If you like the quality and standards of a major hotel chain but the unique aspects of an Airbnb, a hospitality startup named Sonder might be right for your next trip.
The company offers thousands of room and apartment rentals in cities around the world. They have a modern look and feel, plus amenities like fast Wi-Fi and free coffee.
But the twist? Most of the experience is self service, which often makes the room cheaper than the competition.
“Sonder is a very tech enabled design forward hospitality company,” said Scott Blakeslee, an Area General Manager for Sonder.
We visited the Sonder Lum location near LAX. They’re also in more than 30 cities around the world.
The biggest difference is that much of the experience is self-service.
“I think you get that autonomy and you kind of get that stay on your own terms,” said Blakeslee.
Many locations aren’t staffed around the clock, but if you need something you can always request it from your phone. They do have employees in every area standing by, but they just might not be at the front desk.
Every location also has a Sonder “Essentials” cabinet. This is stocked with things you might need more of, including towels, coffee pods, toilet paper and other similar items.
Rooms are professionally cleaned between stays but typically housekeeping isn’t provided daily.
“Because of our model and really leaning into the technology, you’re looking at a much more … affordable rates,” said Blakeslee.
The room I saw was minimalistic but modern, bright, and airy. Amenities vary from location to location but there’s typically streaming TV, a coffee maker, fridge, and good Wi-Fi.
The TV is neat since it has a Roku that lets you log into your streaming services like Hulu and Netflix. You set your check out date on the device and it automatically “wipes” all your accounts off of the box so no worries about forgetting to log out.
You unlock the front door of the location you’re staying at and your room with a code from your phone or using your phone as a Bluetooth key.
“Sonder is for the Gen Z traveler that wants to do everything on their phone,” said Dennis Schall, founding editor of the travel website Skift. He’s also stayed at a Sonder.
“With Sonder at least you’re going to get some standards, they manage the property. It’s not as slap dash as taking your chances with an individual host,” said Schall.
There are also discounts for the longer you stay, and often the places are in various parts of the city you might want to explore on foot.
“It’s another option, like anything in travel … if you’re looking for a deal you have to shop around, because sometimes it’s going to be cheaper on Sonder, sometimes a hotel is going to be cheaper, sometimes it’s going to be an Airbnb,” concluded Schall.
Bottom line: if you’re used to room service, concierge and valet, Sonder isn’t for you. But, if you love doing everything from your phone, it’s worth a look for your next stay.