Does the wireless on Virgin America work well?

It works pretty well.

They use Gogo Inflight Internet which is the same as most other airlines that have Internet on flights use.

It works about as well as an EVDO card.  The download speeds are pretty acceptable (YouTube videos are basically watchable but sometimes buffer.) latency is sometimes frustrating (playing games or editing in a remote shell isn't a great experience.)

It's not super reliable (doesn't work 10-15% of the time in my experience.)  You can't use it around takeoff and landing times.

It costs $5.99 (IIRC) so it's probably worth it if you get work done. 

What are fun little-kid-friendly activities to do during a weekend trip to Seattle?

A few things that immediately come to mind:

  • See a Seahawks or Sounders game! CenturyLink Field is insanely family-friendly. There is a private nursing area and family bathrooms with changing tables everywhere so you can feel comfortable bringing a baby along.
  • Visit the Woodland Park Zoo. For $5 the child can feed an elephant or a giraffe. Awesome and unique photo opportunity!
  • If you have at least a half day free, check out the Pacific Science Center. There’s a play area for small children, a planetarium, a theatre, and tons of hands-on exhibits.
  • If you have a game lover (or Magic the Gathering or Pokemon or etc) check out Card Kingdom. They have literally everything you could want and an attached cafe where you can grab a snack.
  • The Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame is a great niche destination if you’re a nerd family (we sure are). It’s easy to get around with a stroller and has family bathrooms so it’s surprisingly good even for very small kids.

Seattle also has a TON of amazing parks and playgrounds to visit. Best of all they are public and free! In the summer a trip to International Fountain is well worth it — just bring a spare set of clothes!

What information is most useful for a traveler looking at being based out of Istanbul?

Istanbul is a true world city that you could easily lose a week in and not even scratch the surface. There are a few internal budget airlines (Pegasus, Sun Express, Atlasjet, Onur) that can make getting to other cities easy and cheap. Be sure to check flights leave from IST and not SAW if you are connecting with International flight. The low cost airport SAW is miles away. IST airport is nice enough. The only trick is to line up to buy your visa (left handside of immigration lines) before going to immigration. You can catch the train into town for next to nothing and transfer from train to tram to get to all the main spots. Nothing wrong with Turkish airlines either. At least to the standard of AA and UA. You can ferry to Greece from lots of places along the coast of Turkey.

How "big" must a company be to fly its employees in business class on long overseas flights? When do startups start doing it?

As always what some people see as luxury is not just about status or prestige, it is about utility. Will the cheaper flight have a negative impact on the work, short term or long term?

It partly depends on the value of employee time to the company. Virgin Upper Class London to San Francisco is over $12K. Will the trip bring that much value? That depends on what it's for. Will flying upper class make a difference to outcome? That probably depends on the duration of the visit and turn around time.

There are obviously other ways if your company can't afford to give that level of support to employees such as giving employees a day or two extra at each end of the flight to recover and be fully functional again. It depends whether the cost to the company of lost time is greater than the extra cost of the tickets. Maybe Ikea and Infosys do that. Its easy to say that C-level execs should take it all in their stride and pull 72 hour stints of travel-meet-travel without a proper bed, but in practice its not sustainable without bad outcomes and bad decisions.

And . . . I've flow  London to San Francisco return over 72 hour periods for meetings in coach many times, but . . . realistically through, any employee flying overnight where there might be a health issue should get a lie-flat bed. You can't really claim to be too cheap to avoid DVT and dangerous chronic jet lag.

What's the best thing to do on a weekend in Kolkata?

From looking around the Internet, the most popular thing to do in Kolkata is to visit the Mother House of the Missionaries of Charity.  It's where Mother Teresa did her work.

According to this page:…

You can visit any day but Thursday and it is a good place to visit year round.

What do you have to do to prepare to visit India from the US?

Generic travel advice:
Pack as you would normally for any other trip. I won't bother mentioning paperwork, appropriate clothing, cameras and vaccinations as those are generic for practically every travel destination.

Restaurant recommendations:
A list of good places to eat. In the context of India, this is mostly word of mouth knowledge, so ask your Indian friends, or better yet ask a question in:

 Local Restaurant Recommendations

Gifts ( if you have friends or family ):
It does not matter if what you are getting them was made in India and exported to the US, it is a strange illogical ritual that Indians partake in when it comes to traveling really heavy with lots of gifts for friends and family. Even though you can get practically everything you get in the US in India in the big cities, many people in India don't realize how much parity there is.

Credit cards are not accepted everywhere. Be you are carring a moderate amount of cash. Preferably some in low denominations.

Power adapters:
If you have electronic gadgets, be sure to get an appropriate power adapter.

Get a prescription from your doctor for any medications you are using. Stockpile them while you are in India, as they are ridiculously cheap there and they work just fine, though technically to bring them back into the US you need a prescription.

An unlocked phone:
So that you can get a SIM when you are in India. If you have an old iPhone, you can jailbreak it, or if you aren't tech savvy enough to do so, take it along and have one of a jailbreaking services take care of it for you.

There is voice and data roaming in India if you use an iPhone, but you probably don't want to use it for anything beyond the most basic SMS
Get a sim card and data service after you land.

Once you are there:
The bulk of your trip will be business, sightseeing or meeting people depending on your goals. Prepare for this as you would for any other trip, though here are some tips of what to do beyond that.

The airport:

If you look Indian, you might be harassed at customs. You might have to bribe on of the customs officials to expedite this. Yes, this is increasingly rare, though plan for the worst case.

If you don't look Indian, you probably won't be bothered by customs, though in that case there are a number of other things to be careful about.

Mostly this means that you will be overquoted prices on a number of things. Try to always ask around for price lists ( not possible a some shops ). It is common to haggle.

If you are traveling with an Indian friend or have local friends there, be sure to tap them as resources.

Most parts of India are generally safe, and most crime that is there is petty crime, like pick pocketing. Still, don't go around with your passport, US drivers license and anything else important. Keep them in the safe at your hotel.

Don't drink tap water. Eating anything cooked is fine.
Sushi and beef are rare to come across in India to begin with, though even if presented with the opportunity, avoid both.

Don't try to drive. Use a taxi. You might find it odd being on the other side of the road and be a bit freaked out by people ignoring lanes, red lights and one way signs while at the same time paying attention to cows crossing the road, but you will get used to it. Try to stay as close as possible to your primary point of interest.

There are subtle and not so sublt signalling protocols employed by people driving in India

You are mostly okay with English. Even many not so literate folks in India are able to understand English.

However, Indian English is closer to British English rather than American English at times, so there are a number of subtle differences[1]. In rare cases, these can be a little awkward, in particular "Fags" is a US is used as derogatory slang, though in India it refers to cigarettes.

Book purchases
If you like to read books, you can get Indian editions of books ridiculously cheap. For example, you can get a copy of Introduction to Algorithms for ~7$.
If you are on the verge of buying something, plan for it and save some money.

Simple medical procedures
You can get dental cleaning and eye exams done in India really cheap as compared to the US. The same goes for getting glasses, though first you should figure out if they have a frame that you like.

Finally, don't write answers to questions like this when your flight to India is about to start boarding.



What are the best Southwest Airlines hacks?

1. I personally think the equivalent of a first class seat on the plane is either the second row aisle (either side) or, if you're flying in or out of Burbank, the second last row aisle. Your time in getting on and off a SWA flight is the currency I treasure, not legroom. Certainly, the window seat on the rear-most exit row has more legroom, but there's no extra width on the seat, and some of the planes have walled dividers, not arms that fold up.

2. Using a roll-on like my Victorinox Seefeld, whose shape tapers towards the top, makes stowing wheels out in the very front overheads easy (the very front passenger overheads are slightly less deep than the rest of the plane's stowage as the planes' nose begins to curve inward just ahead of Row 2, affecting the size of the bins – you can see the curvature from anywhere behind Row 3 or 4, and the bins are smaller as well). The Seefeld also has a rotating handle, making it more ergonomic to control while rolling.

3. Be sure to register for all promotions at…, and if you can handle the cash flow having Southwest hold some of your money, check all of your booked flights when new promotions occur. You will save money when you rebook.

4. Resist the urge to use points for early in the year flights, and use them for end of year holiday travel – there are rarely blackout dates, even at the holidays, but the fares are much higher.

5. I eat at restaurants a lot, and joining the Rapid Rewards Dining program for just two months, got me points that got me to A-List even faster (it's the same dining program that is offered by Best Buy, so you can't be in both). I also just joined for the Rapid Rewards Shopping program, where you get up to 10 points for every dollar you spend at partner stores. Nordstrom's one of them, and so is LL Bean and Banana Republic. There are hundreds of restaurants and retailers in the programs.

6. Always check in twice – even if you're A-List or A-List+ – once on the phone via the app (the iOS version just got upgraded and you can actually check in from your RR area now), and once when you arrive at the airport via the SWA kiosks – and when you do that, click on the Upgrade button to check to see what they want to upgrade. You can often jump into Business First for as little as $11, getting you a drink and an lower lineup number.

7. At Burbank airport, the best kept secret in the whole place is the freshly made sandwiches and fresh made-to-order tossed salads at the Fresco (used to be called Blue Fin, but everything is as good as it was before) directly across from gate A3 – everything is prepared to order while you wait, and it beats the crap out of tiny bags of SWA nuts or pretzels on the plane.

8. If you fly in and out of LAX, I've found parking at WallyPark the best combo of time-to-gate and cost-per-day, even with all the "specials" that you can get at various websites (not so special when you wait 15-30 minutes for their "regularly scheduled shuttle.")

The kicker: in almost every Spirit magazine, Wally Park always has an ad that you can tear out that's good for 25% off your total parking bill, not just one day's worth – even for outside and rooftop parking. Even if I'm not flying out of LAX, I grab the ad for future use. You can also check Groupon – they often have offers there.

And, at WallyPark, I park nearest to the exit onto Aviation Boulevard – the spots there are near the manned exit hut so they are less likely to be messed with, and you're out in a flash.

The same goes for other SWA served airports where WallyParks are located, but the discount can be lower – 15% in some places.

9. If your flight is delayed by more than 10 minutes, and you try to reschedule ahead of their efforts to get you on another SWA flight, be sure to remind them not to charge you any fare difference, since it's ultimately their fault. My partner successfully used the reminder phrase "Don't you sometimes waive the fare difference when the delay isn't our fault?"

10. Be sure to check and double check your kiosk-printed receipt so you don't inadvertently ignore or throw out a free drink coupon or free wi-fi that may be printed on the stub area.

11. Tweeting/emailing displeasure at making A-List this past month and having several flights already booked before achieving that level resulted in a LUV coupon equivalent to the amount I had on the books in Early Bird purchases, $80.

Hope this helps.

Which French bank offers a good, solid, no frills checking account to an American living in France?

You could check Le Compte-Nickel, le compte sans banque. An interesting concept where you get an account and a credit card from a 'non-bank' ; you can send and recieve wire transfers for free; you only need a mobile phone and an address in France; you open it in 15 mn in a Tobacconist's; only limit: no overdraft possible! Bank charges are minimal…

What do I need to use North American electronics in Europe?

When I moved here, I actually made a list of the voltages and currents of my consumer electronics.

Turns out most of my appliances just needed a plug adapter (bought mine for 99 cents on ebay with free shipping)….camera charger, Vonage router, cordless land line phone, laptop, cell phone charger, etc.

Some appliances were not compatible (120 Volts only) included: alarm clock, hair dryer, hair straightener, and my cheapo computer speakers. For some of these that draw very small amounts of current, such as the computer speakers or alarm clock, I used a 10 dollar voltage converter (you can get these at Target or Best Buy)and they worked perfectly. For the high current devices, you just want to avoid using these in Europe. You'll blow up the voltage adapter fuse or blow up your room's fuse.

What are the must see sites and must do activities when spending a week in Naples, Italy?

In Naples itself, you should visit the National Museum of Archaeology which houses many of the artifacts taken from Pompeii and other Roman cities. Needless to stay, you must visit Pompeii and take the ferry to Capri (try to stay in Capri at least 1 night to experience the island without the massive number of day visitors). Food is a major reason to spend time in Naples. I posted my own pizza guide to Naples:…, and a separate restaurant guide:….