Top WordPress Appointment and Booking Plugins (2022)

Top WordPress Appointment and Booking Plugins (2022)

Reservation systems are popular with hospitality-type businesses like hotels and restaurants, but they’re not the only ones who can benefit from them.

Any business model that relies on filling seats, meeting with clients and team members, or conducting assessments, would benefit from a reservation, booking, or appointment system.

As a freelancer, you probably schedule time out of your work schedule to talk to your clients or meet with prospective ones. That means an on-site reservation system would be helpful for your own business, too.

Appointments and meetings already take enough time out of your schedule. A reservation system will at least help you shave a few minutes off of the back-and-forth that tends to happen when trying to coordinate and schedule them.

Here’s what we’ll be covering in this article:

Below is a summary list of all of the WordPress appointment booking plugins we included in this review, along with a link to their download pages with additional details.

  1. HubSpot Meeting Scheduler + HubSpot CRM (base plugin)
  2. Simply Schedule Appointments
  3. Bookly
  4. Booking Calendar
  5. Amelia
  6. Easy Appointments
  7. Start Booking
  8. Hotel Booking Lite

If you’re curious about what a reservation system can do for your WordPress site, this post is for you.

Let’s take a look at what sort of businesses can benefit from WordPress appointment booking, what those benefits are, and which plugins can best handle a reservation system on your WordPress site.

A Feature-Based Approach

While researching this subject, we came across many listicle style posts, containing a banner image and top-level description for a number of plugins. Instead of adding to that pile, we decided to take a unique approach.

Rather than running through a list of plugins with mini blurbs about each, we’re going to define what the key, important features of a digital scheduling assistant are, then create a section for each of these along with some plugins that stood out in that area.

This will help guide you in selecting a plugin based on features that have particular worth or interest to you, which is how we would approach it ourselves.

Important Key Features

So what are the most important features in appointment and booking plugins?

There are some criteria we won’t be rating, with the expectation that these come standard in a good plugin, and we wouldn’t consider using them otherwise:

  • Integrated with WordPress – readily available to install & activate in WP
  • Updated regularly – to keep WP safety protocols in place
  • Rated highly – tested as tried and true by a majority of users
  • Support – whether live or in the form of an active forum, answers are easy to come by and actually help solve problems
  • Cost – it’s offered in a free version, with paid upgrades to do even more (if desired)

For this article, everything we’ll be reviewing has a free version. We’ll also let you know if premium plans with additional features are offered.

With the basics laid out, let’s identify the other variables that matter most. Using a plugin that caters to your specific needs will ultimately provide you with the best value.

Top Features List:

  1. Setup – Is it simple & intuitive, or jumbled/complex? Is there some sort of automation or a startup wizard included?
  2. Customization – Can you set the number of reservations you’ll take in a day or block out certain times & dates? Can you select your own colors or personalize contextual elements?
  3. Calendar (Booking/Viewing) – Does it allow you to add a calendar on your site for client access? If so, is coding required on your part, or is there a block or embed code to quickly add?
  4. Confirmations – Do these show upon page reload after the booking is made? Are they automatically sent via email? Is there a way to view them on your own calendar? If so, how do they arrive/look?
  5. Revisions – Is there a way to cancel or reschedule appointments already booked? How hard/easy is it to accomplish this?
  6. Payments* – Does it integrate with a payment platform that is secure & trusted? Is it difficult or simple to use?
  7. Overall Use & Aesthetics – How useful did the program seem on the whole? Was it plain, pathetic, or pleasing to look at?

*This feature would only be needed for businesses where making a reservation requires on-the-spot remittance. Since this could apply to your business or your clients, we felt it important to include.

And, we’re off!

Spotlight on Individual Features

This section is our breakdown feature by feature, so you can see which plugins excelled in specific areas.

I want to state that we won’t be including any plugins here that we found of little or no value. Despite individual features that didn’t rank as highly as their counterparts in comparison, if it’s in this post, it offers value in the digital scheduling assistance realm and we consider it a solid choice.

Feature 1: Setup

This feature doesn’t have levels of intricacy to it. It just needs to easily lay the groundwork to be up and running.

Initial setup is ideal when it’s simple and uncomplicated, with clear instructions or an automated wizard.

Best of the bunch:

Simply Schedule Appointments

SSA is one of the few plugins we tried that had a startup wizard. In my experience, wizards are one of those small details that make a big impact.

This wizard ran as soon as I clicked on the installed dashboard, and took me through every step and setup point necessary to get me fully onboarded.

ssa set wizard
Setting up the basics is as easy as ABC with the SSA smart wizard.

Instructions for each section were clear, and I was able to enter all data without issue.

When the wizard completed, it was very clear where I stood, and the plugin’s shortcode was clearly displayed so I didn’t have to hunt around for it later.

SSA wizard finish
Simply Schedule Appointments outfoxes the competition with their wily wizard.

Even suggestions for next steps were prominently displayed in the form of one-click buttons at the bottom of the popup.

Bookly

Bookly also came through with a setup wizard. As noted above, I’m a big fan of these, as when done well they make a measurable improvement in the user experience.

bookly wizard step 3
Setting up scheduling parameters in Bookly is a breeze through their wizard.

Bookly’s wizard was also very intuitive, covered the necessities, and had a nice flow.

bookly wizard finish
Bookly’s startup wizard is put together well.

Upon completion, the shortcode was clearly displayed, along with a quick “how-to” for adding it to a page. There was also a link to their help page, which I didn’t need, but appreciated it being there.

Feature 2: Customization

There are two types of customization being taken into account here:

A. Scheduling Parameters

  • Marking specific blocks of time or entire days (holidays/blackout days) as unavailable
  • Allowing buffer times (built-in padding between appointments)
  • Controlling the number of allowable bookings per day
  • Setting page URLs (for confirmations, denials, etc)

B. Visual Components

  • Choosing your colors, fonts, and other objects
  • Personalizing textual content in emails or descriptions

These customizations make it possible for the elements you’re adding to your site (as well as the emails going out under your business name) match your branding and voice.

Being able to set these yourself avoids needless post-booking adjustments. Without them, you’d have the hassle of dealing with reschedules that could have been easily avoided in the first place by simply indicating any non-availability up front.

To some, these features don’t matter much; to others they’re a big deal. Wherever you fall on the spectrum of above customizations, it’s good to know which plugins can get the job done.

Rising to the top:

HubSpot Meeting Scheduler

HubSpot Meeting Scheduler gets very high marks for both visual and scheduling parameter options.

Visually, you can select a logo and favicon. You change the colors of your calendar. You can also edit form items, like buttons – color, font size, and the font itself (there are quite a few options in the dropdown, or you can choose any Google font).

hubspot forms customization (font.color)
HubSpot Meeting Scheduler provides a number of styling options.

You can also change the type, size, and color of the font that will be in your outgoing emails.

Scheduling parameters also allow for quite a few customizations. You can choose meeting titles, duration options, availability windows (days of week & times of day), set a period of rolling weeks or custom date ranges for booking, minimum notice time, buffer time, and much more.

hubspot schedule parameter selections
The scheduling parameters in HubSpot Meeting Scheduler are numerous.

You can also decide what fields to require, and whether or not to include Captcha and Privacy & Consent (the text of which is editable itself).

Along with customization options too numerous to mention, almost every elemental section provides a live preview, so you can easily decide if you like how you’re setting things up.

hubspot calendar with custom color
HubSpot Meeting Scheduler lets you choose your calendar color, which keeps me in the pink.

Any setting adjustments you make need to be done directory from HubSpot’s website. Nothing is editable in WordPress, beyond actually adding the booking calendar to the page of your choice.

This certainly isn’t a dealbreaker for the sheer amount of customizations allowed – especially considering this is a free version! However, I did want to make note of it, as most of the other plugin customizations take place within WordPress.

Booking Calendar

Booking Calendar also fared very well in the customization feature set.

Visually, you can select from ten different pre-made color combos (ie, calendar skins), and choose from six colors for the skin of the time slots picker. Not as nice as creating your own palette, but still offers some variety.

booking calendar select skin
You get your choice of calendar skins in Booking Calendar.

Moving on to scheduling parameter options, there are plenty to be had here.

On the front end booking calendar, you can select the number of days to show in month view, allow unlimited booking per same day, show pending days as available, and prevent double booking during submissions. You can also choose to show time slots as a time picker instead of a select box.

For the Admin Panel in the WP dashboard, you can select your default view mode, the date format & date view, and choose the default calendar view.

You can also choose availability (days of the week), and unavailable days (days from today that cannot be booked).

In addition, you can add a Captcha to your form, auto-fill fields, and show a legend along with the calendar (the text labels for the individual legend keys are fully editable).

You can also select the post booking action (show a confirmation message, of your choosing) or redirect visitors to a new page (also your choice of URL).

And finally, you can opt to delete all booking data when you uninstall the plugin.

Here’s a walkthrough of Booking Calendar, demonstrating the many setting options.

Booking Calendar allows for many customizations.

Bookly

Bookly is another great option for those who want a hefty dose of customizations.

I’m immediately awarding organizational points. Items were where I expected them to be, so I didn’t have to root around for anything, whether basic or ornamental.

As far as visual changes go, there aren’t any you can make. But the default settings provide a very professional, feature-rich calendar.

Scheduling parameter options are what really shine here. For starters, you can set individual page URLs for almost every possible booking response, with success and deny screens for accepting, canceling, or rejecting appointments.

bookly settings URL
Bookly has a wealth of URL page settings.

You select the booking time slot length (2 mins to 6 hours, with lots of increments in between), and the number of days available for booking (how far in the future clients can book appointments).

There are also options for setting the calendar color key to reflect Service, Status, or Staff Member; selecting the view style (classic or minimalistic); and enable/disable any of the following: appointment notifications, show only business days/business hours in the calendar. The free version even allows you to disable “Powered by Bookly”.

You can also select your available booking times and days. And… you can designate black out days (Holidays), either as a single occurrence, or to repeat annually.

bookly holiday selection
Easily mark blackout days/holidays as one-offs or yearly occurrences in Bookly.

If I could make one improvement, it would be having the ability to add a punch of my own color, but with the overall experience being so rich I really can’t complain.

Amelia

Amelia’s customization options are so full they’re busting at the seams.

Starting on the visual front, they have two versions of their booking form – the original 1.0 and the new and improved 2.0. The new version creates a beautiful and smooth step-by-step Booking Form, which offers an upgraded user experience, animations, improved speed, and a stand-out design.

The booking calendar in Amelia is a sleek, personalized, highly functional access point for clients to book with your business.

Global settings allow you to choose primary fonts and state colors (from full spectrum RGBA), as well as for the Sidebar, Dropdowns, Calendar, Buttons, and more.

amelia booking form color options
Color choices galore in Amelia’s form customization.

Layout & input choices are available for buttons (style type), labels, dropdowns, and then some. These are separately customizable for Services (locations, employees), Dates & Times, Customer Contact Information, Payment details, and the final Confirmation screen – basically every section of what will be your online booking calendar.

The process is neatly organized, providing a full color preview along the way, and has a prominent Publish Form button to save all of your edits as you go.

I could easily write several pages on the parameter options alone, but I’ll do my best to highlight what stands out to me as extremely beneficial.

On the client side, you can select defaults (for time slots, status, & service duration), identify country by user’s IP address, show booking slots in the client time zone, and show “add to calendar” options to customers (so after they’ve booked, they can connect to their personal calendar and add the appointment there).

Also, once a client has submitted their info, you can edit it in your WP dashboard.

On the provider side, you can set your contact details, services (and associated prices), company details, and the days and hours of availability, with great flexibility.

When creating services, the free version gives you a fair amount of granular control… details, duration & pricing, and gallery customizations are all included, allowing you to add important details (and enticing images) to your services.

Incorporating a payment platform is a paid-only feature, but the basic setup for it is foundationally included in the free version. The paid gateways they offer are: WooCommerce, Mollie, PayPal, Stripe, and RazorPay.

For notifications, you have choices in mail services – PHP Mail, WP Mail – AND the additional ability to send SMS notifications. (In the free version!) There are carrier charges for SMS, but that’s independent of Amelia.

amelia notify email+sms
You get customization options for both email & SMS notifications in Amelia.

Both options allow you to fully customize the text of your messages (body & subject header), with formatting, color, links, placeholders (ie, tags – of which there are MANY), and images.

The free version allows you to use & edit two notification statuses: Appointments Pending, and Appointments Approved, while the pro/paid version opens up the full gamut of status templates for notifications.

Here is a final look at the WP dashboard… lots of at-your-fingertips data, and a very attractive UI, where you can not only view important details, but take action or revise selections as well.

amelia wp dashboard
Amelia’s colorful dashboard offers lots of insight, and allows for edits like updating appointment statuses or changing the date span for stats.

Feature 3: Calendar (Booking/Viewing)

Easy client access to the calendar is very important, and the task shouldn’t require a lot of searching or digging around.

Additionally, making an appointment should be quick and convenient for both the person making the booking and the one receiving it. Emphasis especially placed on the booking side, as that’s the client-facing element and we want to make any action they’re taking as carefree and smooth as possible.

High marks go to:

Bookly

Bookly produces a modern, sleek calendar, and page placement was a cinch.

In the block editor, typing ‘book’ instantly brought the Bookly booking form to the top, and from there it was a one-click insertion.

bookly block editor calendar form insertion
Use Bookly’s block in the editor to add the calendar to your site.

From the customer access point, things were also well executed. Booking on the calendar was an easy to follow, 4-step process, completed in under a minute.

bookly front-end calendar booking process step 1 of 4
Bookly calendar, step 1 of making a booking.
bookly front-end calendar booking process step 2 of 4
Bookly calendar, step 2 of 4 in making a booking.

Almost immediately afterward, confirmation emails – to both the business entity and the client who booked – arrived in their respective inboxes with the appointment details.

bookly email confirmations
Email confirmations in Bookly.

They’re not fancy, but they contain all of the pertinent information.

Bookly also displays a calendar on their WP dashboard, which allows you to view appointments – with details – as well as make changes.

bookly dashboard calendar
With Bookly’s WP dashboard calendar, edits are just a click away.

Start Booking

Start Booking is a treat for the eyes. You get a visual editor for setting up your calendar, which is well organized and a pleasure to use.

This visual editor is on their website, and launches automatically when you select any of the editable sections. Most of the actions (notification emails, managing users, your account info, etc), cannot be done in WordPress and will take you to Start Booking’s website. This isn’t a flaw, I’m just pointing it out as it does differ from the other plugins in that regard (except for HubSpot, as mentioned earlier).

The Provider section shows a picture along with the name, and an option to include a user bio. That’s a nice touch. If there is only a single provider (only one is allowed in the free version), this step will automatically be skipped in the booking flow.

start booking user bio
Make your guests feel more familiar by adding a provider bio in Start Booking.

In Services, you can actually add images and descriptions, leveling up your marketing.

start booking services
Start Booking Services allow for descriptions and images.

Almost every header in the booking flow setup, from start to finish, is text editable, and you always have a full color preview as you go.

The finished front end calendar looks great – incorporating the color and text content of your choosing – and it functions in a smooth, flowing manner.

Start Booking even lets you add images and descriptions to your services, automatically doing some of the marketing for you.

Simply Schedule Appointments

Simply Schedule Appointments calendar creation works like a dream.

Adding the calendar is beyond easy to create, and is done through a slick, ordered, five-step series.

ssa calendar settings wizard
Knock out your calendar setup in Simply Schedule Appointments in five easy steps.

It allows for a large assortment of customizations, including full spectrum custom colors, font, padding, and contrast mode. You can also choose your dates & times of availability, appointment slot lengths, time zone, buffers, advanced notice, and per day limits.

The notification emails are also completely editable, including text content for subject & message body (with a ton of insertable tokens), triggers, CC & BCC fields – all with live previews.

ssa email notification editing
Really make your emails personal with contextual editing in SSA.

Getting it in place is as simple as adding a block in the WordPress editor.

Once it’s on your page, the booking process is everything you need it to be – fast, efficient, and followed by a clear confirmation message, as well as an email for both parties with all the details.

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ssa booking cal
Making a booking in Simply Schedule Appointments is simple, attractive, and fast.

As the provider, you also get a helpful dashboard view of upcoming appointments, which you can drill down into for more details or editing.

ssa view appointment details (provider)
Click on any appointment in your SSA dashboard summary for more details and actions.

Feature 4: Confirmations

An appointment or reservation is only as good as the clear indication that it has in fact been booked.

How important are confirmations, really? Considering they birthed the actual expression of response – “it’s on the books” – very.

Any system that doesn’t include detail-specific, timely confirmations is likely to be abandoned by users for one that does. Hence, this is an important factor for consideration.

Standouts:

Easy Appointments

Easy Appointments makes it easy to personalize all of your email confirmations, by drafting your own textual content.

You can select from a large number of tags, so they’ll autofill with the pertinent details. This can be done for all of the individual status options, such as Pending, Canceled, Confirmed, and more.

These customizations can be made to the body of the message, as well as the subject header.

easy appointments mail confirmation settings
Easy Appointments lets you customize your email scripts for a number of statuses.

Confirmation emails arrive almost instantly after a booking is made, for both the person booking (the customer), and the business entity (you).

easy appointments mail confirmation business
An email confirmation on booking status sent to the business entity in Easy Appointments.

The business entity can confirm or cancel the booking directly from the email, as links for both are included at the bottom.

You can add your own website link in the template for the customer emails, so they can rebook if necessary.

easy appointments mail confirmation customers
Email appointment statuses sent to customers in Easy Appointments.

You can also designate post-appointment-booking page URLs, to display your own message appropriate to the confirmation.

If you’re into it, and have the know-how, there’s also an option to add custom CSS styles, which will affect both the standard and bootstrap widget.

easy appointments form style & redirect
Easy Appointments lets you specify URLs for post booking page messages.

You can also change status for any appointments in the plugin’s main dashboard. If you cancel or confirm here, an email indicating the status change will be sent out.

easy appointments make booking
Changing status in Easy Appointments’ WP dashboard will automatically send an email with the status update.

HubSpot Meeting Scheduler

Confirmations are smooth sailing with HubSpot’s Meeting Scheduler.

There are a good amount of backend settings when it comes to confirmations.

Upon making a booking, a confirmation message immediately presents, and will vary depending on the bookings status.

hubspot post confirmation messages
HubSpot’s post booking confirmation messages are informative and eye catching.

Additionally, emails arrive moments later to both the booking client and the booking provider.

They contain all the important information, based on customizations you can make on the backend.

hubspot email confirmation
Email confirmations for booking client and provider using HubSpot.

You can even set reminder emails to be sent automatically to clients, based on the time span of your choice.

hubspot email confirmation settings
HubSpot confirmations allow you to send email reminders, which you can preview while in settings.

Any changes that are made can be auto sent (per your settings), and these emails are also finely tuned and functional.

hubspot email confirmation post change
HubSpot’s email updates contain changes recently made, along with options to reschedule or cancel again.

Feature 5: Revisions

Reputable retail establishments know that providing for returns is as tantamount to their overall business model as getting sales.

The same applies to booking & appointment systems when it comes to revisions. If there’s one thing that’s certain when it comes to making plans, it’s the likelihood of needing to change them, since the unexpected is often the norm.

Any booking that’s been scheduled should have a direct line of action to reschedule or cancel it, and in an uncomplicated manner. Omission of this vital feature can create a lot of no-shows and profit loss.

Taking center stage:

Simply Schedule Appointments

Simply Schedule Appointments outshines the competition. From the moment you book an appointment, options to revise it are literally in your face.

ssa booking cal step 4
Simply Schedule Appointments makes revisions easy (with a capital E).

The post confirmation message has four links beneath it, where you can take single-click action to edit, reschedule, cancel, or book a new appointment.

If it so happens that your post confirmation page isn’t still open, you can simply go to your confirmation email, and click the cancel/change link from within.

Once again, you’ll be presented with revision options at the bottom of the page that loads. Presto chango.

ssa revise from email
Simply Schedule Appointments makes changing or moving appointments a breeze.

Start Booking

Revisions are smooth and simple in Start Booking.

The customer can just go to their confirmation email, and cancel their appointment with a single click. (Of course this requires proper setup on the backend.)

start booking cancel via customer email
It’s a one-click process to cancel an appointment in Start Booking.

To reschedule, they can go through your WP website calendar, or, they can access their account area in your StartBooking.com account.

start booking customer portal
Customers can book through your WP website, or from their account on your StartBooking.com page.

All actions, from making a booking, to canceling or rescheduling it, allow settings to have coordinating emails automatically sent, and they look professional.

start booking email communications list
There are four different appointment email reminders in Start Booking that can automatically be sent based on booking behaviors.

On the backend as the provider, you can make changes in a pinch from your Appointment summary – either on WP, or through your StartBooking.com account.

start booking appointments overview (SB site)
Click on any line item in the Appointments summary to edit in Start Booking.

Once you’re inside an itemized booking, you can see what is available to view and/or take action on.

start booking appointment check in
When you’re zoomed into a particular booking, Start Booking provides a full customer history at the bottom — and you can check people in!

Start Booking really helps you stay on top of our schedule. In fact, it’s the only plugin of this bunch that automatically emailed us an agenda on the days we had items scheduled.

start booking daily agenda email
Start Booking’s auto-generated Agenda email puts your daily schedule front & center.

It also sent client reminder emails prior to their scheduled booking.

start booking appointment reminder
Start Booking sends your clients a reminder email prior to their appointment.

Feature 6: Payment Platform

Of course not all appointment and booking systems will need options for payment. However, for certain industries, accepting payment at the time of booking is necessary, such as scheduling a session with an attorney or making a hotel reservation.

If a payment platform is needed, you’ll want one that is reliable and trustworthy. People are apt to avoid online remittance if a payment gateway seems in the least bit sketchy.

From the testing and research we conducted, all of the plugins in this post appeared to make the safety grade. Of course backend coding and business connections can change at any time, so always be sure to verify this information yourself.

Considering only two of the plugins in our list allowed for payment platform options in the free version, they easily rose to the top of the list on this feature.

Start Booking

Start Booking is a standout in this category, since payment processing seems to be a rare commodity in these free plugins.

Setup is easy. First you need to add your credit card in Billing, then connect Stripe through Integrations. Both of these steps are done directly from your account page in StartBooking.com.

If you don’t already have a Stripe account, you can set one up first (it’s quick & easy).

start booking stripe integration
Start Booking has a built in integration for popular payment platform Stripe.

Once you’re connected, you can select to require customers to pay at the time of booking (there’s a checkbox for it on the popup).

start booking booking flow payment
The payment screen in Start Booking’s booking flow.

Caveat: in order for the payment requirement to be enforced at time of booking, you must set a price of US $2.00 or above.

A note of thanks to Start Booking’s expert and responsive support team, who helped me over that hurdle. (Especially since I was using their free version!)

Once your payment platform is in place, bookings will function dually for you: when they’re made, you’ll get paid!

Hotel Booking Lite

Hotel Booking Lite is the second of two plugins that has payment options available in the free version.

Since we haven’t mentioned this plugin until now, I wanted to provide a quick rundown on its other notable features:

  • Visual customizations – choose your colors for automated emails, choose your booking calendar theme (16 available color options)
  • Parameter customizations – too numerous to mention all, but here’s a selection: custom page URLs, check-in/out times, search options, bed & room types, custom admin & client booking emails, currency type, date picker, seasons, rates, booking rules, reports, and much more

Our focus here is payment options, and Hotel Booking Lite offers a number of payment platforms in their free version of their plugin: Pay on Arrival, Direct Bank Transfer, and PayPal. Additional platforms are available in paid tiers (2Checkout, Stripe, & more).

They also offer a Test payment option, which is a great way to see for yourself how their setup works.

Play hotelier in style with Hotel Booking Lite.

Tip: make sure you select “Confirmation upon payment’’ in General Settings > Booking Confirmation > Confirmation Mode, or your checkout platform will not work.

Payment transactions worked smoothly and efficiently, from start to finish, and every screen was pleasant to look at and contextually fitting.

To allow guests to pay with a card instead of a PayPal account requires setting up a PayPal Business account through Hotel Booking Lite’s settings.

A final note regarding Hotel Booking Lite… when I couldn’t get something to work the way I wanted, I reached out via their live chat. Support responded in under a minute, and spent more than an hour patiently answering my questions. Again, considering I was trialing a free membership (and they had no idea who I was), I was impressed.

Plugins Free vs Paid

Regarding the premium upgrades you can purchase to add payment options (and more features), I’ve put together a chart with details per plugin.

pricing table
Payment platform and price range details for all eight of the booking and appointment plugins that passed our testing for inclusion in this review.

Feature 7: Overall Use and Aesthetics

When it comes to judging aesthetics, it’s often a “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” type of assessment, and thus varies greatly.

What I’m really rating here is how all of the combined elements come across…

  • Is the booking content (both on the website and in any automated communications), pleasant/sensical or dull/confusing to look at?
  • Is the layout practical, with the most helpful at-a-glance information where you’d expect to see it, or do you have to scan around to find what you’re looking for?

This is the in-a-nutshell, considering-all-the-elements-as-a-whole score.

Cream of the Crop:

Simply Schedule Appointments

Simply Schedule Appointments is my favorite of all the plugins I tested.

Anything I tried to set up was easily doable, and I had a treasure trove of options in customization. Even the error page made me smile.

ssa cute page text content & graphics
Simply Schedule Appointments coming through with the cuteness. Who wouldn’t love to look at these fun messages?

Also, everything functioned as expected, and was enjoyable to look at.

Start Booking

Start Booking is as efficient as it is useful, and easily nabbed second place.

Whether you choose to view your backend calendar on the WP dash, or from Start Booking’s site, you’ll see a neat summary. And if you are on Start Booking’s site, you also get a lot of built-in functionality on your calendar.

start booking cal dash views (WP+SB site)
Start Booking’s website dashboard gives you bookings at-a-glance, filtering options, and “take action” functionality.

And there you have it! We’ve gone through all the key features in our list now, highlighting which plugins performed best on each one.

On the whole, all of the free plugins in this post provide definite value when it comes to digital booking services. It’s the reason we selected the ones that we did.

That said, many of them will get a significant boost of capabilities and finesse of features by going pro. Especially for complex or large hospitality/customer-service-centric businesses, it might be worth it to look into some of the paid upgrades or addons.

In the end, it really depends on the level of booking features you need, and what premium options matter to you enough to be willing to pay for them.

Who Can Benefit From Booking and Appointments Plugins?

When you think about “making a reservation”, probably restaurants or hotels come to mind. And when you think about “booking an appointment”, you’re likely to think about service providers, like physicians and advisors.

In the end, though, it’s all the same. You want to give your end-user an easy way to reserve time or space (or both) while minimizing how much interaction you actually have to do to get it done.

Who really stands to benefit from an appointment or reservation system in WordPress?

  • Developers! (or any WordPress freelancer, really)
  • Marketers
  • Restaurants, hotels, and other accommodation providers
  • Travel agencies (e.g. airlines, vehicle rental companies)
  • Beauty, health, and wellness (e.g. salons, personal trainers, massage therapists)
  • Physicians and other healthcare providers
  • Advisors, coaches, and consultants
  • Attorneys, accountants, and financial planners
  • Service professionals (e.g. cable companies that schedule installation services; pickup & delivery services like Uber)
  • Entertainment (e.g. concert tickets; bouncy castles for kids’ parties)
  • Education (e.g. scheduling a tour, meeting with a guidance counselor, signing up for classes, etc.)

Many of these industries and professionals have already embraced the online reservation system.

The Benefits for Hospitality

Hospitality providers are probably the most common use case for booking systems right now and theirs is an example many industries would be smart to follow.

  • According to Statista, the online travel market size worldwide reached the $433.2 billion mark in 2021, and is expected to reach $690.71 billion by 2026.
  • StratosJets states that 83% of US adults choose to book their trips online.
  • American travelers spend 29% more time on average booking a trip in 2022 than they did in 2019, per TravelPerk.
  • According to Statistic Brain, 65% of travel reservations made online occur on the hotel’s primary website, not on a combined business site (like Hotels.com).
  • SaleCycle indicates that in 2022, nearly half (44%) of online bookings are done from a mobile device – so you know that responsive design has been very well-executed on travel sites.
  • Rezdy found that almost 40% of travel-related reservations (those for tours, entertainment, and other activities) are done online each year.

The Benefits for Healthcare

There are other industries starting to pick up the pace on adopting reservation systems, too. Healthcare is likely next in line as the time savings are extremely beneficial for both parties involved in the process of scheduling appointments.

Zippia researched booking trends, and found that online booking is significantly tied to cash flow, when it comes to appointment-based companies. The following metrics support this:

  • Businesses gain an average revenue increase of 27% when using an online booking system, with 67% of patients preferring online booking. In some cases, local businesses that added online booking systems to their website increased their revenue up to 120%.
  • According to general appointment scheduling statistics, clients make 46% of all appointments online, with 34% of these done after the office is closed. This significantly reduces the burden on staff to manage and schedule appointments over the phone or other means.
  • $150 billion per year is estimated as the annual loss from missed medical appointments. Providing online bookings can significantly reduce the number of appointment no-shows.

Then, there’s Patient Pop, who’s surveyed patient and provider findings regarding online reservation systems parallel what Zippia found:

  • Over 40% of patients said they preferred to make appointments online.
  • Patients appreciated the greater flexibility and accommodation of being able to schedule their own appointments, as 26% of them scheduled same day or next day appointments online.
  • Staff, on the other hand, enjoyed the freedom from having to field those appointment requests. They reported that each takes approximately four minutes to schedule.
book happy logo (jgb faux co)
Booking appointments with a digital scheduling assistant helps business relationships grow, while saving time, energy, and costs.

The Benefits for All

Those may be the more popular examples of businesses reaping the benefits of online reservation systems, but there’s a lot more to be gained from using one.

For example, a digital scheduling assistant:

  • Lends itself to a more professional appearance for your business.
  • Provides the self-service option that customers appreciate.
  • Saves you time, not having to schedule appointments or reservations yourself.
  • Maximizes the number of reservations you’re able to take if you enable same day or next day bookings.
  • More accurately displays upcoming schedules and availability.
  • Collects all necessary details from the customer before the appointment, so you can prepare ahead of time.
  • Allows you to make more money with upsell and cross-sell opportunities.
  • Guarantees you’ll at least make back money on the time lost to no-shows (if you add a pre-payment requirement).
  • Accepting reservations 24/7, making it more convenient for people who don’t have time during the day to make them.
  • Offers better predictive capabilities for your business’s sales.
  • Gathers other available data that can help you adjust your services or products based on the most popular requests, day and time requests, etc.

Booking and Appointment Scheduling is a Great Addition to Any Professional Website

Whether it’s for your own site or your clients, the benefits of integrating a WordPress Appointment Booking plugin are clear:

  • Less time and hassle in scheduling
  • More convenience and flexibility for your customers

Not to mention the revenue opportunities. Reservation systems remove all that friction so appointments can be a one-and-done kind of thing. Painless, simple, and confirmed.

Oh, one last thing, a nice perk for our readers: HubSpot and Simply Schedule Appointments are part of our partner program, so you can avail yourself of the discount through WPMU DEV, should you decide to purchase the premium version of these plugins.

Keep in mind that our member support team is always available, 24/7/365, and not just for our products but for all things WordPress. (Yep, that includes these plugins – and any others).

If you’re not already a member, check out our free trial offer. You can give us a go for 7 days, for free, no obligation, and if you’re not fully satisfied we’ll part ways on a positive note.

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for accuracy and relevancy. [Originally Published: April 2020 / Revised: October 2022]

What are your thoughts on integrating WordPress appointment booking plugins on your/your client’s business site? Do you have a favorite plugin that we didn’t include? Let us know in the comments below.

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Janette Burhans

Janette Burhans Janette Burhans is a blog writer, WhiP & Roundup contributor, and content creator at WPMU DEV. Her professional career as an author and artist spans over two decades, half of those in the world of WordPress. Her writing has been featured in Glamour magazine, and her personal blog, Platinum Pink. Connect with Janette on Twitter & LinkedIn.