Earlier in 2016 we were delighted to be chosen as Butlins Ambassadors. Neither Matt nor I have ever been to Butlins and, for some reason, we both assumed it wouldn’t really be our kind of holiday. When the kids found out we were visiting for February half term they were absolutely thrilled; they’d seen the adverts on TV and were counting down how many sleeps we had left!
We stayed at Butlins Minehead for three nights from Friday-Monday. It’s a fairly short drive from where we live in Gloucestershire which was ideal with three small people in tow. The weather upon arrival, and for the whole weekend, was pretty glorious!
Instead of describing our trip in a chronological order I’ll break it down into the key areas to ensure you get a clear picture of our break and to try and stop myself rambling!
Check-in & Accommodation
We arrived at Butlins Minehead around 3:15pm and were immediately directed to the West Lakes Village Reception at the back of the resort. Our booking included a stay in one of the West Lake Village chalets and we were excited to see what they were like in real life as they looked stunning online.
We parked the car and headed into Reception to check-in. We were greeted by a very friendly lady who provided us with our chalet key, resort information also explained that the kids could hire scooters for the entire weekend or just for a few hours – what a great idea on such a large complex. Scooter hire is available up to the age of 6 (approximately).
We drove to our parking space outside our chalet – there was plenty of parking, specifically for the West Lake Village residents, and walking distance to each chalet was minimal. The first thing that struck us was how peaceful it seemed, we hadn’t seen another soul and you couldn’t hear anything other than the occasional duck quacking. We entered the accommodation and were immediately blown away by how clean it was – it looked pristine, as if we were the first people to ever stay there. The chalet had three bedrooms; a double, a twin and a bunk bed. The lounge and kitchen are adjoined and opened on to a sizeable balcony over the lake. The sun was shining and it was just stunning.
The cot was already set up for Elsie which meant one thing less for us to worry about. There were also two small packs of toiletries in the bathrooms, a clean tea towel, mini washing up liquid and three dishwasher tablets. The kitchen was well equipped with a microwave, dishwasher, fridge/freezer and kettle with complimentary tea and coffee. You can see a tour of our chalet on my You Tube channel.
The maid came in daily to make the beds, clean the floors, refresh any towels which were dirty and tidy up – they even did any washing up left by the sink. It was lovely to come home to a clean chalet each day.
Our holiday came with a premium dining package which meant we had the choice of two buffet restaurants on site for morning and evening meals; The Deck and The Yacht Club.
Lunch was not included although there are plenty of establishments on site to buy food.
After we’d settled into our chalet and found our bearings on site we headed for the restaurants. We chose to eat in The Yacht Club the first evening and I have to say I was a little underwhelmed. Although we had the choice of where to sit we inadvertently sat under a large, loud air conditioning unit which made it difficult to hold a conversation over dinner. The decor was lacking and certainly didn’t feel premium upon first impressions.
The table was clean and laid up ready for diners, there were plenty of high chairs available but sadly, after asking for a pouch of food for Elsie the best they could offer me was one aged for babies 4+ months. Well, Elsie was almost nine months and so I popped to the other restaurant just next door and was able to get a pouch nearer her age range. We ended up making do with suitable finger/soft food from the buffet for the remainder of the trip. The facilities for those travelling with babies however are, on the whole, good. A microwave, disposable bibs and plastic cutlery and crockery are all available freely.
Matt and I both had fish and chips and I would say it was average at best. Matt did make a comment along the lines of “how many days have those chips been sat there?” as they were a little shrivelled and cold but the fish was lovely and chunky with a crispy batter. The kids were happy with the never-ending ice-cream and the puddings looked pretty good although I was far too full to try any. Whilst Matt and I finished our meal the two older kids played outside the restaurant on the climbing frame which as viewable from our table.
Breakfast was much more along the lines of what I had hoped for. We chose to eat in The Deck Restaurant and it was decorated in a more modern style and the buffet selection was larger. The breakfast was one of the highlights of our break – it was delicious. The hot selection was of great quality and there was plenty of fresh fruit, pastries, cereal and yogurt – I’ve never seen the kids eat so much breakfast!
I have to say the remainder of the meals from The Deck restaurant were lovely; there were themed nights such as Indian and Italian as well as an ice cream station on the last night which was basically a kids dream; a whole array of sprinkles and sauces and you can visit as many times as you like!
So, what is there to do?
Well, just about everything you can think of! The fairground was a firm favourite with us – the kids loved being able to go on rides time and time again with only a few minutes wait for each. There are height restrictions for most of the rides so an adult will need to accompany the younger guests but, to be honest, I think Matt enjoyed the rides just as much as the kids!
We also spent a good deal of time playing in the arcades; we all enjoyed a go on the 2p machines and it was exciting for the kids to exchange the tickets we had won at the end of our stay.
As the weather was so fantastic we made good use of the outdoor facilities including hiring a family bike and using the adventure playgrounds. One of the playgrounds was a particular favourite as it was located so close to the pub – everyone’s happy!
Of course, you can’t come to Butlins and not visit the Splash water world! Now, I’m not the biggest fan of indoor pools they take me right back to my school days but I was pleasantly surprised. There were plenty of changing rooms available although I’d have like to of seen more family changing rooms as it was a little difficult trying to get five people dried and dressed when split between three changing rooms! There are high chairs and change mats available for babies which helped us be a little more hands free to help Logan and Flo get dried and dressed.
The pool area itself was clean and large. The kids had a blast and loved floating around the lazy river. Elsie was able to go almost everywhere in her swim ring which made for a lovely, inclusive family experience.
During the evenings we were able to relax whilst the kids watched one of the many shows put on by the fantastic entertainment teams. The first night we watched The Wizard of Oz, the next evening was a show produced by Justin Fletcher and the final evening was an adaption of Dick Whittington. The kids were engrossed in all the shows and sat right at the front. With the redcoats keeping an eye on them we felt comfortable sitting a little further back and enjoying a drink.
On Sunday morning we found our seats in the Skyline Pavillion to watch the Teletubbies show. Once again the kids sat at the front and Elsie sat with us – she was absolutely loving it and even did her first ever wave at the Teletubbies! It was the cutest thing!
If we’d have had another day we could have taken the kids bowling, go karting or on the zip wire. There were also lots of indoor activities such as crafting or learning to play the drums but as the weather was so great we made the most of it! There really is plenty to do come rain or shine!
Service & facilities
There really isn’t any need to leave Butlins during your stay. The site has numerous food outlets and shops to buy everyday essentials and the swimming pool stocks all the things you might need for yourself or the kids e.g. swim nappies, swimming costumes and float aids. There are cash machines on site if required which charge £1.25 per withdrawal, however, I do believe that cash back is available on site if you spend over £5.
In terms of facilities for babies I was really impressed. Baby food is readily available in the restaurants and we also found a microwave, bottle warmer and more baby food available in Bar Rosso in the Skyline Pavillion. Butlins really have tried to make it as easy for parents as possible.
We don’t tend to need baby change facilities as much nowadays as Elsie is getting a little older but I did stick my head in the baby change room in the ladies toilets located at the theatre and the facilities were spotless! I completely forgot to ask Matt to see if the gents had one too.
The staff we came into contact with her certainly a credit to Butlins. They were friendly, helpful and in good supply! There was always someone to help you out if you were lost, or keep your kids entertained whilst you waited for a show to start. One member of staff which really made us smile was the restaurant greeter at The Deck and Yacht Club – we didn’t catch his name but he made the kids laugh every morning. The staff in the restaurant itself made an effort to chat and keep the tables clear.
The buffets in the restaurants were always clean and tidy and everything felt hygienic and as clean as I would expect it to be.
Matt and I both agreed that Butlins far exceeded our expectations; from the accommodation to the facilities and food. There’s no denying that we all laughed from beginning to end and were completely exhausted when the time came to check out but this wouldn’t be a real review if I didn’t mention the few items which I felt could have been improved upon.
A few things I’d like to see improved are; the quality of the decor and atmosphere in The Yacht Club (it needs to feel premium if people are paying extra for it), the quantity of family changing facilities in the Splash centre and a mirror provided in the en-suite bathroom of the chalet.
In an ideal world Butlins could introduce some kind of cashless system whereby extra meals or purchases on site are charged back to your room.
I’d like to say a massive thank you to Butlins for choosing us ambassadors. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at Butlins Minehead – it was the total opposite to what we expected and provided us with much needed family time. I’d recommend it in an instant and would love to see how Bognor Regis and Skegness compare!
If you’ve been to Butlins let me know what you thought in the comments below!