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Plan your next hotel stay with the Orbitz Heatmap

It's easy to find out what the rate at your favorite hotel in Chicago is today. But can you predict which week in July is going to offer the best rates? When do hotel rates climb seasonally? These kind of aggregate statistics aren't as easy to ferret out, even in the age of the Internet.

Now there's a tool to help you get just that sort of data to help you make travel plans. Travel site Orbitz has added a useful heatmap to its Labs page. Now it offers a Hotel Rate Heatmap in addition to its collection of web apps.

The Heatmap is a color-coded grid that shows the entire year, divided by month, week, and day. At a glance, you can see which days and weeks have the highest to lowest average rates, in a spectrum from red to yellow to green.

You can choose from a handful of popular destination cities or search for the city of your choice.

The grid is laid out a bit counterintuitively; the horizontal rows are days of the week, and columns represent weeks within each month -- exactly the opposite of how calendars are drawn. But once you adjust to the warped representation of time, the heatmap can help you avoid especially onerous weeks when you have some scheduling flexibility.

Photo courtesy Orbitz.

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