Fantastic holiday memories may be the best trip we take this summer

Fridge magnets travel

Nick says he only has to walk past his fridge to think about all the great holiday memories, particularly in Scandinavia - Credit: Nick Richards

How are your summer holiday plans shaping up?

After the weather this week they're probably and appropriately well and truly on ice, especially after transport secretary Grant Shapps appeared to snatch those glossy brochures out of our hands for the rest of 2021.

“People shouldn’t be booking holidays right now – not domestically or internationally," he said this week. Of course holidays are currently banned under lockdown rules and, although we may get a sniff of what will happen with them when Boris Johnson tells us his plans for getting us back to normal on February 22, it could be a long time before foreign trips are back on.

That may not bother those of you who think it's crazy to leave England for another country that may have higher infection rates or not so strict lockdown rules this summer.

But there will equally be plenty of people who've had enough of a year of being stuck at home and need a change of scene and routine. As great as a day out in Sheringham or Southwold can be for mind, body and soul, it's those foreign trips that we remember from the past and that we all yearn for right now.

I very much doubt I will be going abroad this year but when the times comes, there's one part of the world that I will be itching to get back to. While holidays may be on hold, it's easy to take memory trips back to past vacations and it's amazing how old photos, souvenirs, music and food can trigger thoughts back to glorious gallivanting getaways. 

My big strength is dates. While some people may struggle to recall events in their past, I get almost daily reminders of things I was doing on certain dates in the past. Without even looking around my house at a Helsinki fridge magnet, Lego cruet set or Norwegian tea towel, I can easily recall that 10, 20 and 35 years ago this summer I was holidaying in Scandinavia.

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And it's that part of the world I am hoping to return to when lockdown is over. I've had some fantastic adventures there, met some wonderful people and have never felt happier, safer or healthier when I've headed north.

While we may think of Ikea, Vikings, Volvos, ABBA, crime dramas with detectives wearing cardigans, star strikers, hygge, lagom, Roxette and Ryvita, there is far more on offer in Scandinavia.

The sun never seems to set in the summer, it's so clean and tidy, neat and functional, the people are beautiful, everyone seems happy and friendly, the food and drink is great and it's so close.

My Scandi love affair began in Denmark 35 years ago this year. It probably wasn't the most obvious location for my my first foreign holiday but in June 1986 my family drove down to Harwich and set sail to Esbjerg for a week in Denmark. 

It was during the 1986 World Cup and the week before our arrival the exciting Danish team wearing that famous red and white striped Hummel kit had destroyed all before them in their first three group games. It was Denmark's first World Cup and I set foot on foreign soil for the first time in a country that had gone football mad. 

I remember with great fondness going to Legoland that week, the summer solstice celebrations with a bonfire on the beach in daylight at well after 10.30pm, amazing ice cream and staying in a cabin where everything was made of pine.

Twenty years ago this summer it was Finland - the stunning city of Helsinki with bright white architecture, Moomins everywhere, reindeer kebabs, fish with every meal and some seriously strong vodka. I even took the ferry over to Tallinn for the day and watched the Finns load up on cheaper Estonian beer.

My Scandinavian trips since then have all been to Norway. The one big elephant in the room when talking about Scandinavia is the expense - for anyone traveling from the UK, it isn't cheap.

Luckily for me I have an uncle who lives in Oslo and with his help, we've seen how it is possible to find just as much joy swimming in the fjords, climbing mountains, fishing and foraging for chanterelle mushrooms.

Most things made outside Scandinavia are heavily taxed, so the frugal Scandinavians take pride in celebrating their own produce - and those lucky enough to live near the borders will happily cross into Sweden or Norway to find things even cheaper.

My children have never been and whenever we discuss our next holiday abroad, all I can picture is them lapping up the Scandinavian sun like I did all those years ago.

It's these great memories of Scandinavian summers that will help get me through this year if, as looks likely, it will be one without a foreign break.

I've only got to walk past my fridge and look at the magnets on there to be transported back and that's without looking at old photos and thinking back to how great those carefree times were.

If you're longing to be somewhere else right now, why not have a look around your house at all the reminders of past holidays and simply revisit them this summer with some food or drink and see if takes you back?

I bet there's a tea towel, mug, magnet or shot glass somewhere that will kickstart those memories.

So pour yourself a Grant Schnapps and... skål!