HOW TO TRAVEL LIKE A KING... ON A SHOESTRING
BRUSH UP YOUR HISTORY
Actual kings didn't have running water and electricity in their castles until roughly the same time as your own forebears got them in their bothies or tenements or bungalows. Chances are, wherever you're travelling in the world today, and on whatever budget, you'll take such conveniences for granted. You'll probably have air-conditioning too. And a bed with nice crisp sheets and a mattress that's soft but not too soft, firm but not too firm. Maybe even chocolates on the pillows. So you're already travelling like a king. And what's this you say - you've got a gym, a sauna and a swimming pool as well? Laundry service? Room service? A mini-bar? Oh, Beulah, peel me a grape!
Have a better time than those around you. In so doing, you rule - in the figurative sense, which is surely much more fun than having to rule in the literal sense, like a proper king. 'Look upon my mirth, ye mighty, and despair!'
SMELL THE PART
Help yourself to gorgeously scented, elegantly packaged soaps and shampoos and other unguents whenever you stay in nice places that provide such things, and then use them when you're in less nice places that don't. You'll reek of flowers and fruits and fragrant meadows, even if the bathroom in the fleapit where you're holed up reeks of something else entirely. I recall a wonderful moment in an old episode of The Simpsons in which a perfume called Versatility by Meryl Streep is promoted. 'Smell like Streep - for cheap!' is the slogan. Make like Meryl.
Take a leaf out of Tolstoy's book. (Any of the novel-length ones, that is. Nobody's going to notice if a page goes missing from one of those door-stoppers.) Tolstoy, a great landowning aristocrat as well as a great mini-series-begetting writer, famously decided, at the height of his fame and artistic powers, to abjure literature and denounce worldly possessions. True satisfaction, Count Leo reckoned, was to be found in toiling in the fields like a peasant. It's surely not too much of a stretch to imagine a present-day Tolstoy extending this notion into the realm of budget travel and insisting that true satisfaction is to be found in travelling in economy like a peasant. In which case, my cash-strapped comrade, take comfort in the notion that, with nothing more than a subtle adjustment of your mind-set, you've been instantly upgraded to Tolstoy Class! Even if, strictly speaking, you've got to stay put in the squalid little seat at the back near the bogs that you were allocated at check-in, if not at birth.
JUST DO IT
So you really, really, really want to live high on the hog. Not like a fake millionaire but like a real one. You want to know what it feels like to turn left at the end of the jetway, to kick back in the flashiest of five-star joints and cavort in vast claw-footed tubs overflowing with vintage champagne. All this is, of course, entirely do-able - even without actual money. I mean, what else are credit cards for? Personally, I have a pathological horror of debt and, though I possess a credit card, haven't used it for more than four years. But that's me. You may well take a different view. Many do. If so, courage, mon brave! Just bear in mind that unless you work for one of the larger international investment banks you're probably going to have to live with the consequences of your financially reckless actions. So by all means make your wildest travel-related fantasies come true by maxing the living daylights out your credit card (or cards). All you'll have to do, when the music stops, is figure out a way to keep up with the monthly repayments. That, or accept the possibility of an extended stay in a modestly appointed hostelry of Her Majesty's choosing, rather than a swishy one you read about in a glossy magazine.