Taking bookings from your own website is the goal of many owners

Some time ago, a client asked me if I could advise on a booking system to use on a Wordpress website. Although it is relatively simple to display an availability calendar and take bookings through a reservation form hosted on your website, a booking system which can go from selecting available dates, handle the communication with the guests, all the way through to dealing with payments requires something a little more complex.

The first step was to define the features I was expecting from a booking system and at the same time, identify some of the things I wanted to avoid. As with any 3rd party solution, you should not always expect to find exactly what you want, so being flexible is important.

Expected Features

  • Reservation dates selectable through calendar
  • Calendar synchronised using iCal
  • Instant price calculation
  • Flexible pricing
  • Handling of optional extras
  • Ability to offer discounts
  • Handle multiple property units
  • Sending emails
  • Payments, preferably through Paypal and Stripe
  • Easily integrated into design of website

Some Nice To Haves

  • Display rate tables
  • Security deposit handling
  • Basic management of reservations
  • Styles which blend in and look seamless

Don't want

  • Monthly fees
  • iFrames which break my site layout
  • Designs which don't blend in with my site
  • Too many features I don't need
  • Expensive
  • Monthly fees (Did I mention this already?)

I already use the plugin VR Calendar Pro sync on several websites, which is a great looking availability calendar. It also comes with a booking engine, which I have used on 1 occasion. It kind of works but is a bit clunky and only offers a few of the features I was looking.

 

Several booking systems were evaluated but they nearly all had one major drawback. They were either too expensive or the monthly fees were simply too high. If you're only expecting to take a few direct bookings then it's difficult to justify paying a high price to gain this feature.

Systems tested:

  • Motopress - $49 per year, basic but no deposits or payments
  • Birchpress - $99 per year, $199 to get iCal and Paypal, does not handle extras
  • abookin - $111 for business which includes payments, $186 for version which handles deposits. Addition required for calendar sync
  • WpDevArt - $60, 1 month calendar, styles limited, no calendar sync
  • Ignored were a whole range of systems which charge high monthly fees and hosted externally

Finally I came across one plugin which appeared to tick all the boxes – not only the wants but the nice to haves too!  HBook is a plugin with a one off purchase price of $49 and with the purchase, you get 6 months of support and updates so I guess you may want to update it every couple of years. However, his sure beats paying monthly for the same functionality.

A reservation is initiated from a widget which can be placed any page.

This then brings up the available properties and a price

You can then go on to book your selected property and be given the choice of paying by bank transfer, Paypal or credit card via Stripe. Emails are generated automatically with the booking details.

HBook Setup

Configuring any reservation system is not a trivial task as there are so many parameters, which must be defined. HBook was intuitive to use and when problems did arise, the support was top notch. The plugin did almost everything I could wish, impressing me so much I decided to write this article. The only downside I discovered was that the styling was geared towards a light coloured website and when implementing in my clients black/dark blue theme, a fair amount of CSS styling was required. For most people, this would not be an issue.

HBook have a few demos of their plugin in action and some very comprehensive documentation.

Please note that I am in no way affiliated with the author(s) of this plugin but simply believe it's a good find and more owners would use it if they knew about it.

TOP