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What Is Sonder? The Cross Between an Airbnb and a Hotel, Explained

The hospitality platform is like the squeaky clean lovechild of a personal pied-à-terre and a boutique hotel.
couch rug lamp window in a sonder rental
Photo: Sonder

I once stayed in a shared Airbnb in Brooklyn that was a bit, well, meh. Not gross or unsafe. The cat was chill. The bed was clean. It was just kind of schlumpy when you stared at it for too long. I just shrugged—I only needed a place to sleep, after all, and I think that’s an outlook we gamble with when we book Airbnbs. We’re here for the convenience and the affordable prices, and (unless we’re booking that Vermont Airbnb with a sauna) we tend to settle for a room that is “close enough” to what we saw online. And it’s almost always fine. But damn, if it wouldn’t have been nice to have a fresh bottle of shampoo waiting, or a more straightforward check-in, right? 


[Sonder enters the chat.]  

Sonder hopes to combine the personableness, coziness, and affordable prices of a home share experience with all the professionalism of a hotel. The vacation home rental platform leases and manages its apartments, so you’re not stuck trying to text That Host Guy, Jeff, about where the hide-a-key is, or look away from his bunk tile grout. “We thoroughly clean and disinfect each Sonder before and after every stay,” the company says on each listing. It also offers self check-in and 24/7 guest support via the Sonder app, so you can limit in-person interactions at its various apartments. This dude tested a Sonder (they use it as a noun; roll with it) that even had its own elevator (reserved especially for what we would like to call Sonder Sluts) and operated separately from the permanent tenants’ elevator. There are also unique safety precautions that seem trivial, but can make a difference in preventing potential sketchiness for both hosts and guests (such as checking IDs). 


The startup began in 2014 when founder Francis Davidson, then a college student, started a side hustle managing sublets from his friends’ apartments, and... well, we’ve all seen this movie. One thing led to another, and now Sonder has over 5,000 listings around the world, according to CNBC

The TL;DR: Sonder aims to blend the best parts of Airbnbs and hotels. 

So, who might wanna do a Sonder Stay (as they're called) instead of book an Airbnb? Sonder is ideal for Business People on a Mission (many Sonder Stays come with HDMI cables, and almost all the NYC listings are in Midtown/the Financial District, so the vibe is more practical than bohemian), folks looking at long-term stays (peep this London apartment), or anyone on a vacation who needs to find their manger in the middle of the night, and knows that the bathroom will be stocked, the kitchen will have coffee, and the WiFi will be fast. If you are looking for dusted, retro pads in Joshua Tree with lived-in charm, however, Sonder probably isn’t for you. This is the kind of stay that is less about bathing in a giant Champagne glass and other kitsch roadside hotel enticements, and more about the reliability of landing in a room that looks like the set of a peak-WeWork promo-packet. It is clean. It is stocked. It is a vibe.


We’ve narrowed down some of our favorite picks in the United States and beyond, so you that you can make up your own mind in the tantalizing battle of Sonder vs. Airbnb. 

You’re going to Atlanta

Photo: Sonder

Simple 1BR at 549 Peachtree; sleeps up to 4, $96/night at Sonder

You’re going to San Diego

Photo: Sonder

Warm 2BR at Jackwill Flats; sleeps up to 6, $199/night at Sonder 

You’re going to New Orleans 


Photo: Sonder

Modern 1BR at Duncan Plaza; sleeps up to 2, $109/night at Sonder 

You’re going to Mexico City


Photo: Sonder

Quaint Room at Casa Tonalá; sleeps up to 2, MEX $837/night (USD $55.31) at Sonder

You’re going to Los Angeles


Photo: Sonder

Double Room at Beverly Terrace; sleeps up to 4, $214/night at Sonder

You’re going to London


Photo: Sonder

Artistic 2BR at The Arts Council; sleeps up to 4, £255/night (USD $457.35) at Sonder


You’re going to Houston


Photo: Sonder

Chic 1BR at The Hogg Palace; sleeps up to 4, $90/night at Sonder

You’re going to Miami


Photo: Sonder

Lively 1BR Apartment with Balcony; sleeps up to 4, $324/night at Sonder

You’re going to New York


Photo: Sonder

Bright Room at Flatiron; sleeps up to 2, $186/night at Sonder

You’re going to Rome

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Photo: Sonder

Piazza San Pietro; sleeps up to 4, $110/night at Sonder

You’re going to Madrid

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Photo: Sonder

Malasaña; sleeps up to 2, $130/night at Sonder

You’re going to Dublin

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Photo: Sonder

Mountjoy Square; sleeps up to 2, $165/night at Sonder

Bon voyage, baby. Don’t forget to stay up-to-date with travel guidelines

The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story.