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Sonder is a growing accommodation brand that strikes a balance between the world of full-service hotels and the more hands-off approach of vacation rental platforms like Airbnb and Vrbo.
Interestingly, you’ll regularly find Sonder properties listed on vacation rental platforms despite being a competitor. In fact, it is among the largest hosts on Airbnb.
It’s also not uncommon to find hotel rooms listed on vacation rental platforms from time to time, too. But, what is the difference between Sonder and these other offerings — or a hotel room, for that matter?
The primary difference of Sonder versus Airbnb, Vrbo and other vacation rental platforms comes down to the level of service and attention you receive during your stay.
Here’s a look at what a Sonder apartment is like, how it differs from other types of vacation rentals and which option might be right for you.
What is Sonder?
The Canadian-born brand manages short-term rentals, including apartment hotels, in 10 different countries.
A Sonder apartment is very similar to what you might find in a serviced residence, and the brand likes to focus on properties with intriguing interior design over the more mundane. It is a hybrid between hotel and rental unit.
The company owns and manages its properties, which is one stark difference from other vacation rental businesses, where the properties are usually owned by the host.
Sonder registers them as hotels, which is another difference from the way vacation rental platforms typically list properties. Airbnb’s accommodations could be condos, independent houses, design spaces or even unusual places like a treehouse, for example.
Airbnb or Vrbo does not manage spaces listed on their websites directly and cannot officially vouch for them.
Sonder’s model is different, which provides more reliability, especially for the first-time user who may be unsure of what to expect.
Many of its properties are within larger buildings that may have security assistance in the lobby. With Sonder, people are renting from a larger company that knows exactly what it’s offering with each property and can provide instant responses to questions during a stay.
Traditional vacation rental platforms, meanwhile, rely more on individual hosts to assist the guest and provide their own chosen level of in-property amenities.
» Learn more: Is an Airbnb or a hotel right for your next trip?
Independent living, but with hotel amenities
Similar to most vacation rentals, Sonder accommodations come furnished with things like towels, toiletries and sometimes cooking utensils. All of the things you need to complete a do-it-yourself stay are there.
Sonder also has an app that serves as a front desk of sorts to provide assistance at the touch of a button. Of course, this is often available from a vacation rental host, too, but the reply time may vary based on the host’s schedule or knowledge of the area.
In the Sonder app, guests can find neighborhood guides — which offer the same kind of information a concierge might provide — as well as Wi-Fi instructions and the option to request a late checkout. Guests can request a sound machine or make use of the brand’s dedicated luggage lockers for storage before check-in or after checkout.
The app also allows people to check in online at a time of their choosing as a contactless service.
Depending on the vacation rental listing you select, it can sometimes feel like you’re staying in someone’s home — because in some cases, you are.
Staying at a Sonder apartment feels more like a hotel; you won’t see things like pictures of someone’s family on the wall or other personal effects. The design is more like a traditional hotel experience.
Sonder properties may also provide access to amenities in the building like health clubs, pantries with snacks or laundry products, residential lounges and extra perks that may not come with a vacation rental.
» Learn more: What to know before you book an Airbnb
Earning points and miles
Most vacation rental platforms, including Airbnb, don’t have their own loyalty programs. That said, Airbnb does allow members to accrue frequent flyer miles with partner airlines. This can take some of the sting out of losing the loyalty points you’d earn with traditional hotels.
Delta Air Lines SkyMiles members can earn 1 mile for every dollar they spend with Airbnb. Avios members (the loyalty program for airlines like British Airways and Iberia) can earn 3 points for every dollar they spend.
You can buy Airbnb gift cards through United’s MileagePlus eGift Card website, where you’ll earn bonus miles for your purchase. Or, you can redeem United miles for a gift card. It’s a great way to make your next Airbnb stay more affordable, especially if you have a stash of United miles.
Sonder doesn’t have a loyalty program either, but you can pay for your stay with a credit card that earns bonus points on hotel stays. Consider seeing if you can book it through your credit card’s own travel portal for the maximum number of bonus points.
» Learn more: How to earn or redeem points on Airbnb stays
Sonder vs. Airbnb
While both Sonder and Airbnb provide residential-style accommodations that differ from a full-service hotel, there are some details that set them apart.
For those who are fairly independent travelers and are willing to experience a wide variety of accommodation types, vacation rentals like Airbnb work just fine. The ability to earn and redeem airline miles or rack up credit card points adds to the value of this option.
Those who want more service touch points, on-site amenities and the assurance that they can contact someone quickly through an app may prefer Sonder. The tradeoff is there’s no way to earn or use airline miles, and only those with a credit card that provides a bonus on travel spending will score extra points.
Sonder offers a new lodging experience that is a hybrid of a hotel and a rental unit. It has some of the same conveniences as vacation rentals as well as some extra perks — like luggage storage — but it lacks a loyalty program.
If a roster of amenities, pick-up-the-phone service and the ability to earn rewards are important, a traditional hotel might be a better choice. Travelers win when there’s a range of choices, and Sonder adds yet another option to the mix.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card