Creating a booking system in Microsoft Excel (or a similar tool like Google Sheets) is a simple and affordable way to manage tour reservations — you can keep a record of all bookings in one place and track specific details about reservations.

However, in our experience working with dozens of tour and activities companies to help them manage bookings over the past 10+ years, this approach has limitations. Specifically, it isn’t sustainable as you grow: it’s hard to keep these sheets organised as you add more bookings, it requires a lot of time and manual effort, and it’s also error-prone.

Excel simply doesn’t have all of the functionality tour operators need to effectively manage bookings (for example, it doesn’t automatically update if someone modifies a booking and you can’t set availability to prevent overbookings).

So in this guide, we’ll walk through the steps to create a booking system in Excel. Then, we’ll cover the limitations of an Excel-based booking system and explain how we designed our booking software, Bókun, to fix these problems making booking easier for tour companies.

You can start a free trial (no credit card required) of Bokun here .

How to create a booking system in Microsoft Excel & Google Sheets

Using a spreadsheet solution — like Excel or Google Sheets — to manage bookings can work well for small businesses in scenarios when you have a low volume of bookings and few staff members. You can create basic tools to log reservations, schedule staff, and track booking details.

Excel and Google offer very similar solutions to manage bookings; both systems provide custom form builders that pair with their spreadsheet tools (Excel spreadsheets and Microsoft Forms; Google Sheets and Forms).

Regardless of the system you choose, the easiest solution is to create a form that links to your spreadsheet — the form is where the customer does the booking, which automatically syncs with your spreadsheet, where you can see new reservations.

We’ll show you how this works in Google Sheets/Forms, but it’s largely equivalent to Excel/Microsoft Forms:

First, create and title a new spreadsheet. We’ll call ours “Tour Bookings 2023”.

Then, create a form that links with your sheet. You can do this under “Tools” > “Create a new form”.

Google Sheets: Create a new form

You can design this form to gather all necessary information from attendees before they arrive; there are several ways to format questions so you can collect all the information you need. These form builders are also straightforward and easy to use so anyone can create custom surveys.

You’ll want to log basic information like the tour or activity they book and the date/time of their reservation, but you should also ask customers to share their contact information (email and phone number), specify the number of attendees, and share any special requirements.

Google Sheets: Tour Bookings form description

After completing the form, the questions automatically convert to columns in the linked spreadsheet, and any answers to those questions (form fills) automatically populate in the rows below. You can check the form to see the latest reservations, schedule staff, and track payment information.

Note: You can add columns to the sheet to keep track of payment information and schedule staff, but you will have to complete this information manually.

Google Sheets: Tour Bookings 2023 example

Pro Tip: We suggest creating a new sheet every month (you can create these within your main spreadsheet) to keep reservations organised. Then you don’t have one massive spreadsheet of names, and it’s easy to reference past bookings.

You can select the + on the bottom left hand corner to add a new sheet; then you can link the form you’ve already created to log answers in the new sheet.

Google Sheets: Adding a new sheet

You have a few options to share your form and track reservations:

  • Embed the link on your website so users can make reservations at their convenience.
  • Send the link via email or text after customers get in touch with you.
  • Internal staff can complete the form to track walk-up and in-person reservations.

You can edit forms at any time and the changes will update automatically in your sheet.

Google Sheets: Manage form settings

So in summary, here are the benefits of a spreadsheet based booking system like this:

  • It’s completely free to use.
  • It allows a lot of customisation, as you can design your form in any way you choose.
  • You can track all of your reservations, past and present, easily in one place.

The limitations of Excel-based booking management

However, as we mentioned, spreadsheets have limitations, in particular as the business grows and the number of bookings increase:

Forms allow customers to more or less request bookings with you — the form doesn’t operate as a calendar so they can’t see your availability and if the booking time they choose works with your schedule.

Even if it does, this scheduling isn’t automatic: there’s always going to be some back and forth with customers because you have to call them to confirm bookings and collect payment information.

If booking times don’t work, then you’re rescheduling (which could put you in a position where you potentially lose a sale).


Booking software like Bókun lets customers see your calendar and availability at the time of booking and make payments through a secure online portal, which allows you to save time confirming or rescheduling reservations and avoids these issues.

Spreadsheets become harder to maintain as you receive more bookings; it’s not uncommon for teams to accidentally overbook, add the wrong payment information to the sheet (for example, mark the wrong attendees as “paid”), or double book staff members.


Booking software automatically keeps things organised; attendees can only book at approved times (no double bookings), you receive and manage payments through the system (everything is correctly logged), and resource management simplifies scheduling so you can see who’s available at specific times and avoid double booking team members.

The form is just a link you can share on your website or after customers contact you, and it only lets users make direct bookings through the form. However, most people are finding things to do and (instantly) booking on popular travel sites like Viator, GetYourGuide, and Expedia. So you’re not being found as often, and when you are, customers don’t have the most convenient booking options — they have to find the form, fill it out, then go through the back and forth (above) with you. This adds more and more drop off points where you can lose bookings.


Booking software allows you to make your website bookable and connect with online travel agencies (OTAs) to receive bookings on the sites customers use to find tours and activities. It’s an instant process.

It’s also worth noting: On top of potential loss of sales because of the added back and forth, manual data entry in spreadsheets takes employee time and adds extra operational headaches to the business.

Bókun: Advantages of dedicated booking software over Excel

Bókun is an online booking management tool designed for tour and activity-based businesses — our solution is also referred to as tour operator software — and we offer the most cost-effective option for teams ready to make this jump.

Our platform lets you:

  • Manage all bookings — online and offline, in one place, in real-time.
  • Create a bookable website (or make your existing site bookable with our widget).
  • Connect with OTAs to sell your services and receive bookings from online sales channels, such as Viator, GetYourGuide, Google things to do, Civitatis, Klook, Tiqets, etc.
  • Automatically share booking details with staff members and keep others in the loop.
  • Set availability so you only receive bookings during certain times.
  • See new bookings in your calendar instantly (and updates to bookings, if users modify).
  • Access more advanced reporting tools to dig into past bookings, track payments, and monitor revenue.
  • Grow your business by establishing partnerships in the reseller Marketplace; you can connect with thousands of worldwide partners to sell your tours and activities through their sites, or make commission reselling others’ products.

We’ll show you how this works.

Manage all bookings from a central hub & save time on manual data entry

Regardless of how you currently receive bookings, Bókun lets you bring everything under one hub:

  • You can use our Advanced Website Builder to create a custom website and receive online bookings. Our one-click bookable website generator requires no coding knowledge! Choose from our library of templates and plug in the details.
  • If you already have a website, you can drag-and-drop our booking widget to make your site bookable.
  • Add walk-up and in-person reservations to your Bókun calendar. We never charge booking fees for offline reservations.
  • Connect with online travel agencies (OTAs) like Viator, GetYourGuide, and Google things to do to sell your tours and activities on other travel sites and extend your online reach. Reservations from connected channels will automatically populate in your booking calendar.

Bonus: We have a partnership and integration with Viator that allows existing Viator users to push products to Bókun for fast set-up. We offer free bookings from Viator and four free product checks per month.

Bókun Bookings: Booking Calendar

The dashboard captures and displays all booking details, such as the day and time, tour/activity booked, number of attendees, contact details, and additional notes.

Note: You can customise booking forms to gather information from attendees at the time of booking, then it’s easy to track the data pertinent to your reporting.

Bókun Bookings: Example of a booking

Our booking engine offers self-service features for customers to cancel bookings without having to contact your staff for help. Bookings automatically update in your calendar so you can see the most recent details.

We offer the lowest fees of all booking management software — 1.5% for online bookings and free from Viator and offline reservations.

Receive & track payments through Bókun

Bókun integrates with over a dozen payment processors, including well-known names like PayPal, Braintree, Stripe, Google Pay, Apple Pay, Worldpay, and Trust My Travel. We also partner with Klarna and offer payment options through Google.

Bókun: Add a Payment Provider

You can require payment at time of booking, create and send invoices, or give customers the option to pay when they arrive. You can also log in-person or cash payments in Bókun, so you can keep record of all payments in our booking solution.

Support your staff, save time & keep everyone on the same page

Excel and Google Sheets can limit staff members visibility into what’s going on. They may know the tour schedule and how many attendees are expected to arrive, but if someone makes a last-minute change or cancels, guides can be left in the dark, tours can be held up, and in-office staff have to spend time updating all appropriate parties.

Bókun lets you add other employees to the dashboard, share the booking calendar, and keep everyone in the loop (you can adjust permissions to choose which information you want to share).

Our platform also makes it easy to gather guides’ availability, communicate with staff, and set work schedules. You can also adjust general availability — the times you’re open to accepting reservations — in Bókun, and our tools will ensure you only receive bookings during approved windows. These tools also prevent double bookings and overbookings.

We also provide mobile apps so tour guides can always stay in touch and reference calendars or check-in customers from anywhere.

Bókun’s automated customer communications save your staff time and facilitate a smooth check-in. We provide a library of email templates to get you started; you can customise each with new text, branded logos or colours, attachments, and links to review sites. For example:

  • The booking confirmation email gets automatically sent to customers when they make their reservation. This is a standard confirmation email so customers know you received their information. If customers cancel their booking, we update the reservation on your end and send a new email confirming the changes.
  • You can send customers a follow-up email with additional details (say, if you need to share information about pick-up/drop-off or recommended items to bring), tickets (you can choose your preferred ticket style), and any waivers customers need to complete before arrival.
  • We have optional emails to remind customers of their booking a couple of days before their reservation.
  • Then, you can create a “Thank You” email to send customers after their event has taken place. This is not only a customer service best practice, but also creates opportunities to share links to your review pages and offer discounts for repeat customers.
Bókun: Pick a base for your template

In addition, mobile apps support your field staff — they can access the booking dashboard, view reservation details, and use the ticket scanning feature to simplify check-in when attendees arrive.

Bókun product management, channel management & reporting allow better control and visibility over day-to-day operations

Bókun product management lets you list the tours and activities you sell on your website. Then, channel management lets you connect and list products across connected sales channels.

We design both tools so they’re straightforward:

  • Our dashboard will prompt you through the steps to complete a new product — aside from including the basic product details, you can customise listings to include any details relevant to customers before booking. This is also where you can include pricing for tours and activities.

Note: We’ve also introduced dynamic pricing (called Pricing Modulator in Bókun), a tool that can automatically update tour and activity prices to maximise revenue. Our platform can adjust rates based on tour length or number of days before the start date, or reflect a general discount.

Bókun: Experience Scheduling (How is your experience scheduled?)
  • Our Channel Management capabilities let you choose sales channels to integrate with and instantly connect systems. You can scroll the options and select the channel you want to connect, then our system will prompt you through set-up.
  • Manage availability by product with start and close-out points — choose available dates and departure times for tours and then edit them on the fly. For example, you can specify departure times for morning tours and evening activities to keep schedules straight. Then, if you need to adjust your availability on a per-product basis, you can block off dates or specific departure times for just those products.

You can update products through the experience management dashboard, and add or remove sales channels through Sales tools.

Within Bókun, there’s a suite of reporting tools to monitor what’s going on behind the scenes. You can review:

  • Past and upcoming bookings
  • Insights and details from past bookings
  • Busy and slow seasons
  • Top-selling products
  • Bookings per sales channel (to understand which channels perform best)
  • Total revenue and profit from bookings

Reports are customisable — so you can analyse metrics over different periods. You have insights to make data-driven, strategic decisions to improve your business and processes.

Bókun Reports: Experience Sales

Increase bookings by connecting with OTAs & establishing reseller partnerships

Bókun has tools to help your business grow. If you’re ready to increase bookings, you can:

  • Connect with OTAs to sell tours and activities on popular travel sites (as talked about above). This lets you introduce your name to folks outside your area who are researching things to do before they visit. Since many people prefer to plan and book activities online, ahead of travel, this allows you to get in front of a much wider audience than simply those who stumble upon you in your area.
  • Leverage the Marketplace to connect with tour operators and activity providers who offer similar products as yours. You can find resellers to promote your tours and activities with theirs, or you can connect with suppliers to earn commission selling their products. You can also create bundles or tour packages with providers in your area. All partnerships are managed in the Bókun platform so contracts are straightforward and secure.
Bókun Discover Partners: The Marketplace gives you access to resellers and suppliers.

Getting started

You can use Excel and Google Sheets to keep track of bookings for a short time: they’re low cost, and as you saw above, creating booking systems in those tools isn’t time-consuming or difficult. But these tools only let you record bookings in a central sheet; they aren’t designed to support the entire booking experience, so they leave a lot of ground uncovered.

Bókun is a natural next step for teams ready to move on from traditional spreadsheet systems. Our platform is intuitive and user-friendly so you can learn the ropes and work through setup quickly (most can build their site, add products, and connect sales channels in an afternoon). However, our platform has advanced features to support tour operators and their staff, beyond tracking bookings.

With Bókun, you can:

  • Manage all of your bookings, across all online and offline channels, in one central hub.
  • Create a custom site and add your tours and activities to receive online bookings.
  • Connect with OTAs and Bókun Marketplace to increase online bookings.
  • Manage availability, schedule tour guides, prevent blunders like double bookings, and keep everyone in the loop.
  • Adjust our platform as you grow to support continued scalability.

Our booking software is available for one low subscription cost — $49 per month — and this includes access to all features, the Advanced website builder, a domain of your choosing, and customer support. We offer the lowest subscription fees (1.5% for online bookings) and cost-saving perks like zero booking fees on Viator and offline reservations.

Get started for free (no credit card required!) with our 14-day trial.

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