3 bedroom standard apartment with standard dining - £562 total or £37 per person per night
3 bedroom gold apartment with premium dining - £682 total or £45 per person per night
I am quite surprised that the difference isn't bigger to be honest and would happily pay and extra £8 per person, per night for the added luxury that top of the range accommodation and dining provides.
The benefits of a Gold Apartment
I have never stayed in a standard apartment but I have stayed in silver and don't think there is too much difference between the silver and gold options in terms of decor. However if I booked again I would most definitely book a gold apartment. Although not a patch on the rooms we stayed in at The Wave Hotel in Butlin's Bognor Regis, Gold apartments were perfect for our family of 5.
As my children are now a little older, I loved that they could play on the gorgeous grass outside of our apartments and make new friends as I watched on with a cup of coffee from our Juliet balcony. The children would gather here early evening to play ball games or play chase which was lovely and there is a real sense of community.
We were able to check into our apartment from 3pm - check in is 'drive through' so super easy and we were able to park very close to our apartment which was ideal for transporting luggage.
Our apartment featured an open plan living room/diner/kitchen which was small but perfectly adequate for our needs. I love anywhere that includes a dishwasher as I don't have one at home so always a bonus! and there was a good supply of dishwasher tablets waiting for us to last us the whole holiday. There was also a selection of tea and coffee waiting for us which I wasn't expecting and a nice surprise.
We had one double and two twin rooms plus one bathroom (shower only) and a large cupboard for storage. Our beds were made up on arrival and daily housekeeping is included as standard for all Gold apartments. I have to say it is a real treat coming home to a properly made bed, fresh towels and to find the dishwasher has been unloaded - if you're a stressed out parent like me, it really adds to your holiday having someone else take care of all this for you.
We had 30 minutes worth of free wifi per accommodation per day but if you are anything like me that is not nearly enough - I had used our allowance checking social media before I'd even got out of bed! I bought a 3 day pass for £15 which is quite expensive but it worked perfectly and it was just personal choice for me to do this (my phone signal was also limited).
One thing I will say is because the apartments are so close together we had a few family groups situated next to each other who were sitting outside on the grass and rather loud until after midnight every night. This isn't necessarily Butlin's fault though and I guess it is probably a problem at most holiday resorts.
Premium Dining at Butlin's Skegness
I will be completely honest here - there really is nothing 'premium' about the premium dining at Butlin's Skegness. The Deck restaurant especially is very much like a school canteen. The food is not particularly of high quality, it is busy and noisy, your drinks are served in plastic cups, there is no real ambience to speak of and everything is served buffet style. We preferred to dine in The Yacht club which although smaller was a little quieter and we thought it had a nicer atmosphere.
That being said, once you have come to terms with the idea that you won't be eating gourmet meals, Premium dining at Butlin's did offer enough choice for the whole family and we all enjoyed every single meal. Based on our experience, I am not entirely convinced that £25 per day is a good price to pay for an adult's breakfast and main meal. The food quality is pretty on par with Brewers Fayre where you can buy a similar 'all you can eat' breakfast for £8.75 which leaves £16.25 for an evening meal - I am pretty sure most cities and towns will have a local pub or restaurant that will offer a pretty decent two course meal for this price.
Although we enjoyed dining in the Yacht club and loved how hassle free it was, if we were to visit Butlin's Skegness again, we would probably book without adding a dining plan (unless they implemented a similar system to the Hotels at Butlin's Bognor Regis where you can dine at any of the restaurants on site - see this post for examples and how the food contrasts with dining at Skegness).
What's included with Breakfast?
We dined in the Yacht club every morning. Breakfast was served until fairly late in the morning (I think it was 11am) which is fantastic if you like to have a little lie in or want to have more of a 'brunch' so you can save money and skip lunch. There was a lot to choose from including cereals, porridge, pancakes or omelettes, a full English breakfast, fruits, yoghurts, toast, warm pastries plus fruit juice, tea and coffee. You can help yourself to as much or little as you like - we usually took full advantage of this and had a full three courses most mornings. The pastries were my favourite and definitely recommended.
What's included with Dinner?
We chose to eat in the Yacht club for two evenings and the Deck for one evening. Dinner is served from 4pm-7:30pm which is certainly an improvement from the days when I remember the restaurants closing at 6pm. This gives you plenty of time to finish your meal if you want to catch one of the early or later shows.
There is a dedicated children's buffet in the Yacht club with everything you'd expect - fish fingers, chicken nuggets, sausages with chips/smiley faces and beans or peas. Sometimes there was a wait of 10 minutes when the more popular items ran out but this only happened a couple of times.
For grown ups I usually opted for 'roast of the day' from the Yacht club which was always nice and my mam went for the very healthy option of a salad from the salad bar with a jacket potato. We were impressed with the choice available and doubt there would ever be a day you visited and there was nothing you liked.
Again, unlimited juice and hot drinks were available from the self serve machines or you could order and pay for other soft drinks and alcohol at the bar too.
We really loved the dessert station in the Yacht club - there were always a few hot sponge and custard options (which were very satisfying), a large selection of cakes and cheesecakes, an ice cream machine and a 'cheese and biscuits' section. You could help yourself to as much as you wanted and I will confess to letting my children enjoy cake and an ice cream on most nights.
In conclusion I may moan that premium dining wasn't as premium as I expected, however we all did enjoy every single meal, service was quick and always super friendly and there was always lots of choice. Food was always hot too and the only thing we ever had to wait or queue for was a couple of items from the children's buffet. If you are looking for something convenient for the whole family, a premium dining plan at Butlin's Skegness could be for you.
If I was going to book Butlin's Skegness again, I would book a Self catering Gold Apartment with NO dining plan which would set us back £433 for the five of us for three nights on 24th June 2016 which I think considering the entertainment that's included (see here and here) is amazing value for money.