Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Butlins Skegness review

We've recently returned from a Monday to Friday family trip to Butlins. We decided on Skegness in Lincolnshire as it's the closest to our home in the North East. It took us around 3 and a half hours to travel down the country in the pouring rain but we found Butlins at Skegness using the postcode on the Sat Nav with ease.

Our 4 night self catering break cost a very reasonable £176.10 which included an additional £15 for the use of Wifi access during our stay.

Butlins caters for a range of people and visits, including Just for Tots, Live music weekends and festive, Christmas breaks. Our stay was during a normal term time period so we had expected it to be quite quiet, but it wasn't, rather surprisingly there were a lot of school age children visiting. 

Check in
When we arrived it was raining heavily! We were directed by a very wet man to our check in area which was at the other end of the park. A drive thru check in is available which was ideal for us when the weather was so bad.

There are a few different check ins once you're inside so you do need to pay attention to the signs and check you booking details to make sure you follow the correct route.

The man at the check in window was very friendly and took his time to explain where to go next and show us on the map the different parts of the site. He also made the effort to chat and acknowledge the little man, who was rather excited that he got his own little map.
We booked a silver apartment to stay in during our visit. It was located in Starfish Quay in a block called Marlin Court. Starfish Quay was about a 6 minute walk away from the Skyline Pavilion and Splash Water World.  It was a downstairs apartment, situated right on the corner of the block quite near the bin area.

The sitting room area had a TV coffee table and two small leather sofas. We took the little mans can mat for him to play with, just in case you were wondering what the strange green rug is in the picture. The living area was cosy but gave us enough space to sit together to watch TV. The carpet was clean and much nicer than cold laminate floor which we'd been expecting. The sofas were quite worn and each arm was damaged with holes in the leather which did make it look a little grubby.
Size wise I was pretty impressed, With two bedrooms (one twin and one double) it was the ideal size for a small family holiday. There was a wide entrance hall with plenty of room for buggy storage, a large open plan living room and kitchen/dinner containing a table and chairs, microwave, oven, fridge with small freezer and plenty of kitchen equipment. I was also grateful when we first arrived to find a small selection of tea and coffee making products which meant we didn't need to head straight out for milk. There's also a small cleaning welcome pack provided which included a tea towel, dish cloth and small bottle of washing up liquid.
I was a little surprised to find there was no child proofing at all in the kitchen and dining area. Every single cupboard at ground level (and there was a lot of them) was accessible to the little man. He took great pleasure in opening and closing each door repeatedly, and once he discovered the collection of glass ware inside he was obsessed. We ended up having to move anything breakable into the cupboards above to make things a little safer. 
The bedroom cupboard was home to an ironing board, iron and clothes airer. Each bed was made up with plenty of clean bedding with an ample amount of pillows. The duvets were thick enough for the cooler night times and It was nice to see more than one pillow each on the bed. Towels aren't provided in Silver accommodation so remember to take your own.
The apartment was reasonably clean through out but I did give everything a good clean when we first got there. The only real downside with regards to the cleanliness of the apartment was the awful bathroom floor. It was really dirty with mould in the corners and a rotten wooden door frame. I was very wary of little the little man in there, after I'd cleaned everything with anti bacterial cleaner I made sure a large towel covered the floor during our stay.
Eating and Drinking
We had decided against the dining options when we booked our break as we're not really fans of regimented meal times, and queueing for meals with a toddler isn't my idea of fun. You can book two different types of dining for your stay if you wish, but it does add quite a lot to your holiday cost. It;s a great idea though if you want to take away the stress of cooking during your stay.

On our first night we ventured out for food. We initially went to the Sun and Moon pub which is through the Skyline Pavillion, just past Splash Waterworld. It looked like a family friendly pub, not too dissimilar to a Brewers Fair with a children's play area outside (though nothing for smaller children). It wasn't too busy and we found a table easily. After locating a highchair and choosing what we wanted to order we went to the bar where we were told there was a 40 minute wait for food! A 40 minute wait for food when you have a hungry 19 month old just isn't going to work so we had no choice but to leave. I couldn't believe how long the wait for food was when the pub was barely half full, I dread to think what it would be like during the school holidays.

We had a similar experience at Firehouse, a Nandos-esque restaurant which actually looked really nice from outside. The queue was out of the door and it just wasn't practical to wait to be seated when the little man was due his tea. There's an Italian restaurant near to the two places we tried but that was closed.

We finally ended up eating at the fish and chip restaurant in Skyline Pavillon which was tasty and reasonably priced, but not an ideal tea for a toddler.

The following day we'd intend on visiting guest services to see if we could pay for one of the dining options but instead we headed along to Tesco in Skegness and spent £50 on food which lasted us for the rest of our stay. Although we'd have liked to have eaten out on an evening, we didn't want to risk waiting round for ages with a tired and hungry little man.

Splash Waterworld
Located just outside the Skyline Pavillion, Splash Waterworld is home too a large selection of pools and slides. The pool has something for all ages but it's VERY busy all of the time. The water smelt very strongly of Chlorine which I believe means its not very clean (yuk) and the three of us had sore eyes by the time we left. Nevertheless, the little man thoroughly enjoyed splashing round. There are three small slides in the shallow children's pool which he was able to go down himself and he absolutely loved it.

We struggled to find family changing rooms in the pool. As the majority of people visiting are likely to be families, I'd expected more family sized changing facilities and child friendly changing options. We struggled to find a baby changing table and none of the changing rooms had child seats where little people can safely sit while their parents get ready.
There was quite a good selection of day time entertainment on, particularly for younger guests. The little man enjoyed messy play in the Little Stars Studio which is also home to a room containing a good range of soft play equipment and Little Tikes toys. He thoroughly enjoyed playing with the cars and running in and out of the play houses. Parents must supervise their children whilst they're using the equipment, there are plenty of seats dotted round the room to make this easy.
There are fairground rides for both toddlers and older children. During our visit they started working from around 11am and ran until 5pm. They're a great idea and included with the price of your holiday, so there's nothing extra to pay.

There are various other day time entertainment options available at Butlins, including Quasar Elite, Adventure Golf, Archery and the Spa, some of which incur an additional charge.

Most things are centered round the Skyline Pavilion, its central on the site and home to most of the restaurants and shops, as well as an arcade, and a sweet shop.
There are different venues on site for the evening entertainment including The Skyline Pavilion, Reds and Hotshots. We only stayed out for the evening entertainment once so I can't comment on the variety of other acts. The night we stayed out, we watched the Skyline Gang do a range of dances and songs which the little man seemed to enjoy, It did start quite late though. We found out on the last night that there was actually a tots disco in a different location but we hadn't realised so we missed it.
You can access the beach at Skegness from the back of Butlins. The gate is manned by a member of staff who checks you key card when re entering. The beach is great and during our visit was really quiet. It's a long walk to the water but the sand is clean and there was very minimal rubbish. Bare in mind though, the gates are locked at 6pm, meaning you've got a long walk round the perimeter to get back into Butlins.

Other facilities
Butlins has a rather handy hire shop where you can hire various items to use during your stay. seemingly the most popular seems to be the mobility scooter. They were everywhere! You can also hire items like kids trikes and microwaves. The prices didn't seem too bad and it's a handy extra to have.

Unfortunately during out stay the little man was sick so we had cause to wash and dry our towels from home. We knew there was a launderette somewhere on site but it turned out it was actually on the touring caravan side of Butlins which is accessed via a subway under the road from the main site. It was quite a trek on foot from our apartment with a heavy bag of towels. It was also very expensive! A standard wash costs £4 and you'll need to buy washing powder unless you've brought some from home which costs 70p for one wash. If you wish to dry your washed clothes that will cost you even more. In total it costs us £7.70 to wash and dry three towels and a tea towel!

What we liked

The staff were great. From checking in to going home almost every member of staff was friendly, helpful and upbeat. Most made as much effort with the little man as they did with Hubby and I which was a really nice touch.

Nice wide entrance area in the apartment which is perfect for storing a pushchair and selection of shoes.

There's a good amount of space in the Silver apartments, much more than we'd expected. The kitchen area is huge with a table and chairs and plenty of bench and cupboard space.

The good range of things to do for younger children. The Little Stars Studio and the soft play near the fairground were both favourites

The coffee shop in the Skyline Pavilion was great. The service and standard of both food and drinks were great.

What we didn't like

Unloading and loading up your car is difficult, particularly if you have small children. There are a few car spaces close to the apartments but not surprisingly they were already taken when we checked in. We had to park in the main car park and use a luggage trolley (which are free to use) and juggle bags and the little man bag to the apartment. 

There's no bath, just a small, compact shower which is quite awkward to wash a small child in who isn't the biggest fan of showers.

The apartment wasn't as clean as I'd have liked. Whist I appreciate the turn around for the cleaners is quite tight (people leaving on the morning and new guests arriving on the afternoon) I don't think there's any excuse for the state the bathroom floor was in.

The constant smell of cigarette smoke. Every entrance to every building or attraction was surrounded by people smoking. It's not ideal for a young child to walk through a thick cloud of smoke. We also found a huge amount of cigarette ends round the perimeter of our apartment where previous people had clearly smoked out of the windows.

Drunk people knocking on your front door at midnight. This happened twice. It is difficult to differentiate between the apartments, and obviously even more so when you've had too much to drink. It's not ideal when your child is woken up by a stranger banging on the door though.

Being in a ground floor apartment is noisy, particularly when the stairs to the upstairs level run right next to the wall of your bedroom. We could hear ever footstep, movement and game of football (yes, really!) from the apartment above.

We found the food choices for self catering guests very limited and quite unhealthy. We didn't want to eat Burger King or fish and chips all time, but due to the waiting times in the other restaurants we we had little other option if we wanted to eat out. The queues were lengthy in the restaurants even from early on, a wait til of 40 minutes for food is no good when you have a toddler.
So, what we go again?

Yes, probably. Although I have listed quite a few negatives, the fact the little man enjoyed himself does matter more. The break was very cheap and overall we enjoyed ourselves. There was a lot of the little man do and it is very child orientated.

Staff were friendly and helpful and the customer service was good and that really makes a difference on any kind of break or holiday.

I do think cleanliness is a bit of an issue, I'd like to think we had a one off bad experience, but I'm not sure. If we do return I will definitely upgrade and stay in a gold apartment where I'd like to think the standard of the apartment would be much better.

Have you been to Butlins before?

Sunday, 4 October 2015

My Sunday Photo


Horrid Henry competition

Horrid Henry was created by Francesca Simon with the first book  written way back in 1994. Since then a popular TV series has followed.

Henry is horrid. His family, teachers and neighbours all say so. If someones put itching powder in someones swimming trunks, sold their brother as a slave, or flattened all the tents on the family camping holiday, you can bet it's Henry.

Henry is a naughty little prankster who is often faced with a dilemma. Each show consists of him trying to get out of it by using trickery, rule breaking and general naughtiness. Perfect Peter is Henry's poor brother, who is the complete opposite to Henry. He's kind, polite and nice to everyone. 

Fans of the Horrid Henry books and BAFTA nominated TV series,  will be pleased to learn there's a brand new app from p2games called Horrid Henry’s Big Box of Pranks, which is available iOS and Android devices for only £2.99. The app features a range of fun mini games which are based on Henry's love of all things naughty!

To celebrate the release, P2 are offering one of my blog readers the chance to win a Horrid Henry prixe bundle, featuring Horrid Henry ‘s Big Box of Pranks app, a copy of Horrid Henry It’s All Your Fault DVD and a Horrid Henry Costume.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms and Conditions 
  • A winner will be chosen randomly via Rafflecopter 
  • The winner will be notified via email and Twitter (if you leave your handle) 
  • ALL entries are checked and if any of your entries are found to be fake ALL of your entries will be disqualified. 
  • Fake entries/automated entries will be disqualified. 
  • You will have 28 days to respond to the winning notification, if you don't a new winner will be chosen. 
  • The prize will be sent directly from the company.

Big boys bedroom inspiration

The little mans nursery is slowly being updated into his big boys bedroom. I've spent hours scouring the internet for inspiration and ideas and I've found myself becoming obsessed with Pinterest.

I've found some gorgeous bedroom items during my searches. The world of children's bedrooms is a little bit amazing!
The world of beds has dramatically changed since I was a little girl. You can buy bunk beds, cabin beds, mid sleeper beds, and a multitude of other types of beds, you can even buy personalised beds!
I can't believe how many bedding options there are for children. Two of my favourites come from George at Asda. I absolutely adore the Very Hungry Caterpillar set. We love the book in this house. The set is quite simple but easily identifiable for younger children,
I love simple furniture with plenty of storage space. These two from Ikea and perfect. Although I really like the blue colour I think it would make the little mans room quite dark, whereas the white one has lots of space for clothes and is bright.
Next have a great range of bright, colourful and fun rugs for children. I love the brightly coloured striped rug, as it has lots of colours running through it, it'd still be suitable if we changed the little mans decor at a later stage.

The products featured above can be bought from retailers - OllieandLeilaIkeaAsda and Next if you'd like to order any. 

The little mans bedroom is a work in progress. I'll be sharing some pictures and updates shortly and hopefully the finished look. 

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Enchanted Forest and Friends Pyjamas review

I love seeing the little man snuggled up in comfortable pyjamas at bedtime. The weathers getting chilly on a night so when Enchanted Forest and friends asked me if he'd like to try out some of their long sleeved pyjamas, I jumped at the chance.

Enchanted Forest and Friends is a family run business selling a beautiful range of  clothing and accessories for children aged 5 and under. Their ethos is adventure, creativity, exploring, learning, getting out and having fun which I think pretty much sums up the perfect childhood. 

Their clothing features enchanting woodland creatures such as squirrels, foxes and bee's. The colours and designs are bright and eye catching and perfect for little people.
Enchanted Forest and Friends multi pj pack
The little man was sent the boys Zed Fox twin pack of pyjamas, a duo pack of brightly fox printed pyjamas made of 100% cotton. I'm adore the pretty fox print on the pyjamas. One set has a repeated print of small foxes on both the top and bottoms and the other set has a pirate themed top with super cute striped bottoms.
Enchanted Forest and Friends with child
The pyjamas are great value and I adore the prints. The little man loves the all over print set as he likes to point out each individual fox, repeatedly!
Smily child wearing Enchanted Forest and Friends pyjamas
Enchanted Forest and Friends pyjama cuffs
The pyjama bottoms are cuffed at the bottom, making them more fitted and less likely to ride up during the night. 
Enchanted Forest and Friends pyjamas worn by 19 month old
The pyjamas are well made and the quality is great. They was extremely well and haven't lost any shape or colour despite repeated washing.

The Enchanted Forest and Friends products are reasonably priced, with the duo pyjama packs costing £20. They'd made a great Christmas gift. 

*We were sent the pyjamas for review purposes. Opinions are my own*

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Aldi Halloween 2015

I love Halloween! The scary costumes, carved pumpkins and endless horror films on TV, I love it all! Last year I made the little mans costume, ordering bits from abroad and putting it all together, creating a little monster!
I've left it a little late this year, so I'm not sure what the little man's costume will be yet. If I'm stuck I might just pop to Aldi. They have some great Halloween Special buys on sale from 1st October, subject to availability. They sent us through some of their bits and pieces for the little man to use.
Alsi have a great range of Halloween products such as funny spooky spectacles and headbands, metal collecting buckets and Halloween dressing up outfits.
Not only do they have fancy dress items, Aldi also stock party and table wear if you decide to hold your own Halloween party. 
As with all Aldi items, the prices are reasonable and the quality is good. If you need to stock up on Halloween goodies, pop to your local store before stocks run out.
*We were sent the products for review purposes*

Monday, 28 September 2015

Graham and Brown - Horizon trend

As you know from my previous posts, I'm an ambassador for Graham and Brown this year, which means I get to look at new interior trends and then discuss my thoughts and interpretation of them. 

Last month I looked at Eureka and the trend this month is HORIZON. A trend all about Mother Nature and how our travels can be reflected in our home. 
“Horizon is the fluid movement of design, the sense that something special is about to happen; forecasting your hopes and dreams for your interior. This trend is all about introducing tranquil tones, adding waves of subtle colour and luxury textures to your home,” – The Horizon Trend

Other than the use of photographs and pictures how else can we bring travel and adventure into the home? Whenever we go on holiday or even on days out we like to bring something back with us. A memory to hold on to, to look at and remember. I have memory boxes full of stones, dried flowers, scraps of menus, every means something. 

Patterns and colours may remind you of certain places, calm and peaceful shades could bring back memories of a favourite beach, bright vivid shades may remind you of a bustling foreign market. 

I was instantly drawn too the Honolulu Palm Green wallpaper. It reminds me of my time living in Thailand. I spent a lot of time on Khao Takiab beach, a beautiful beach surrounded with lush green palm trees. I would sit under the palm trees, taking shade from the Scorching Thai heat, pondering life. 

Seeing this print on my walls each day would make me reminisce of fun times and a fabulous experience that I'm so glad I had. A time that seems like such a distant memory now. 
I love the rich green in the Fabric Branches wallpaper. The vibrancy gives an earthy and outside feel inside your home. I love the effect it has against the pale background colour. 
I think my favourite has to be the enchanting Mirage Grey wall paper. It has a mysteriously yet calming feel. It makes me think of a cabin in the woods, cuddling up in front of a warm fire and I think it's rather apt for the current cold crisp Autumn mornings.

Does the Horizon trend fit in with your home at all?

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

The World's Most Dangerous Stunts Performed by Stars

Hubby and I both love movies, the thrill, the edge of your seat anticipation and the unbelievably able action shots.  Cinema visits have become a thing of the past but that doesn't stop us curling up to watch a recent release on our wide screen TV, 

We tend to watch a range of films. I love a good dramatic horror or heart wrenching sob story whereas Hubby loves adrenaline infused action, complete with explosions, car chases and the inevitable death defying stunt. 

Some stunts in films look absolutely amazing, even more so when you know the actor has chosen to skip the use of a stunt double and do it themselves. I think it makes the acting look more authentic and to be honest, I'd much rather watch an actor who takes their art to the extreme, risking injury for the correct shot, so we as the viewers get a fantastic experience. 

Surprisingly, many A listers actually do their own stunts. Angelina Jolie did all of her own stunts in the film Salt, where she plays an FBI agent who has been accused of being a Russian spy. It's quite impressive to learn she learnt Muay Thai and Krav Maga just to play the part. 

Harrison Ford is another who is star happy to risk injury for his art, carrying out many of his own stunts in the Indiana Jones series of films. 

More recently, Tom Cruise did his own stunts in his new film, Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation which got Into the Blue thinking about other actors who perform their own stunts. 

Do you recognise any of these yourself? Did you know the actors did them without stunt doubles?

The World’s Most Dangerous Stunts Performed by Stars infographic below shows some of crazy stunts celebs have done themselves. 
If you fancy trying out some stunts of your own you can always check out Into the Blue yourself, they provide a wide range of experiences days, including indoor skywalking and rally driving.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

I worry about my child's future

We only need to look at the news to see the ongoing ordeal the Syrian refugees are facing, the constant threat of terrorism and the rising crime rates. There are plenty of this things for us to worry about today, so I dread to think what the future holds for our children. 

A post by Pocketful of Rye, sharing the results of a survey commissioned by the leading online UK voucher, coupon and discount deals website, My Voucher Codes, shows some results from research into family lives and the main concerns parents have for their children's future.

The results after asking over 1000 UK families showed that 44% of parents were concerned about financial instability and the economy, 40% were worrying mainly about the threat of terrorism and extremism, 37% thought houses prices and high rents were a big worry, 24% felt uneasy about about crime, 14% were concerned by bullying and 11% were on edge about drugs.

The survey also looked at results from different regional areas:-
London – Financial instability and economy – 48%
Scotland – Extremism, terrorism and safety – 30%
South West – Extremism, terrorism and safety – 43%
South East – House prices and high rents – 75%
Wales – Financial instability and economy – 60%
West Midlands – Financial instability and economy – 71%
East Midlands – House prices and high rents – 40%
Yorkshire & the Humber – Financial instability and economy – 60%
North East – Financial instability and economy – 57%
North West – Extremism, terrorism and safety – 68%
Northern Ireland – House prices and high rents – 33%
In the North East, where we live, financial instability and the economy were the most predominant worries. This doesn't actually surprise me. There are a lot of people in the North East out of work, relying heavily on the benefit system and living in social housing. 
I worry daily about the little man, whether it's the fact he hasn't eaten his dinner, isn't reciting his 9 times table or something much more serious like struggling to find a job later in life. 
Nowadays, a job is very rarely 'for life'. Work can be hard to come by and even harder to keep. When I left school at 16, I was lucky that I walked straight into a reasonably well paid job and have worked and studied ever since. I worry that when the little man is older he'll struggle to find a career, struggle to earn a reasonable wage and struggle to be self sufficient. 
I also worry about how hard it will be for him to get onto the property ladder, house prices rise but the average wage doesn't increase enough to allow people to have a disposable income and the luxury of saving regularly towards a deposit. The average wage isn't usually enough to get onto the property ladder and parents often need to contribute if they wish their child to own their own home. My own Mother paid for over half of our mortgage deposit which we were extremely grateful for. Although my husband and I both worked full time we struggled to pay off old debt, pay rent and save enough each month towards a house deposit, we didn't by our first home until we were in our late 20's and I suspect this age will continue to rise. 
Like most, I worry about terrorism. immigrants and the threat that we as a country face each day. I worry for the little mans safety but at the same time I don't want him to miss out on things because he's too scared to go anywhere to take chances. The government need to make firm decisions on how we police our borders, the welfare we offer immigrants and ways in which we can make the UK safe. Whenever something of note happens, the UK seems to come to a standstill, we seem unable to cope with anything out of the ordinary, we never seem to have a back up plan. 
I worry about how much schools have changed dramatically in recent years. Not a week goes by without a report of knife crime or gun crime or a teacher being assaulted. What happened to children going to school to learn and pupils respecting the authority of staff, it seems schools have become a place where your social standing is more important than your education. I want my child to have a good education, respect his teachers and enjoy his school years without being frightened of being stabbed, attacked of bullied. 
Although crime is always a worry, with regards to crime rates I actually feel quite lucky to live in the North East. Gun crime, murders and serious sexual assaults are of a much lower scale that many other areas of the UK. Whilst I don't always feel 'safe', there are many places, even in this country where crimes rates are much higher and I'd be much more scared for my family and I. 
I intend to prepare the little man for the future as best I can, whilst there are many things in the world that we can't change, we can help shape him into a kind, caring and responsible person. 
I want to be in a position to help him buy his first house, teach him right from wrong, encourage him to be responsible for his own actions, work hard for what he wants and treat those around him with respect and dignity. 
What worries do you have for your children?