If you've never been on a Butlin's Big Weekender, you're missing out, BIG time...
1. Fancy dress
Everyone, but everyone dresses up, especially on the Saturday night. Be it a 90s Reloaded theme, Ultimate 80s or Disco Inferno to name but a few, you’re in for a treat. In fact, you’ll look like the crazy one if you just turn up in your average Saturday night gear. Think Spice Girls, grown men dressed as babies/women/superheroes and anything that takes your fancy! A Butlin’s virgin once said to me, ‘I’m going to die here, aren’t I?!’ when a gang of men dressed as Little Bo Beep walked towards her. But she didn’t die, she had the best time of her life and has even been back since! So dress yourself up as a Pink Lady and you might just find yourself a T-Bird…
2. The dancing
With three clubs to choose from, you’re spoilt for choice! First comes Centre Stage, which usually has a variety of acts on, followed by music from a famous DJ. And it’s big enough to fit over 1,000 people in it, so you won’t be squashed while you bust your moves. Plus, you don’t have to go far to grab a hotdog and give your dancing feet an energy boost. Next is Reds, which is where the hardcore Butlin’s ravers go – it plays dance music till at least 5.30am. And then there’s Jaks for all you cheese lovers out there. Be quick though, it’s so popular that there’s often a queue to get in.
3. The atmosphere
All Butlin’s lovers are exactly that – full of love! There’s never any fighting or bickering, everyone is just there to have loads of fun and to enjoy themselves. Even the bouncers and bar staff are always smiling, and are more than happy to help if you’ve got any problems. And you might even get lucky given half the chance!
4. The accommodation
You might think of Butlin’s and assume grotty showers, paper-thin walls and stained duvet covers, but you’d be completely wrong. In Bognor, for example, you can choose from three luxurious hotels and standard, silver or gold apartments, all of which are fully-equipped and comfy! And you’ll definitely get to know your neighbours as in Butlin’s, me casa es tu casa. At 6am one morning after dancing all night in Reds, you may even get invited to have one more drink with your fellow residents.
5. Party rooms
Whatever room you choose, you can make it your own. Anyone who’s anyone decorates their rooms – so if you’re at the Hot Summer Party, think inflatable palm trees and flamingoes, hula hoop rings, coconut cups, cocktail umbrellas and glasses. And whichever weekend you choose to party on, don’t forget the vodka jellies and a trip to the local Morrisons to stock up on wine, cider and orange juice (for mixing and for the morning!).
6. The spa
Head to Bognor for the weekend, stay up dancing till 6am on Friday night, and then treat yourself to a couple of hours at the spa. You can even keep the party going in the disco showers and have a massage afterwards to get your body and mind ready for Saturday night!
7. The celebs
From Peter Andre and Katie Price singing A Whole New World to Sinitta rocking up to dance along to So Macho and three members of S Club 7 boogying around on stage, it’s celebs galore. I know, they may be close to Z-listers but sometimes they join the Butlin’s party afterwards. I was once lucky enough to meet S Club’s Bradley. Granted, I wine-confessed that I loved him, but I still met him.
8. Butlin’s butterflies
Butlin’s is so good that the build up to your weekend will make your tummy do somersaults. If you’ve never been before, you may have nervous butterflies, but if this is your second, 12th (like me!) or 20th time, you’ll be brimming with excitement. Planning your costumes, making your party playlists and organising your road trip is all part of the fun. Trust me, putting together a Little Mermaid costume takes longer than a day…
9. Silent disco
This is way more fun than it sounds. Just stick a pair of headphones on your head and listen to the tunes in the Hotshots bar while everyone dances and sings around you. And the best thing? You can switch between two music choices – it’s just like having two DJs in your ears! And at some point during the fun, make sure you take off the headphones to listen to the medley of tunes being sung by hundreds of drunken party-goers. It’s a crazy treat for the ears and eyes!
10. Pool party
Who cares if you went to bed at 6am and the pool party starts at 11? Just keep going, it’s too good to miss. With giant inflatables, massive beach balls, water slides and a lazy river equipped with adult-sized rubber rings, the hangover will just have to wait. And don’t forget the music – we all need a bit of cheese to swim along to first thing in the morning. And if you can’t face any of the fun, just lay back in the Jacuzzi and immerse yourself in the atmosphere.
11. Recording a song
Yes, you did read that correctly. Butlin’s at Bognor and Minehead have special booths where you and your friends can record a song to remind you of your amazing weekend away. So now you can warble out your very own version of (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life and take home your recording on a CD to play to everyone (well, maybe not everyone!) There’s also the opportunity to record your own music video – you could twerk to your heart’s content and watch it over and over again as much as you like.
12. Breakfast at The Beachcomber Inn
Woken up with a throbbing headache on Saturday, Sunday or Monday morning? Then get your bum down to the pub. No, not for hair of the dog but for a good old fry-up. Believe me, their eggs, bacon, sausages (veggie options, too), alongside the hash browns, toast and massive glass of orange juice will keep you going till teatime. And you might just see a few people doing the walk of shame, stopping to have breakfast on the way. You could also spot a conquest from last night with sober eyes… cringe.
13. Papa John’s
A big, fat fry-up not enough for the day? It’s time for a Papa John’s! With an all-you-can-eat buffet, what more could your hungover belly want from life? Yes, you can eat as much pizza as you want. And if you’re ready for round two of Saturday night partying, why not have one of their tasty cocktails to wash down all that cheese and tomato?
14. The simulator
Forget all the other fairground rides at Butlin’s. Who needs a old school horse carousel or go-karts? The simulator is what it’s all about. And if you can squeeze at least three of your friends in there after eating ten vodka jellies each, you’re on to a winner. Believe me, you will literally not stop laughing for a good four minutes.
15. Butlin’s blues
This is the only thing that SUCKS about Butlin’s. You will have such an amazing time that you will never want it to end. So when it inevitably does, the Butlin’s blues will hit you. Big time. And reality is cruel. So the only way to get over those blues is to book another Big Weekend away!