I've now spent 6 weekends at Butlins. Half of these have been Big Weekends and half family weekends. This is an update to a previous review having now been back a couple more times.
First thing to do is forget any preconceived negative thoughts about Butlins and throw yourself into the experience head first!
Accommodation – I’ve stayed in one of the hotels and Atlantic Bay and Oyster Bay (silver). I prefer the apartments for a bit more space and some basic cooking facilities. However, Oyster Bay is in great need of a work over. The bathrooms are really shabby, smelly and mouldy. Atlantic bay is much better and when I booked there was no difference in the price so Atlantic Bay every time. They are also a bit more substantial and so the sound doesn’t transmit as much as Oyster Bay. In terms of doing it on the cheap I think the best way is to book well in advance and look out for the special advance deals and online booking incentives. I have watched out for last minute deals but not seen many, as most of the weekends appear to sell out. Obviously, the cheapest way is to go in the basic accommodation and have more of you sharing the apartments. A few tips for things to bring with you in the apartments - washing up liquid, bin bags, toilet roll (some supplied but not enough and very expensive in the shop)
Check-In – for the Big Weekends you need to arrive at a reasonable time as by about 6pm they are really struggling for parking. During the family holidays it’s not a problem as a family of four will turn up in one car but for the adult weekends 4 adults may turn up in 4 cars for one apartment. You can arrive from midday on. You can get into your accommodation from 4 pm (3 pm if Premier Club ie you've been a few times before) but it is usually possible to get in a little earlier. You will find wristbands in your packs that identify that you are part of the Big Weekend (and some of the family weekends) and also if you have catering packages. The wristbands are checked going into venues such as Centre Stage and Reds and also the pool. Pack everything in a large wheeled suitcase (including your food/drinks) as the “airport baggage trolleys” are hard to find and usually in the wrong place i.e. at the accommodation rather than the car parks. It seems that Butlins have invested in a few more of these now and so much easier). You may find yourself parked a long way from your accommodation. On Monday morning they do try and move as many of the trolleys to the accommodation. Checkout is at 10am on Monday but many go on the Sunday (less so for the family weekends) which means that you can leave when you like.
Catering – I’ve not done any of the dining packages so cannot comment on these. Papa John’s pizza is great. No thrills but good food and good service. I’ve had to queue during family weekends but never had a problem with the adult ones. If you turn up before 7pm you can do the buffet with as much salad and pizza as you can get down you. The pizza is continually being made – lots of variety and piping hot. Turners is good but you probably need to book before hand. Solid pub food in the pub! So, there’s plenty of choice depending on your mood and taste. It's possible to self cater, if on a budget, with "ready meals" or simple cooking in the apartments - electric hob and oven with small microwave.
Supermarket – this is well stocked but not necessarily cheap. Watch out for the alcohol, as this appears to be excessively expensive to stop individuals buying and drinking in the Pavilions, outside etc. Definitely buy your drinks in advance and there is a Tesco Express on the right hand side just as you are approaching Butlins. Often big queues at peak times as well.
Cash - there are a few ATMs that previously charged a fee but I have heard that they are now free. Most of the venues take cards and offer cash back.
Bars – for the Big Weekend at Bognor it appears to start in the main pub at about 5pm on Friday and then moves into the Skyline Pavilion from 8pm onwards with Reds and Centre Stage starting to fill at 10pm onwards. Great to wonder between all the different venues depending on which bands are on. The drinks are all the same price wherever you are on site and generally reasonable. I’ve had to queue at peak times at the bar, previously, but this seemed better this weekend. Hotshots during the football on Saturday afternoon was a real struggle so if there are a few of you its worth getting some jugs of beer etc to reduce the number of visits to the bar. Bar Rosso always seems to struggle with serving with the staff having little "bar craft". I've often given up and walked over to Hot Shots and brought drinks back to the Pavilion and Bar Rosso. Current prices - £3.50 a pint of Lager, £3.85 for San Miguel. If you want wine go large it is much better value and not far off the bottle price. Small glasses work out very expensive.
Fancy Dress – Friday night had a lot of people in fancy dress but for Saturday the majority entered into the spirit with more that 80% in costume. There was a real mixture and even if it was just a bit of fluorescent clothing it demonstrated a willingness to be part of the party atmosphere. Kids weekends - loads of fancy dress but mainly the kids!
Swimming – open only for a limited time during the Big Weekends. On Saturday there was a pool party from 11am to 2:30pm and then it closed. On Sunday it opened at 12 for a couple of hours. The pool area was quiet but a few queues for some of the water slides. However, a great way to clear the head from the night before. For family weekends this is obviously busy and I've not really found a quiet time. If you have an under five with you, you can get in ahead of general opening from 9am. The pool is open but not the slides. This gives you a head start for the slides at 10am. It's worth doing the wave blaster then as this is the longest queue. Last entry is 4:30 for a 5pm close, though the slides start closing at 4:50. Try not to get stuck in the scramble at the end. There are queues for the showers and changing cubicles and no water pressure in the showers (needed to wash off high chlorine level in pool).
Other Activities – a few of the funfair rides were on some of the Big weekend but not a lot. Hotshots had pool (approx. £6/hour) and 10-pin bowling (£6 a game, second game half price). I understand that the Spa gets booked up during the Big weekends and needs pre booking. Other than this there isn’t a lot else happening but at the end of the day it isn’t needed. For the family weekends there's loads to do. I tried archery and fencing. If you've not done them before it's a really good taster and for £5 very competitive. You should bring trainers for these and make sure you arrive ten minutes before start time. If you arrive late you just the safety briefing and won't be allowed to join in. The kids get a nice medal. At the end of the archery.
Photos for family weekends - there are professional photographers doing shoots all over with characters etc. it's elk worth buying one of the Butlins USB wrist bands for £25. You can then have as many pictures as you like on it for this fee. You can get great green screen pictures done with the family which make great cards etc. they take about 64 pictures which is more than enough for a weekend. You can then use this again if you come back in the same calendar year.
Bognor – definitely worth a wonder into town, which is a five-minute, walk away. There are quite a few pubs on the sea front and if you are lucky to have good weather very nice to sit outside.
Hassle – none at all. Everyone was perfectly behaved. I think this is mainly down to how Butlins arrange everything and also the fact that fancy dress seems to disarm people.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Bognor Regis is officially one of Britain’s sunniest locations, sitting right on the West Sussex coast. Within just a couple of hours drive from London, Butlins Bognor Regis is the perfect getaway. Known as a traditional seaside town, we’ve given it a modern ‘twist’ with two funky hotels; the Ocean Hotel and the Shoreline Hotel. There’s a relaxing spa (ideal for grown-ups) and if you feel like discovering the area around the resort, the South Downs National Park and heritage sites are right on your doorstep. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Butlins Bognor Regis Hotel Bognor Regis
- Butlins Hotel Bognor Regis
- Butlins Resort Bognor Regis