Mellow Mummy: The Sunday Review - Butlins, Bognor Regis : Taking life as it comes...

Sunday 3 October 2010

The Sunday Review - Butlins, Bognor Regis

Last month, I went to Butlins in Bognor Regis for the MADs award ceremony.

I'll admit it, going to Butlins had never before been something I'd planned on doing. Pre-Lara, it wouldn't have appeared on my list of fun things to do in my spare time at all, and even since becoming a parent, I can't say that I had envisaged Butlins being my cup of tea. I must say, that in my short couple of days at the Bognor Regis Butlins resort I was really pleasantly surprised and now, having seen the quality of what they have on offer, it has been bumped right up my list. As a place to take an excitable toddler outside school holidays, I think it is spot on.

I've never been one for 'fun' holidays. Peaceful countryside and stunning landscapes are much more my kind of thing but I've realised now that after a mad run around a playground and a swim in a pool Lara is far more satisfied (and as such, far more manageable) than she is after a gentle stroll along a mountaintop and a quiet drink in a cafe. And, as much as it pains me to admit it, Lara enjoys watching puppet shows and is fascinated by people dressed up in bright outfits singing silly songs. This, I suppose, is childhood!

My first impressions were good. Check-in was fast and efficient. The Ocean Hotel I was staying in was smart, clean and inviting; it had bright colours and clean lines throughout and seemed a lot more grown-up than I had imagined, without being mundane! Every member of staff I encountered was friendly and wanted to engage in conversation to ensure you were enjoying your stay – I even noticed staff going the extra mile to help visitors find their way around.

My room in the Ocean hotel was compact, but extremely comfortable, extremely well-equipped and had good quality fittings. A TV with integrated DVD player meant I could listen to my own CDs and the bathroom with coloured lights was a great place for chilling out. I found the hotel breakfast restaurant to be well set-up to make life easy for families with small children. The buffet breakfast seemed like good value for money but elsewhere on the resort I found the drinks to be expensive and the food quality poor for the prices being charged.

One of the centre pieces of Butlins is the indoor entertainment pavillion. This was always a hive of activity. At times, I found it a little too noisy but with a whole host of things for children of all ages there is no way you will run out of things to do, whatever the weather. Just before the main shows there were long queues of parents waiting to go in.

Outside, all of the fairground rides were open throughout the day. Out of season I had expected the park to be shut in places but this wasn't the case. The rides looked well-maintained and fun for children of a wide range of ages. But Butlins isn't just about the kids! There are plenty of places for adults to chill out with a coffee (or something stronger). And who says adults can't have fun? Here's Sandy from Baby Baby enjoying the interactive floor in the hotel!

The other centre piece of any Butlins resort is the swimming pool. There were lots of flumes and slides but also shallow play areas for little ones. I felt that the facilities seemed fun, yet a little dated compared to the rest of the park.

I think I was a little spoiled staying in the hotel for my visit. Exploring the resort, I found the chalets to be a little grim-looking, especially towards the sea front which at this time of year is grey and windy. Looking at the prices, the hotel rooms don't seem an enormous amount more expensive for the guarantee of a little luxury – but maybe I'm just too used to life's little comforts?

The conference centre where The MADs awards took place is a great addition with good (but by no means 5* catering). I can imagine the conference centre as a wonderful place for an off-site training course venue. Maybe I should drop some hints at work?

At the end of the day, it was the Ocean Spa that won me over to Butlins! I am after all a health & beauty blogger, not just a mummy blogger. I like to be pampered. The Ocean spa was my opportunity to wash away all of the stress of the soft-play area and play at being a grown-up. At £19 for a 2-hour spa session it is an affordable treat for parents. The spa is compact but has a good range of facilities including both indoor and outdoor spa pools, a snow cave (!), steam room, sauna and incredible monsoon disco showers! The Ocean Spa also offers an impressive range of beauty treatments.

I was impressed by Butlins, I consider myself converted!

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