How Butlin’s changed my perception of its holiday ‘camps’.

Butlin's mug and 'fish and chips' chocolateI am sitting here this morning, a steaming mug of tea in hand, thinking of booking a Butlin’s break. Perhaps taking my family for a day visit or perhaps doing a longer stay. I’m undecided at present but, what I do know, is that it’s something I would never have imaged myself doing before last summer.

What changed? I went to a blogging conference – BritMums Live – and Butlin’s was there. The company was looking for bloggers to become ‘ambassadors’ for the organisation and help spread objective opinions about its 3 resorts. I duly applied and was one of the lucky bloggers chosen.

One year on and the next ‘generation’ of Butlin’s blogger ambassadors have just been chosen. It’s prompted me to think about my ‘Butlin’s journey’ and how my opinions of the company have changed.

When I applied to become a Butlin’s Ambassador, I didn’t do it for a ‘free’ holiday (yes, you get given a break at a resort of your choosing but, when you’re expected to photograph, film, record your every movement on Instagram and other social media channels, and analyse everything you do for a thorough review, it’s certainly not free!). I did it because I wanted to challenge the view that I had of Butlin’s. A view that hadn’t really changed since seeing Hi-De-Hi as a child and thinking that all ‘holiday camps’ were all like that. I wanted to challenge my mother-in-law’s opinion of Butlin’s (she had taken her to eldest grandsons to the Bognor Regis resort a number of years ago and had been unimpressed, particularly with the food). I wanted to see how Butlin’s had changed from days gone past and how it had moved with the times. I tried to put my preconceptions aside and view Butlin’s as objectively as possible.

In April this year, my family and I travelled to Bognor Regis to spend time at the resort. We actually ended up going twice that month, the other instance being for a Butlin’s Ambassador catch-up. I wasn’t sure what to pack but we eventually managed to get everything into the boot of the car and off we went. I wrote all about our stays in my review of Butlin’s and tried to include as many details as I could, including a list of pros and cons for 2 of the 3 hotels on the resort. I took photos…lots of photos. So many photos that I had trouble whittling them down to just under 70 (they’re all on Flickr if you’re interested). I also put together a video showing Butlin’s going gangam-style!

Both my husband and I were surprised by Butlin’s. It was different to how we had both imagined it. We had more fun than we thought we would. There was much more to do there than we thought there would be. We thought that we might prefer to spend time off resort during the day but in reality, we never even ventured as far as the car park.

What have I learnt from my time as a Butlin’s Ambassador?

I learnt that I was wrong. My original view of Butlin’s was outdated – it’s far from being a Hi-De-Hi holiday! There are no cheesy activities, just good family fun to be had. You can choose to do any and all of the activities on offer, watch however many shows you want to, or take it easy all day if you wish. There’s a lot to do but it’s still your holiday and you can make of it whatever you like – there’s no pressure on you to do anything. The Bognor Regis resort was also well maintained and kept tidy.

I learnt my mother-in-law’s opinion of Butlin’s is out-of-date too. The food was excellent. With a host of eateries to choose from, there’s real variety to be had. The buffet style meals at some of the restaurants actually suited us rather well and it was great that children had their own separate food stations with some good, healthy choices. Our favourite place to eat at Butlin’s in Bognor Regis was the Beachcomber Inn with huge portion sizes and tasty food. The food at Turner’s (the chef, Brian Turner has opened a restaurant at Butlin’s) was also very good, although we found the environment a little pretentious for 2 young children.

The accommodation at the Bognor Regis resort is excellent. Although we didn’t stay in a self-catering apartment so I can’t comment on how those are maintained, the 2 hotels we stayed in (the Shoreline and Wave) were both decorated well, with a team of housekeepers working hard every day to make sure rooms were kept clean and tidy.

The Butlin’s Redcoats are excellent and professional. They always have a smile on their faces and are friendly, even when being accosted by children when walking to and from shows on the Pavilion’s stage. It’s no wonder that some of them end up on our television screens, like Stephen Mulhern, Darren Day and even Des O’Connor.

There was a real variety of shows and all produced to a very professional standard. It really is all about giving children the best possible experience. Both Olivia and William loved the shows and being able to dance to the music in front of the stage. It made it seem almost interactive.

I’ll always be thankful for the opportunity to be a Butlin’s Ambassador and find out more about the company. Without Butlin’s bestowing this on me, I probably would never have considered their resorts as a holiday destination. So to everyone who has been chosen to be a Butlin’s Ambassador for 2013-14, I hope you have as much fun as we did.