I spent one night in a swanky hotel-apartment hybrid rented out by Sonder, the $1 billion startup disrupting the hospitality industry. Here are 6 ways it was radically different from a typical Airbnb stay.

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I spent one night in a swanky hotel-apartment hybrid rented out by Sonder, the $1 billion startup disrupting the hospitality industry. Here are 6 ways it was radically different from a typical Airbnb stay.

sonder apartment nyc

Katie Warren/Business Insider

I stayed in a two-bedroom Sonder apartment in New York City.

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Sonder is a $1 billion hospitality startup that claims to offer the best parts of hotels and private home stays in its apartment rentals.

It's one of several new hybrid companies like Lyric and Blueground that combine elements of hotels and apartment rentals. Although it's been compared to Airbnb, Sonder leases and manages its own rentals, which are licensed as hotels. Airbnb, on the other hand, is mainly made up of individuals renting out their homes.

Sonder's 9,000 rental apartments can be found in cities such as New York, Washington DC, San Diego, Austin, Miami, New Orleans, London, and Dubai.

I recently stayed in one of their apartments in New York City - here's how it was different from staying in a typical Airbnb.

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1. The check-in process was more straightforward and secure than I've experienced in many Airbnbs.

1. The check-in process was more straightforward and secure than I've experienced in many Airbnbs.

While checking into someone's home on Airbnb can sometimes entail fiddling with a lockbox or coordinating a check-in time with the host, I didn't have to specify a time to check in to my Sonder.

The check-in process also seemed quite secure. When I arrived, a Sonder concierge by the elevators checked my name on a list and also checked both my ID and that of my companion.

Each time I left the building and came back — such as when I went out to dinner and stepped out to grab bagels the next morning — the Sonder concierge checked both of our IDs before letting us into the Sonder elevator.

However, not everyone has had a consistently secure experience in the building. Days before my stay, a group of armed robbers broke into a Sonder apartment in the same building — despite the ID check and Sonder's "no parties" rule. Sonder did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding the incident.

2. My Sonder had its own separate elevator bank.

2. My Sonder had its own separate elevator bank.

One of the best features of the Sonder I stayed in was that it had separate elevators so that short-term guests don't have to bother permanent residents.

But residents of the building I stayed in told CBS New York reporter Reena Roy after the recent robbery that despite the separate elevator banks, there is sometimes a "disconnect" when it comes to enforcement.

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3. I didn't feel like I was staying in someone's home.

3. I didn't feel like I was staying in someone's home.

For me, this was a plus. While I appreciate Airbnbs that feel homey, it can be kind of weird to see family photos on the wall or a stranger's clothes hanging in the closet.

But the Sonder still felt cozy and more personal than staying in a hotel, especially with small touches like Brooklyn-made chocolate bars and a handwritten note with suggestions for places to check out in the neighborhood.

4. The apartment was cleaned to the standards of a hotel.

4. The apartment was cleaned to the standards of a hotel.

I've stayed in Airbnbs that had funky smells in the carpet or bedding and subpar cleanliness. But my Sonder apartment was spotless.

The bathroom, with its neatly-folded, pristine white towels and designer toiletries, felt especially hotel-like.

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5. I had access to Sonder-specific amenities such as a lounge, game room, and movie theater.

5. I had access to Sonder-specific amenities such as a lounge, game room, and movie theater.

While most hotels offer some form of a fitness center and a business center, in Airbnbs I've stayed at in apartment buildings, I have not been given access to the building's amenities for residents.

But in my Sonder, I had access to amenities set aside specifically for Sonder guests, including a lounge, a game room, a movie theater, and a coworking space, as well as the New York Sports Club fitness center next door.

6. My Sonder had an "essentials closet" where I could grab things like extra toilet paper, olive oil, or anything else I needed.

6. My Sonder had an "essentials closet" where I could grab things like extra toilet paper, olive oil, or anything else I needed.

The Sonder building I stayed in had an "essentials closet" on the floor below me, where guests could come and grab anything from extra laundry pods, toilet paper, and towels, to mini bottles of olive oil — all free of charge.

Sonders aren't cleaned and re-stocked every day like hotel rooms, but this seemed like a straightforward and easy way to let guests grab whatever they need, whenever they need it.

After my stay in a Sonder, it was clear to me that the things that differentiate it from Airbnbs are the things that add to its appeal.

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