of the pool.
This time we went three times – preferring to avoid check in and check out days for our own convenience (though those days are actually quieter), compared to twice on our last break. My daughter is now four and had much more confidence so was up and down the small red slides countless times and even braved the ‘racers’ four times – which are really high! In fact too high for me so I made my husband go on them with Sophie and she couldn’t stop laughing at the big splash he made at the bottom!
They had a pool party one day from 12.30-1.30 which we missed as I find the pool chaotic enough as it is!
The viewing area has reopened as I described above.
We ate lunch one day in the cafe as we didn’t get out of the pool until gone 1pm. It’s a Costa Coffee with a few additions like a kids sandwich, fruit, drink and crisps meal in a Butlin’s box – the same as the cafe in the Skyline pavilion.
It’s handy having the cafe there and though there isn’t a huge choice of food it was fine – we had paninis and sandwiches, crisps and a slice of chocolate cake to share.
Tips for using the pool at Butlin’s:
Check in and check out days are quieter and on a Just for Tots break at least, the pool seems to be busier in the mornings perhaps because at least some children are having a nap in the afternoon!
Check closing times of the pool as it does vary – and on a Tots week shuts at 4 which caught us unawares the first time.
You need a £1 coin for the lockers which you get back.
The bigger family-size changing rooms are at the far end
There are drying machines for wet swimming costumes that are free and just take a few seconds to use
Floats, a few rubber rings (yellow ones), and toys like watering cans and boats are provided – there is a treasure chest near the Little Tikes water tables in the pool, though it’s usually empty and instead you have to just look out for any that have been discarded around the pool
You can’t take photos in the pool and on our break last year there was a professional photographer one day asking families if they would like pictures, which you can later buy from the kiosk in the skyline pavilion. But this time around even though we went into the pool on all three full days of our break, we didn’t see a photographer.
As before the fairground was a highlight; the queues weren’t ever very long and my daughter could go on the rides as many times as she liked. She is still young enough that the tots fairground inside the skyline is ideal for her and there are several of the bigger ones outside she can go on as well. This time she also went on a bungee trampoline (that is in the outdoor fairground area) where she was harnessed and could bounce up and down really high; if you are good at gymnastics you can do somersaults and all sorts. It costs £5 per go and it isn’t something I would ever want to do but my daughter loved it! Read more about the Butlin’s Bognor Regis fairground here.
One of my daughter’s favourite activities at Butlin’s and as before every time we went through the skyline pavilion she went in. There was an unfortunate incident with a very badly behaved much older child in the soft play who hit my daughter but the staff dealt with it quickly. Another time, I spotted she had made friends with one of the staff inside the soft play and was showing her how she could jump, telling her about her favourite Butlins activities and at one point singing ‘Who let the dogs out’! It’s a great size for her age as it is a little bit challenging for a four year old but she can do most of it (there is a separate section for children under one metre in height) – and loves the freedom of being able to go in it whenever she wants! Read more about the Butlin’s Bognor Regis soft play here.
We managed to see a bit more of the Skyline Gang this time – they did two different shows, one called Skyline Gang Goes Pop, and the other Skyline Gang on Safari. The latter featured people in animal costumes that were very good so the show was quite visually appealing, but as an adult I preferred the Pop show as it was covers of different pop songs that I actually knew! Both shows got the kids dancing and my daughter paid a bit more attention to the characters this time though when I asked her favourite it was pretty much all of them apart from Sprout, who she didn’t seem to like very much!
There was a Skyline Gang show at lunchtime – I think it was 12.30 – on at least two days of our break so both times we made sure to head to the stage for 12 to get a table and got our lunch from the cafe there, which worked quite well.
The Skyline Gang does a meet and greet photo shoot but we missed it as we were seeing a different show. Apparently you can sometimes see them walking around the resort where they will interact with the children but we never saw them which was a bit of a shame.
Justin Fletcher Live
The headline act on Just for Tots – I was hoping/ assuming Justin would do a different show from last year but it seemed to be the same! I can’t remember all the songs he did in 2021 but the 2022 show seemed very similar. Of course, the children either didn’t notice or mind and they all seemed to have a brilliant time. Justin is a great entertainer and even when all he is doing is standing on stage singing ‘if you’re happy and you know it’ he is great.
Nathan Connor’s Cosmic Quest
I had never heard of Nathan Connor who is a children’s TV presenter on Channel 5’s Milkshake (and a former Redcoat) and wasn’t sure what to expect from the show. It is set in the future and involves Nathan taking part in an intergalactic dance competition but he has lost parts of his special suit and has to travel to different planets to find it. So he goes to a planet of giant (friendly) bugs – cue people in bee costumes – and an under water world where he interacts with a jelly fish and so on. There is lots of dancing and singing; I thought Nathan was a very good entertainer and it was actually a much better show than seeing Justin Fletcher (though I will always heart Justin).
This show took place in Reds which is much more akin to the stereotypical cabaret venue I was expecting of Butlin’s, with tables and chairs in front of the stage, and a much smaller darker venue. We didn’t have a great view from our seats despite not being too far from the front though at these shows children do often go and sit on the floor in front of the stage – my worry is always that they will have trouble finding their parents afterwards as it’s so busy!
PJ Masks Live
‘Join the PJ Masks on a brand new adventure’ encourages the Butlin’s website and I was pleased to see it was a different show to the one we saw last year – and that the PJ Masks were on stage throughout rather than only at the end as with last year, which a lot of people (including myself) found disappointing. This time our heroes danced to a variety of songs and while there was a storyline I can’t really remember what it was about – just that the show was much better this time.
I let my four year old go to the area in front of the stage though I went too and sat on the floor – there were lots of children running up and down before the show started and joining in with the actions during the show. Several of them were dressed in PJ Masks costumes – including my own little Owlette! We bought the costume from Amazon a while back and brought it with us, and it was carried around in my bag a lot for when we went to see the show and the PJ Masks photo meet and greet. As one thing I found was there was so much going on there was never really time to go back to the room if we needed anything!
The only thing that wasn’t as good with the show is that last year each table had a paper mask of one of the PJ Masks which they didn’t do this time, but my daughter didn’t mind as she had her own!
Peppa Pig Seaside Adventures show
Again this show was a different storyline to last year though as Peppa is aimed at younger children the plot was very simple, something about going for a day out at the beach. It’s fun and easy for kids to follow, with songs and a chance to see Peppa on stage in all her glory!
All Aboard Pirate Show
We watched this one evening after dinner and again I let my daughter go and sit on the floor in front of the stage again. Before the show started a Redcoat came over and asked me if we would like to go on stage near the end to have a dance; I checked with my daughter and she said yes, but then once the show started told me she didn’t want to any more and was too scared.
So to be honest I didn’t pay that much attention to the rest of the show as I was looking for the Redcoat to signal that they wanted us and wondering if it would be an issue if I said she had now changed her mind! But then right at the end when the Redcoat came over, my daughter jumped up and happily went with him up onto stage with me following.
We weren’t just going up on the stage for a dance with other people – in fact Sophie was the only child invited up on stage and it was to take part in a quiz! She was asked her name and age and had to answer some questions identifying children’s television and won a prize – she was really pleased!
From what I do remember of the show it was pretty good – pirate Jen was a skilled entertainer and the story revolved around needing to unlock a treasure chest. All the children got a paper pirate’s hat to wear during the show or take home too. We enjoyed the show and while it wasn’t as big a production as the Goldilocks pantomime it was very good.
Mini Bow Archery
This activity was very different to when we took part on a Just for Tots break last September. It is now free flow, meaning you don’t have to book and can just turn up to the studio inside the skyline pavilion (next to Burger King). And instead of just shooting at a large circular target there are a few different things for the children to try – different sized targets including one where you try to knock some cans off a box.
We thought this was a better way of running this activity; last time they only had about six places per session so a lot of people weren’t able to book, and it’s the sort of thing I think many children would like to try but once they have done it for a few minutes – as hitting a target or more likely not hitting a target isn’t really that exciting to keep a young child’s attention for that long – they have had enough and want to go and do something else. Sophie did enjoy it more than last time though!
Sophie has had a balance bike for over a year now but hasn’t used it much, so we thought it would be good to give her some more confidence and hopefully encourage to use her own bike more.
However, the session seemed to be aimed more at children who had never been on a balance bike before, as they started by standing next to their bikes and walking the bike across the field. They did progress to riding on the bikes but not very much and I didn’t feel that my four year old really picked up any new skills or spent long enough doing it to instil in her any renewed interest in her own bike.
Also, you pay £6 for the activity and I’m really not sure why. The way it was ran was to me similar to the Tots football (which takes place on the same field), which is free. You do get a certificate at the end but just a piece of card, and it didn’t seem like there was that much added value for the money. Balanceability is a national learn to cycle programme, i..e an external organisation, so presumably Butlin’s has to pay to offer it – and I think it’s good that they do but I would recommend this more for children who haven’t been on a balance bike before and parents who are wondering if it is worth shelling out the money to buy one, as it was too short and basic otherwise for children who do have some experience on a bike.
This was our first time trying out messy play and it was pretty fun – a chance for my daughter to be creative and make a mess I didn’t have to clear up!
The activity took place in the Promenade studio, on the ‘street’ outside the skyline pavilion between Reds and the restaurants. We were given an apron, a large piece of coloured paper (sugar paper) and a shape – you could choose a rocket or a fish- as we went in. There were tables laid out with coloured pens, scissors, feathers and glue and other tables with bowls of different colour paint – but no paint brushes as this is finger painting!
There was also an area with jelly (like Gelli Baff) in big containers and tools to scoop it up and so on and also an area with several small sand tables and tools. Sophie preferred the sand to the jelly, and enjoyed finger painting her rocket picture.
You can leave pictures with wet paint at the back to dry but then have to collect them when another messy play session is taking place as the studio isn’t open in between. We actually went back to collect our picture the next day so this is something to bear in mind.
Play Doh Kitchen
This activity was exactly the same as when we did it last year – children get a pot of Play Doh (to keep), a paper chef’s hat and can use a variety of kitchen-themed Play Doh equipment to make what they want. This time it takes place in the pavilion studio near Reds and the toy shop so was a lot easier to find (and less stairs). My four year old was keen to do it but it only kept her occupied for about ten minutes before she got bored and wanted to leave to do something else.
This time my husband somehow discovered the knack of getting the little prizes out of the 2p machines and by the end of our four days our daughter had various sweets and keyrings – ranging from wiggly worms to Disney princesses to Scooby Doo (which she is currently a big fan of). I never keep track of how many pound coins we change into 2ps and I think my husband and I like this more than our daughter does!
While last time we got about 700 tickets which was enough for a small (really small) Transformer toy that doesn’t transform, this time we got about 1200 and our daughter chose a weird squidgy monkey with a light up tummy for about 200 which left enough for a pretty decent PJ Masks ceramic breakfast set containing a bowl, plate and mug.
At four Sophie either still wasn’t old enough to understand the difference between the free fairground rides and the paid for ones in the arcade – or she just didn’t care. Her absolute favourite was a pink one next to the soft play with Lady and the Tramp, that rotates slowly and plays Who Let The Dogs Out. We have been hearing that song at home every since!
Character photo shoots
This time we didn’t purchase the photos and were happy with the ones I took- partly because you can’t actually see my daughter’s face! After seeing two children in PJ Masks costumes last time I had the idea this time to bring my daughter’s Owlette costume to Butlin’s and she wore it when she queues for the photo meet and greet and ran to meet the ‘real’ Owlette with outstretched arms. It was very sweet!
The outdoor playgrounds
Once again the playground next to the Shoreline hotel with a giant sandpit was my daughter’s favourite (read more here) and we had her bucket and spade ready. We also spent some time in the play area by the Beachcomber and when we were having dinner at the Firehouse Grill I spotted another play area behind that restaurant, though we didn’t use it.
Goldilocks and the Three Bears
This is Butlin’s pantomime for 2022, replacing the Little Mermaid that we saw last year.
I was wondering how they would string out the plot of Goldilocks to fill a full hour and the way they managed it was to tell an entirely different story for the main part – the bears only appear a fair way through the show. It’s all about how Goldilocks and her family (her mum is the traditional pantomime dame, I.e. man in drag) own a circus and a villain is trying to take it over. I’ve since read a description of the Goldilocks panto taking place at a different theatre this Christmas and it seems to have the same plot with the circus so maybe that’s how Goldilocks goes when it’s on stage!
My four year old was a bit scared of the villain Victor De Ville though I was surprised she wasn’t scared of the snake people let alone the giant snake head that appears on stage. The show was good but I preferred the Little Mermaid and also thought this one was potentially a little scary in places for very small children, though Sophie didn’t really seem to mind – she had some glow sticks and made a little friend to run around with in the aisles – and it’s still good family entertainment.
There is a booth in the skyline pavilion; it costs £6 for one of a number of designs or a little less (I think £4) to be made up as one of the Skyline Gang characters. Sophie went for Elsa from Frozen!
Finally, the spa in the Ocean hotel. Check out day was actually my birthday so as a treat to myself I booked into the spa for a massage after breakfast while my husband took our daughter to the soft play and fairground (about all that is open on checkout day). I didn’t get to see inside the spa itself, which sounds intriguing (Crystal steam room, snow cave etc) and just went into the treatment room where I had a very relaxing massage that was a very good price compared to others I have had.
What did we think of Butlin’s in 2022, versus 2021?
Overall we had a fantastic time at Butlin’s – going a second time made it a lot easier as we knew where everything was, what to expect with mealtimes and queues and so on and what the activities were like.
Some of the 2022 shows were better than in 2021 – e.g. PJ Masks, we enjoyed Nathan Connor and the Pirate Adventure Show was better than Billie and Bonnie Bear in Robin Hood. But we preferred last year’s pantomime, The Little Mermaid, this year over Goldilocks.
The full removal of Covid restrictions also made for a better experience (it’s a shame we missed bedtime with Billy Bear every night) and the service in the restaurants was a little better though still very slow at times. I also liked the accommodation better this time, but that’s not surprising given we had the Nelson state room in the Shoreline hotel which was a huge room/suite with a sea view.
We were only intending to do a second visit to Butlin’s because it was the last time we could go in term time, when it is much cheaper – but then my sister booked a weekend break for her and her daughter this August, and we decided to go with them! So if you have enjoyed my various blog posts so far on Butlin’s hopefully you will be interested to find out how an August summer holidays weekend break compares to a Just for Tots break, and which is better for younger children!