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If you are looking for a fun family holiday in the UK, one of the best places to go is to a Butlins holiday park. Butlins is quite simply legendary for its excellent seaside locations, its fabulous theatre shows, the Redcoats and the fact that all the activities are included in the price of your holiday or break.
Butlins was founded in 1936 by Billy Butlin, and by the 1960s had 10 holiday camps, as they were then known, around the UK in popular seaside locations the best known including Clacton, Barry Island, Pwllheli, Ayr, Filey as well as Mosney in Ireland and even a camp in The Bahamas. Over the years they have operated many other holiday parks and hotels
The boom in cheap foreign holidays in the 1960s caused a decline the popularity of holidays in the UK and Butlins closed many of its much-loved locations. Today they have three holiday parks remaining in Skegness in Lincolnshire, Bognor Regis in West Sussex and Minehead in Somerset, along with a hotel in Bognor Regis.
In the last couple of decades, Butlins has completely reinvented itself, putting on weekend events aimed at adults including music festivals and conferences. But rest assured, during the school holidays Butlins is reserved for family fun!
However, you may want to go to Butlins, but it may not work for you when you are trying to book your staycation this time. Maybe you would like a holiday or a break a bit nearer to home, and the Butlins locations are too far away. Maybe you are looking for a cheaper alternative to Butlins. Maybe your chosen dates are already booked up.
So what are the alternatives to a holiday at Butlins?
The UK has a whole host of holiday parks that have followed in the footsteps of the originator of the holiday camp – parks where you can choose to go self-catering or add a dining plan, have entertainment provided, a kids club and of course a swimming pool for unlimited use!
Here we’ve listed some of the best alternatives to Butlins, with the pros and con of each, comparing what they offer for families. Happy holidays!
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Pontins was the first real alternative to Butlins. Founded in 1946 with camps that were smaller and cheaper than Butlins. While over the years there have been Pontins holiday camps at dozens of locations across the UK, there are currently four holiday parks which offer family holidays at Brean Sands in Somerset, Camber Sands in East Sussex, Prestatyn in Wales and Southport in Merseyside.
Like Butlins, they offer self-catering and catered options, and the most noticeable difference between the two is that Pontins is much cheaper than a holiday at Butlins. Like Butlins, they offer lots of activities for all the family which are included in the price. Alongside the swimming zone each site has an indoor play centre, inflatables, a skate park, crazy golf and more.
The world famous Bluecoats provide entertainment and the Croc Crew is there to entertain younger kids, all included in the price. If you want a holiday that is the most similar to Butlins, Pontins would be the perfect alternative to Butlins
Image Credit: Haven Holidays
Haven Holidays may not have the sort of iconic status that Butlins or Pontins have but they make up for it with a huge choice of locations for their holiday parks. They have 37 parks to choose from all around the UK from Scotland and Wales to Yorkshire, Cornwall and Essex.
While Butlins offer mainly apartment accommodation Haven have a choice of caravans, lodges chalets, as well as apartments, plus camping pitches at some locations. They also have glamping options too.
Haven Holiday parks offer free swimming, of course, as well as lots of activities including craft sessions for little ones, to tree-top adventures for older kids as well as sport, water sports and archery. However note that most activities are an extra cost, and free swimming needs to be pre-booked.
There is still a big choice of free entertainment with shows for kids, families and grown-ups. Prices vary quite a bit depending on the type of accommodation that you want, as a basic caravan can work out more affordable than Butlins, the luxury caravans are priced similarly to or slightly more than a break at Butlins.
If you are looking for a family holiday packed with sports and outdoor activity in a beautiful coastal location, Haven would be a good alternative to Butlins.
Image Credit: Parkdean Resorts
Parkdean Resorts is one of the UK’s largest holiday park operator with 66 distinct parks in coastal locations around Britain from the Isle of Wight to Northern Scotland. It also offers holidays in the beautiful Lake District and highlands of Scotland. Formed in 2015 from the merger of merger of Parkdean Holidays and Park Resorts, all the locations offer a choice of activities and entertainment.
Nearly all its locations have a swimming pool (do check before booking if that is important to you) and activities which are included such as adventure playgrounds, soft play areas, sports courts as well as nightly entertainment. Most locations have a kids club, again check before booking. Some activities do cost extra, such as go-karting and crazy golf.
Unlike Butlins, all the accommodation is self-catering caravans or lodges, but in general parks have a restaurant and coffee shop and a small convenience store on site, with many being close enough to a nearby town to visit if you want a bite to eat.
Parkdean Resorts are going to offer a quieter holiday than Butlins, but then they have such an amazing choice of locations that if you want a seaside holiday you have a really good chance that they have a park in the area that you want to stay. If you want a holiday where the park is a good location to use as a base for travelling further afield, Parkdean Resorts would be a good alternative to Butlins.
Image Credit: Park Holidays
Park Holidays began as a specialist in holiday parks in Kent and East Sussex and have grown to include parks all along the south coast as well as ones further north in Scotland, Derbyshire and Yorkshire.
The accommodation at a Park Holidays site is all self-catering and mainly in caravans, with the option to stay in a Luxury Lodge or in a Camping Pod (selected locations), which is like a glamping tent where you can lock the door!
For a family looking for an alternative to Butlins, you would probably want to look at their Active & Fun Holiday Parks – they also offer quiet parks as well.
The Active and Fun parks are where you will find Kids Clubs, nightly entertainment, a swimming pool, adventure playground and sports courts. Activities require pre-booking and for some things there is an additional fee. Accommodation prices are comparable with Butlins prices.
Image Credit: Dennis Kummer
Clustered around Devon, Cornwall, Dorset and the Welsh Coast, John Fowler Holiday parks offer a big range of holiday accommodation from caravans and lodges to apartments, cottages and chalets as well as glamping and camping options. The parks are all self-catering
There are two kids clubs, Foxy Club for under 11s and J-Teenz to keep the kids busy during their holiday with a programme of activities including crafts sessions (some of these have an extra cost), and all parks have at least one pool, and many have both an indoor and outdoor swimming pool.
In the evening, sit back and enjoy one of their high energy production shows filled with your favourite tunes, dancing and fantastic costumes.
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Potters Resort in Norfolk is the UK’s first all-inclusive resort, just like the ones which you stay at when you go abroad, or a bit like going on a cruise. Full board is included in the price, along with all activities, a gym, entertainment, sports, and yes, even a wide selection of drinks.
The range of activities is fantastic, including craft workshops, movie nights, Segways, Zumba, two indoor and one outdoor pool and live music. Sporty types can try everything from archery to indoor kurling, squash, a giant’s swing and a climbing wall.
Accommodation is in hotel rooms varying from a bungalow to a penthouse suite. At time of writing they are only offering short breaks of 3 or 4 days either at the weekend or midweek.
This all sounds pretty amazing, but of course inevitably this is substantially more expensive than a holiday at Butlins. As of Summer 2023 for a family of 4, Potters would cost around £1000 above what Butlins are charging for a 4 day break. However if cost is not the reason that you are looking for an alternative to Butlins, Potters would be a good option.
Image Credit: Rachel
You may think that PGL is just for school trips, but they also offer activity based family holidays at two of their locations, Barton Hall in Devon and Caythorpe Court in Lincolnshire. Like Potters they only offer short breaks of 2 to 4 days, but they are all-inclusive, so included is three meals, all the activities as well as evening entertainment.
The activities that are included are the physical type of things that you would expect from PGL, so if you want to try abseiling, archery, to play football, netball, volleyball or basketball, go canoeing, obstacle courses, climbing walls, dragon boating or even a go on a dry ski slope, this is the break for you!
Accommodation is in family rooms, but be aware it’s all single beds or bunk beds, but you might have guessed that as their usual guests are groups of school children! Costs are comparable to Butlins, but your break will be jam-packed with a huge choice of things to do.
The evening entertainment is wholesome fare, more along the lines of family quiz nights, crêpe making, karaoke evenings, treasure hunts and discos rather than a cabaret or stars of the West End.
There probably would not be much for toddlers or younger kids on a holiday like this, but for families who are looking for a break with lots of time in the great outdoors, PGL would be a good alternative to a holiday at Butlins.
If you are looking for a family holiday park in North Wales or Cumbria, Lyons Holiday Parks are specialists in this part of the world. They have 20 Parks mainly on the North Wales coast with locations in the beautiful Welsh countryside.
Accommodation is in caravans and most parks have a heated swimming pool, an adventure playground for the kids, sports facilities and evening entertainment laid on by their own entertainment team.
As well as an on-site supermarket, there are bars and coffee shops, but check individual parks for the restaurant facilities available.
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Away Resorts pride themselves on a diverse range of luxury lodges, static caravans and parks all situated within areas of natural beauty with 23 parks around the coast of Great Britain all along the south coast as well as Lincolnshire, Scotland and North Wales.
Accommodation is self-catering but each location has an on-site restaurants, bars and cafes where you can get breakfast lunch and dinner.
There is lots of things to do at Away Resorts, with special song and dance sessions for 0-4 year olds, some fantastic activities including archery, line dancing, laser tag, axe throwing or zorbing for older kids.
Most locations have an indoor heated swimming pool (but check before booking, as a few don’t) Also evening entertainment is included where available, but again check before booking if this is important to you. Some locations have an outdoor cinema too.
A holiday at Butlins offers you a holiday with so much included – you can choose whether to go self-catering or purchase a dining plan, all the entertainment, children’s events and activities are included along with that all important swimming pool!
However if you don’t want to go to Butlins, perhaps because you are looking for a more affordable option, a location that works better for you or because you just can’t book the dates that you need, there are lots of excellent alternatives to Butlins holiday parks in the UK.
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