Nadia Sawalha at Butlins

My husband Mark and I spend most of our time trying to think of the best ways to keep our kids entertained on holiday. From villas abroad to every theme park you can think of, the strangest museums and the most specialist zoos – we’ve tried them all. We’ve probably clocked up more than eight zillion air miles, road miles, sea miles and rail miles – and we’ve encountered approximately six years’ worth of traffic jams, not-so-speedy boarding queues and train delays. 
We are what you would call diehard holiday-makers who are constantly trying to get the next ‘hit’ for our girls. And believe me, this is no easy task. I have two daughters, aged eight and three, and two step-daughters aged 12 and 17. So finding the breadth of experience that tickles everyone’s fancies is tough – especially if you’ve got a 40-year-old kid in the form of your husband, too!

Taking the plunge

A few weeks ago, Maddie came home from school and said, “My friend has been to a place called Butlins. She said it was really cool. Have you heard of it?” Mark and I didn’t quite know what to say. Yes, we’d heard of Butlins (who hasn’t!). But neither of us had ever been on holiday there, not even as kids. Our only perception of Butlins had been the old-fashioned ‘Hi-de-Hi’ one of wake-up calls, enforced exercise in the pool, sausage and chips and an entertainment programme you weren’t allowed to ignore. So it was with slight trepidation and distinct nervousness that we decided to take the plunge and do a weekend in Butlins. Bognor Regis was our destination, not Barcelona.
Within half an hour of setting off, me and my hubby were flabbergasted by the lack of traffic. It was as if Moses had appeared and parted the sea of cars, clearing the roads so that we were driving up to the famous Butlins sign within an hour of leaving home. It was a little like that moment in Jurassic Park when they arrive at the park gates. We all got a funny tingling of excitement as we drove beneath the sign we all knew so well and parked up at the Ocean Hotel.

Colourful and zingy

We weren’t prepared for such a smooth operation. No sooner had we entered than the colourful reception area, the disco lifts and the zingy bedrooms had us all believing we were in a slick boutique hotel. Having dumped our bags, we stepped out on to the balcony and got an eyeful of the Butlins bubble that lay beneath us.
Needless to say – and without going into exhaustive detail – we all proceeded to use virtually every activity at the resort. Just to list some of our favourites, we loved the big deck chairs, fish pedicure, food at Turner’s, doughnuts, carousels, Formula 1 kart-driving, constant flume action in the swimming pool and stage shows galore.
Basically, every single one of us got hooked big-time. After all the money we’ve spent on other great getaways, it transpires that the best and most indulgent answer to our holiday prayers lay just an hour’s drive away! Now our youngest keeps asking, “Mummy, daddy – when can we go back to Ducklings?” So are we coming back soon? You bet!