Empty beach at Bibione

Empty beach at Bibione via Shutterstock

I am going to indulge in my love of Italy today as this is the time of year I see all my Italian friends post their holiday photos on Facebook and it takes me back to the holidays I enjoyed whilst living there.

Bibione, such a lovely word to say, is on the northern Adriatic coast not far from Venice. It’s a very popular destination as it is so easy to get to and it is totally geared up for families. Bibione has been celebrating family holidays since the first hotels went up in the 50’s and you’ll find some of them have been passed down through the family from generation to generation.

This family run business has so many pros to offer the guests, a personal and individual touch where the hosts recognise the needs of various families and are quick to satisfy them.

The Beach

Bibione is a long straight flat beach stretching into the distance with fine, soft sand. The hotels and ‘bagnini‘ aka lifeguards have rows and rows of umbrellas laid out for the guests but as the beach is so vast there is a lot of space between one umbrella and the next, plenty of privacy for families to enjoy themselves without feeling crammed in. You’ll be pleased to know that an umbrella and two sun loungers are included in your hotel booking which is a great saving on a family holiday.

A typical day in Bibione

We would choose a family hotel with a swimming pool often by the beach. As we went to breakfast Tommy, my oldest, would run down the beach with a couple of beach towels and place them on the umbrella closest to the water’s edge, a necessary tactic when it is busy and you want to keep your eyes on the kids who of course want to be near the water ;)

Mornings would be spent on the beach, I’d be able to read my book on the sun lounger and watch the kids play by the water’s edge. The beaches are amazingly well equipped with first aid, life guarding, baby changing stations, hot showers, walkways for strollers, play areas for kids and free games and entertainment. A mid morning espresso at the local beach bar with a glass of water was a great way to get myself off the sun lounger.

I must mention the sea at Bibione has obtained it’s 24th blue flag this year. Wooohooo!

When it started to get too hot we’d go back to the swimming pool and rest in the shade as we waited for lunch. Yes, full board includes a three course lunch with a huge choice and a magnificent salad buffet. My tip is watch out as the food is so good you’ll be piling on the pounds. ;)

Italian summers are very hot and straight after lunch is the ideal time to read in your room or make use of the hotel indoor facilities. We would head down to the beach from 3pm onwards and stay till 6 pm or later depending on our evening arrangements.

What else is there to do in Bibione?

Tons.

Sailing, kayaking, playing fields and courts for the sporty. Bike riding inland and around the lagoon, nature watching around the lagoon. Bird watching for heron and storks. Fishing valleys, a lighthouse to visit and century old woods to explore.

Day trips from Bibione

Venice is a stone’s throw away and of course so are Murano and Burano which are incredibly beautiful. Verona, Vicenza, Padova and Treviso are all within a day’s trip and each of these Italian cities of the pianura are beautiful in their own individual ways.

Disclosure: This post is in collaboration with Bibione which I truly recommend as a perfect family holiday.

Enjoying Bognor Regis with the girlsOur most recent Butlins Bognor Regis break was The Best Ever. Thank you so much Butlins for asking me to be a Butlins Ambassador again for 2013 too – yippee!

I’ve been challenged on Twitter recently, the statement was ‘If it’s for free the review is bound to be positive’ and yes it is lovely to be a Butlins Ambassador and receive a free holiday for my family to enjoy but if I cannot find fault, if all of the staff are genuinely nice and happy, the room is clean and comfortable, the food is varied and delicious and the Splash Waterworld is Out Of This World. What shall I do? Make it up?

Never! Check this out :D

Shoreline Hotel accommodation

We were given a Nelson Stateroom in the Shoreline Hotel with a huge terrace overlooking the sea. The wall of glass separating us from that view opened up the room even more and gave it such a glamorous feel it was like rubbing shoulders with the celebs! The girls had their own room with bunk beds and a TV. The main room served as our bedroom but had an area with a sofa and coffee table too.

The housekeeping team are really lovely and left towel art on the bed every day.

Butlins Shoreline Hotel

Paul on the phone: I’m on the beach. Can you see me?

Butlins Entertainment guide

On checking in you get given the entertainment guide and it’s really easy to follow. Check the colour box of the age of your kids and start to choose from those events. We saw a brilliant Lazytown production, Beauty and the Beast panto (excellent), Mike the Knight stage production – the kids LOVED it, Cirque du Carnival (utterly breathtaking) In fact there is so much to do you won’t fit it all in.

Butlins for family holidays

Splash Waterworld

The Bognor Regis Splash Waterworld is even better than the one at Butlins Skegness which we reviewed earlier in the year because it has a bumpy slide that children can use (our girls aged 4 loved it) plus another 3 slides, one of which the Space bowl and also a Master Blaster run where you sit in a dinghy and whizz around the closed circuit with bumps and hills and slides and you end up diving down a chute into a long stretch of water, it is awesome, I tried it out just for you.

Butlins by the sea

image courtesy of David Weekes

Butlins fairground

There’s a fairground for big people and then there’s a mini fairground for small people. Even the people looking after the rides interact with the kids giving them high fives as they pass by and generally making sure everyone is enjoying themselves.

There’s a Driving School – a piste with pedal operated cars which little ones sit on and drive round. Your worst problem will be dragging them away from it!

Then there’s Bob the Builder’s play area, a huge sand pit with diggers, and pulleys and all sorts of contraptions to keep the kids busy.

Butlins Bognor Regis

Butlins dining plan

Possibly the most important thing on your holiday review checklist? Food. Butlins have various options to choose from, we were on the half board dining plan and ate in the Shoreline Hotel restaurant. As the Shoreline Hotel caters for families with young children the restaurant opens around 5pm and closes at 9pm circa you are invited to book a table at your preferred time to avoid long queues – never good with hungry, tired children. Then it’s eat as much as you can. The little ones have their own serving station with Annabel Karmel recipes, there is plenty to choose from and we even managed to introduce a couple of new tastes too.

One last thing I have to mention is you can invite friends or family to come and visit for a day whilst you are there. Butlins very kindly gave us a family pass for Paul’s twin and family who spent the most fantastic day with us, we were able to take them all over the complex, fairgrounds, swimming pool and restaurant too. Thank you Butlins x

TOP Butlins tips

  • You can use your vouchers to eat elsewhere on the resort, I wanted to try out Turner’s restaurant and made my way over Sunday morning but I was too late, they were fully booked. So book on day 1 if you’d like to do this. ;)
  • Staying at the Shoreline Hotel you can visit Billy Butlins in his bedroom for storytime and tuck him into bed.
  • You can book a table for the character breakfast
  • you can post a letter to Billy who will leave his reply in your room.

So many fun things to do that keep the children totally awed and make sure parents get to relax and enjoy themselves too. A proper family holiday. Find out more here Butlins plenty of last minute deals if you’re still looking ;)

Disclosure: Our Butlins Bognor Regis short 3 night break with dining plan costs £1,164 for 4 (2 adults +2) with daily housekeeping included we were kindly offered this holiday by Butlins in return for a fair review and we LOVED it.

North Devon coast

Not all of us have pots of money ready to spend as much as we’d like to on holidays but quality family time together is pretty high on everyone’s list, so if the only option is a BUDGET Holiday, what exactly are we letting ourselves in for?

Many holiday companies are offering cheaper deals so I thought it would be a good idea to try one out for myself and report back to you with my findings.

This year Other Half and his twin hit the big 4-0 and it gave us all a brilliant excuse to book up a Bank Holiday weekend away. We looked into it last year and as North Devon is a place where they spent many of their childhood holidays it seemed the perfect place to go back to plus the fact I love a cream tea and a Cornish pastie.

Each family booked their own accommodation with Woolacombe Bay Holiday Parks and we went for the very lowest which was scary in itself, what would we find? Would it have a roof?

budget holiday home - Woolacombe Bay

Woolacombe has four parks to offer each with it’s own unique set up but you can cross from one to the other as and when you please. We stayed at Twitchen Park. The site is set around a beautiful manor house of the same name which dates back to 1881. One set of our group stayed in an apartment in the Grade 2 listed building and I was fascinated to see so many original features. An enormous apartment which sleeps 8 in three bedrooms plus lots of extra space to enjoy. You could have fitted our minuscule mobile home in the kids bedroom and still had room to spare :)

budget holiday home

Budget holiday home with a million dollar view

But what is budget accommodation like… booked up almost a year in advance we took advantage of a special early booking discount and paid £96.70 for a 3 night Bank Holiday weekend break. Which is an excellent price. The mobile home sleeps four in one double and one twin bedroom, it has a bathroom with a shower and a main living area with divan seating, a dining table and a galley kitchen. It’s perfectly acceptable for a short break and comfortable too.

budget holiday home inside

The kitchen even had a microwave which surprised me as many holiday parks see them as extras and for upgrades only.

My only quibble that really turned my nose up was it stank of stale smoke and being a non smoker it made me feel sick every time I entered, sadly it was a very cold weekend so I didn’t have the opportunity to open the doors and windows and in all honesty I think you’d need more than fresh air to take away that smell. Oh and the windows had definitely seen better times

budget holiday home window

The site has a very helpful reception, amusement arcade, clubhouse, TV/sports bar, swimming pool, launderette, take away/eat in fish and chip shop (which was so packed the first night with people queueing up to 40 minutes it was quicker to drive into town and get fish and chips from Woolacombe) and a children’s activity park.

We visited the clubhouse every evening so the girls could join in the Tots disco which they adored and the entertainment was good.

Marianne Weekes and twins

North Devon is packed with all sorts of activities for all ages so very well worth the visit.

My tips would be to ask for a non smoker van on booking if like me you are anti-smoking and if you’re in for bad weather take a small electrical fire to keep the place ticking over nicely.

If you can get past the stale smoke smell this was an excellent budget holiday.

The lovely Butlins crew are giving one lucky family the chance to win a family break for 4 people in silver accommodation and all you have to do to enter is watch the video below and count the number of bounces the little girl makes.

It really couldn’t be more simple could it? All the info about the competition can be found on the Butlins website. They even help you out with three options – 23, 33 or 43? Go on count them and enter what have you got to lose?

Entries close at midnight on 10th January and the winner will be announced on the 11th Jan.

Butlins vintage adI have known now for a couple of weeks that I too have been selected to be a Butlins Official Mums Ambassador and I am very honoured to take on this role and delighted, after all Butlins is an enormous and historical part of British holiday making. In fact it was after Billy Butlin, the founder, got locked out of his bed and breakfast accommodation whilst on holiday on Barry Island all day by his landlady (as was practise back then) that the idea of Butlins was formed.

In 1936 the first Butlins opened in Skegness and was quickly followed by other camps. Between 1936 and 1966 ten camps were built including one in Ireland and one in The Bahamas! During the 70’s and the 80’s hotels and holiday centres in Spain and France were included to their growing portfolio as was the revolving restaurant in the Post Office Tower in London. Quite an achievement for a man born into the travelling funfair world.

Butlins brochureSo, what do I have to do? Well between now and 31st July 2012 I am invited to take two 3/4 night breaks at their parks, vlog about them whilst I am there and tell you all about them too. As you can imagine, the most difficult first decision is WHERE?

I had a look on the website (just click on my lovely red badge in the sidebar and you’ll be taken directly there ) and Butlins have three centres, Skegness, Minehead and Bognor Regis which has two stunning hotels with ocean views and spa centres. My first choice isn’t difficult, I’d like to visit Skegness where it all started and as for my second choice well we’re currently debating, a passion for the West Country drags our dreams over to Minehead and a memory of a holiday in a caravan with my dad at Bognor Regis years and years ago PLUS the desire to stay in a luxury hotel offering telelscopes on the balconies and Anabel Karmel cuisine for the little ones pulls me to choose Bognor Regis. Oh decisions, decisions, where would you go?

Butlins brochure - poolButlins brochure - Ocean HotelButlins brochure adventure park

I also think these holidays will have to take place in the new year as I don’t think Paul has any holiday left to take! We used the lot up and kept back a day or two for Christmas shopping and ‘Just In Case’ but how lovely, as the current ‘summer‘ draws to a cool and breezy end we can already project to 2012 and dream up our next break.

Billy Butlins

If you are in the same position as us and wanting to add something fun to your diary to look forward to then do take a look at Butlins as there are some incredibly good offers. I ordered their catalogue through the website so I can turn the pages and dream as I curl up on the sofa this autumn, why don’t you do the same after all a girl can dream can’t she? And talking of dreaming, won’t it be just wonderful to meet a real Redcoat! Did you know that the first Redcoat was an engineer constructing one of the camps? His name was Norman Bradford and when Billy Butlin noticed his guests weren’t engaging with each other as he had envisioned he asked Norman to take on the entertainment duty, Norman obliged by cracking jokes and organising a few ice breakers hence the famous Redcoats were born!

Butlins brochure

Funnily enough the site at St Minver where we stayed in the spring was originally a Butlins holiday camp! So I cannot wait to now try the real thing