With more and more services going digital, it’s only a matter of time before your business gets left behind.
As of right now, your office probably has a secretary (or a few) in charge of taking calls from new and returning clients interested in booking reservations or appointments with your business or service providers.
Unfortunately, this form of business is becoming outdated as more and more customers are favoring businesses who offer services online.
That includes online booking, and there’s no simpler way to add this functionality to your site than WordPress booking plugins.
The benefits of WordPress booking plugins
Many businesses can benefit from the use of an online booking system, especially when it’s implemented through a WordPress plugin.
Here are four major benefits of WordPress booking plugins:
- They modernize your business. While your competitors are still booking appointments by phone, you could become a trailblazer by becoming one of the first businesses in your area to offer online bookings.
- They automate your business. Traditionally, bookings have been a manual process. Booking plugins automate this process by having the customer do all of the work for you online.
- They’re self serving. Typically, you’d need to rely on a developer to bring this sort of functionality to your website. However, WordPress allows you to add a booking system to your site with a few simple clicks.
- They allow you to accept online payments. These plugins allow you to accept online payments through integrations with PayPal, Stripe and WooCommerce. You can potentially earn more revenue by removing the usual hoops customers have to jump through to pay for bookings.
With that said, let’s get to the meat and potatoes of this post.
The best booking plugins for WordPress
Amelia is a newer booking plugin founded in mid 2018. It’s made by TMS, a web development company founded in 2014 by professional developer Alexander Gilmanov, PhD.
Alexander’s experience in providing development services to global businesses helped TMS launch services and products designed to target the needs of enterprise-level companies.
Amelia is part of that collection of products. This plugin is available in free and premium versions.
What you get with the free version of Amelia
Amelia Lite is best suited for freelancers or one-person operations. This is because it only allows you to add a single employee. It also limits you to 50 bookings per month.
You’re also limited to a single category and up to four services. You are, however, granted a booking calendar you can use on the backend to view your scheduled appointments. You can even manage appointments and enter new ones manually.
Reports and analytics are even displayed on the dashboard.
What you get with the Pro version of Amelia
The premium version of Amelia allows you to add and manage multiple employees. This makes it a great option for companies who have more than one service provider, such as beauty salons, law firms and gyms.
You can also add multiple categories and services. Duration and price can be configured for individual services, and you can even add extra services customers can book as add-ons.
Here are other noteworthy features:
- Manage multiple locations.
- Customize design.
- WooCommerce, PayPal and Stripe integrations.
- Multiple booking forms optimized for individual employees or services.
- Configure working hours and breaks for each individual service.
- Services catalog.
- Frontend search bar.
- Allow employees to sync their appointments with Google Calendar.
- Discount coupons.
- Financial data for each booking.
Price: Amelia Lite is free. Amelia Pro is $59 (includes lifetime updates).
At over 23,000 sales and over 20,000 active installs on WordPress.org, Bookly is one of the most widely used booking plugins for WordPress. It’s the sole and flagship product of a developer called Ladela.
This product is available in free and premium versions. Premium add-ons are available as well.
What you get with the free version of Bookly
Bookly allows you to add a basic, well-designed booking solution to your site for a single employee and up to five services. You can add numerous categories and include your employee’s details, working hours, breaks and holidays.
The free version also allows you to add appointments manually and even send notifications to customers via email and SMS messages. You’ll also have access to basic customization option, such as color.
Of course, monthly, weekly and daily calendars can be viewed on the backend as well.
What you get with the Pro version of Bookly
The premium version of Bookly unlocks unlimited numbers of employees and services. It’s also compatible with WooCommerce, but you can accept payments via PayPal as well.
You can also add an unlimited number of clients and view payment statistics for individual clients.
Here are a number of additional features included with Bookly Pro:
- Fully customizable booking form.
- Filters, sorting features and search bar on the frontend.
- 2-way syncing with Google Calendar.
- Built-in analytics with booking statistics.
Bookly is a powerful booking solution. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most expensive. Additional features available natively in other premium booking plugins are only available via premium add-ons with Bookly.
Price: The basic Bookly plugin is free. Bookly Pro is $89. Additional features can be added through the 30+ add-ons available for this plugin.
3. WooCommerce Bookings and Appointments
WooCommerce Bookings and Appointments is a booking plugin that integrates with WooCommerce. It’s made by PluginHive, a web development company with a collection of about a dozen WooCommerce-based plugins under their belt.
It essentially allows you to add bookings to your WooCommerce site or use WooCommerce specifically for a booking site. You’ll do this by using the plugin to convert a WooCommerce product or service into a bookable resource.
This plugin is available in free and premium versions.
What you get with the free version of WooCommerce Bookings and Appointments
This version of the plugin allows you to configure bookings based on time, days or months. You can even showcase a calendar potential customers can use to see what you have available and to select the date(s) they want to book.
You can even specify which times you’re unavailable so customers aren’t able to book your business or service during non-working hours. You can do this for non-working days as well.
What you get with the Pro version of WooCommerce Bookings and Appointments
With the premium version, you can create “People,” “Participants” and “Items” and assign them to bookable resources. You can also add additional staff members and manage them.
Plus, since this plugin integrates exclusively with WooCommerce, you can accept any payment method WooCommerce integrates with. There are also many more technical specifications you can configure in terms of booking availability and price.
Here are additional features you’ll find useful:
- Color customization.
- Add extras (called “Resources”) and assign them automatically to certain bookings or have customers do so.
- Allow cancellations.
- Enable booking confirmations from admins only.
- Allow customers to enter additional details with a Booking Notes field.
- Google Calendar sync.
Price: The basic version is free. The Pro version is available for $99. Support and updates can be extended for one year at a 50% discount.
Booki is a booking plugin available exclusively in a premium version. It’s another great option for businesses with multiple service providers.
What you get with Booki
Booki allows you to create projects rather than services or calendars. Each of these projects will have their own calendars. You can also create an unlimited number of service providers and assign them to projects.
There’s no integration with WooCommerce, but you can accept online payments with PayPal. You can’t specify working hours or breaks, but you can prevent customers from booking too soon.
Here are additional features:
- Create extras with additional prices and specific quantities for each.
- Create and cancel bookings manually.
- Customize calendar functions and appearance.
- Booking notifications with customizable email templates.
- Custom form fields to collect additional information.
- Set up seasons to apply special holiday rates.
- Google Calendar sync.
- Stats page.
Price: Booki is available for $29 and does not have a free version.
5. Booking Calendar
Booking Calendar is a booking plugin developed by Wp Dev Art, the developers of a large collection of WordPress plugins. These include WpDevArt Facebook Comments, Countdown Timer – Widget Countdown, and Coming Soon and Maintenance Mode.
This is a great plugin for businesses who only need customers to book appointments or reservations with the business, not specific employees. This is because it doesn’t have features that allow you to add employees or services.
It comes in free and premium versions with the premium version broken up into multiple tiers.
What you get with the free version of Booking Calendar
The free version of Booking Calendar allows you to add multiple calendars. You can also add an unlimited number of booking forms.
Although you can’t add services in the same way you would with the other plugins on this list, you can add extras and assign different prices and quantities to them. “Adults” and “Children” are added as extras by default.
You can even create your own themes and assign them to calendars. Themes in the free version allow you to configure the way dates are formatted, which fields they use and a large list of technical settings.
What you get with the Pro version of Booking Calendar
The premium version comes in two versions, both of which have different tiers based on the number of site licenses you need. These versions are named Pro (without payment system) and Extended (with payment system).
Pro allows you to fully customize your themes and book appointments by hours. You’ll also have more features for Extras fields and will be able to view reservations in monthly format.
Extended adds the following features:
- Multi-user functionality.
- Different values for different days of the week.
- Google reCAPTCHA support.
- Discount options for different days of the week.
- Minimum and maximum values for hours and days.
- Edit reservations.
- Payment system with PayPal integration.
Price: The basic version of Booking Calendar is free. The premium versions start at $30 for Pro and $60 for Extended.
BirchPress is a basic booking plugin in comparison to the other plugins on this list, but it’s still a worthy contender.
There used to be a free version of this plugin which has been closed. The premium version is available in tiers with each tier offering more features than its predecessor.
What you get with BirchPress
The premium version of BirchPress is available in three tiers—Personal, Business and Business+. Each tier adds email notifications and more control over the way customers book appointments.
Here are additional features the Business and Business+ tiers offer:
- Calendar sync with Google Calendar, iCal, iPhone, Android and Outlook.
- Customize form fields.
- PayPal, Authorize.net and WooCommerce integrations.
- Thousands of functions, action hooks and filters for developers.
Unfortunately, support for WooCommerce and Authorize.net are only available in Business+, the most expensive tier.
Price: BirchPress is available for $99/year (Personal), $199/year (Business) or $249/year (Business+).
7. WP Simple Booking Calendar
WP Simple Booking Calendar is a booking plugin that works differently than the rest of the plugins on this list. This is mainly due to the fact that it’s a stripped-down version of a booking plugin.
Instead of allowing your customers to book services or reservations, it simply showcases a calendar you can configure to display which dates you have open and which dates you have booked. This makes it unsuitable for businesses with multiple employees customers can book services with.
It comes in free and premium versions nonetheless.
What you get with the free version of WP Simple Booking Calendar
The free version of this plugin allows you to create one calendar. You can label each individual date as “Free,” “Booked” or “Changeover.”
You can add this calendar to any page with a simple shortcode once you’re done configuring your schedule.
What you get with the Pro version of WP Simple Booking Calendar
You can create an unlimited number of calendars with the premium version. You can also display multiple months and edit multiple dates with one click. You can even create and customize a legend to display near your calendar so customers know how to use it.
The premium version also gives you access to themes and several technical settings you can configure. You can even sync your calendar with sites like Airbnb and FlipKey through the use of iCal feeds.
Support for Google Calendar is available as well.
Price: The basic version of this plugin is free. Prices for the premium version start at $39 and are based on the number of site licenses you need.
Which WordPress booking plugin should you choose?
Some of these plugins are incredibly similar while others differentiate themselves from the rest. Let’s talk about how to choose between them based on what you’d use them for.
If you’re a business with multiple service providers, you’re going to want to take a look at these plugins in particular:
- Amelia is a fantastic all-round option for businesses who want a robust calendar booking solution. It’s an especially good option for those who manage multiple locations and would prefer to create multiple booking forms. And the user interface is excellent. There’s a free version which would be enough for smaller businesses, and an affordable pro version which unlocks all feature limitations (includes lifetime updates).
- Bookly is a great option for businesses who need a simple yet effective online booking solution with support for online payments. I recommend taking a look at the other options on this list if you need more than what the Pro version offers as you’ll pay a hefty price with add-ons.
- WooCommerce Bookings and Appointments is perfect for businesses who sell products along with services. However, service providers will find this solution useful as well due to the full-on WooCommerce integration that allows for more features.
Then there’s also:
Booki is another great option for businesses with multiple service providers, but it’s especially optimized for paid events and similar projects.
Booking Calendar is a wonderful option for businesses that need a solution that allows customers to book locations, not specific services.
BirchPress is a good option but may be too expensive for some, especially if you want to start accepting online payments.
WP Simple Booking Calendar is the best option for businesses who aren’t ready to move online, at least not entirely. That’s because it’s a simple solution that allows you to showcase a calendar featuring available and unavailable dates on your website. It does not allow customers to book appointments online nor can you accept online payments.
Wrapping it up
Now, we’ve talked through quite a few plugins. The important next step is figuring exactly which features you need.
Start off by writing down a list of everything you need the plugin to do, and work backwards from there.
If you’re unsure of which plugin to go with at this stage, try installing one of the free plugins above such as Amelia Lite to get a feel for things. You might find that it does everything you need.