Deal or no deal? Luggage Free offers $50 flat-fee shipping service

You know the drill: Pack your suitcase, guess its weight, pay the fees and hope it arrives at your destination. If your weight-guessing talents have failed and you end up paying extra for the additional pounds you packed, Luggage Free has a deal for you: Keep your bag under 50 pounds and you’ll pay only $50 to ship your luggage to your next U.S. destination.

The Luggage Free Economy program promises a three business day, door-to-door delivery for luggage, skis, and golf clubs within the 48 contiguous U.S. states at a flat rate of $50 for bags under 50 pounds. How’s this compare to airlines? Depends on how many bags you’re checking.

Airlines have recently upped their checked bags fees by $5-$25, depending on where you’re traveling. US Airways, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Continental raised their fees earlier this year, causing travelers to rethink what goes in their carry-on. For example, US Airways charges $25 for the first bag checked and $35 for a second bag, but both bags must weigh less than 70 pounds. So how do you save money with Luggage Free? If you have a lot of bags to check, this service might be a better deal since airlines charge $100 to check the third bag.

Here’s how it works: book online and select a pickup or drop-off time prior to your departure. An email confirmation is sent when your luggage arrives at its destination. Luggage Free guarantees all luggage will arrive on time – the same can’t always be said for the airlines. However, with Luggage Free and other shipping providers you have to plan ahead. If you want your luggage to arrive the same day you do, you’ll have to ship it at least three days in advance.

Is it is a deal? Could be, if you have a lot of luggage and you can be without the suitcase for at three days.

Photo of the Day (9.13.09)

Take a good look at this towering iron monolith. Is it from the base of the Eiffel Tower? The scaffolding of a New York City skyscraper? It’s actually part of the Aerial Lift Bridge in Duluth, Minnesota. The city is one of the most important shipping ports on the Great Lakes, linked all the way back to the Atlantic Ocean by a series of locks and waterways. Today’s photo by Flickr user mlmartense, shows us the scaffolding of this massive bridge, which allows giant container ships to pass through below. I particularly like the perspective and angle of the shot, which transforms the structure into a kind of Great Pyramid of hulking iron.

Want your photo considered for Gadling’s Photo of the Day? Upload your best shots here.

The Pirate Life on Somalia’s Coast

The BBC recently ran a feature about the pirates who have been terrorizing ships off Somalia’s coastline. These pirates make their money by capturing ships of all sorts, from cruise ships to freighters, and demanding a ransom. Are these guys modern day eye-patch-wearing rum-lovers? According to BBC reporter Robyn Hunter, they are ambitious young men who have found a niche and are exploiting it to ensure that they live the good life in a troubled country where half of the population relies on foreign food aid to survive.

A resident of Puntland, the semi-autonomous coastal area from which the pirates operate, gave Hunter the lowdown on the attraction of the pirate life:

“They have money; they have power and they are getting stronger by the day…They wed the most beautiful girls; they are building big houses; they have new cars; new guns…Piracy in many ways is socially acceptable. They have become fashionable.”

But the heyday for these cowboys of the Gulf of Aden may be coming to an end. Shipping companies are planning on hiring security contractors to guard ships passing through the area. That will significantly lessen the chance of pirates being able to take a ship and its crew hostage without a fight. It is doubtful though, that the presence of a few armed contractors will lessen the lure of the easy money of the pirate life.

A Canadian in Beijing: Floating Billboards on The Bund

Since I’m on vacation here in Shanghai, it stands to reason that I ought to act like a tourist once in awhile. I have been snapping photos like one since I arrived, to be sure, but besides visiting The Great Wall, I haven’t yet taken in many historically significant sites. For once, I read a guide book and took the advice of the pages therein. They advised me to take in the waterfront in Shanghai, particularly on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.

The Bund, also known as Zhongshan road, is an historical section of waterfront that stretches a little less than one mile on the western front of the “Pu Xi” (West City) and looks out to the eastern part of Shanghai known as “Pu Dong.” It is raised and separate from the roadway and proved to be a popular tourist destination on this sunny day. I was among them and I got the requisite photo taken across from the famous Oriental Pearl TV Tower as well as one of the tallest in the world, the Jin Mao Tower. (Hard to believe that, coming from Toronto and knowing the scale of the CN Tower!)

The Bund is part of the Huangpu River, an essential shipping route and regarded as the symbol of Shanghai for many years. There are lots of cruises available in these waterways that are flanked by huge corporate modern structures intermingled with a diversity of architecture from many different cultures across many centuries. It’s clear that this port has long been an international one, and not just because of the wide diversity of faces we can see walking along and snapping pictures just like us.

I thought it would be a great place for a romantic stroll on a warm evening and this thought warmed me into stalling and going to the edge of the walkway to peer over. I stared out into the river to see muddy waters below. My gaze followed the river’s current out and north-westward where the waters were guarded by Nikon and Nestle and other multinationals.

Between their buildings and my perch, there was a boat cruising slowly across the harbour with a giant screen and constant television advertisements flashing brightly for all to see. I could think of nothing more I’d rather NOT see than commercials at that moment. Talk about muddying the waters… A floating billboard on the Bund?!

I took that as a sign that I had seen enough. I turned and left, having walked only about halfway.

Still, I am happy and grateful to have seen an historical section of an ancient port, and this moment of its development is no less valid. It, too, will eventually become part of history.

Pic of me by Sarah Keenan