Sonder Palm Springs Review: Is this a Hotel + Airbnb Hybrid?
January 4, 2023
Sonder Review: A Week Stay at Sonder the Cole in Palm Springs
I had just booked an Airbnb for a month of “slow travel” in Carmel, and was eager to heed my own solo travel advice. Dip your toe in the water by starting out with a couple of easier trips before you book that one way ticket. In this case, it was spending a week by myself in a Sonder property in Palm Springs, an area that I knew quite well having visited the desert frequently over the years.
I had been eager to stay in a Sonder as it seemed like the perfect hybrid between an Airbnb and a hotel, and I couldn’t pass up the price of paying around $73 a night to stay in a King Suite about five minutes from Downtown Palm Springs. The price seemed too good to be true – $440 for 6 nights is essentially what I would pay for a week of rent in Los Angeles.
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What is a Sonder?
Sonder is a boutique apartment-hotel hospitality company that converts properties into short-term rentals and hotels in North America, Europe, and Dubai. Their streamlined technology allows guests to book, check-in, check-out, and manage other aspects of their stay all through an app. There is no concierge or front desk and there is no daily housekeeping like you might have at a hotel. And while Sonder does not proclaim to be like an Airbnb – they do manage their own rental properties – I personally find that there are similarities. Many of the rooms have kitchens and extra living spaces since some of the spaces are converted apartments. And, the company allows you to reserve accommodations for 30 days and offers discounted rates on long-term stays.
Ultimately, I believe that Sonder delivers in bringing the best elements of hotels and Airbnb-style accommodations to its properties.
There are two Sonder properties in Palm Springs, the V and the Cole, and the reviews for both were mediocre, but the Cole had a better rating. Consequently, my expectations for the stay were not set very high. Granted, some of the reviews complained about the lack of housekeeping and lack of employees which is part of the Sonder concept, but there were also a lot of comments in regards to cleanliness and thin walls.
I booked my stay directly through the Sonder website because it offered me the cheapest price for my requested dates. I had looked at The Cole on Booking.com first because I am part of their loyalty program, but I could not get as good of a deal. Because the experience is contactless, you must upload a photo ID to verify your reservation. Sonder has an excellent cancellation policy. With the opportunity to cancel up to 3 days before, this flexibility is much more in line with hotels than with Airbnb-style properties.
Since I had read about the thin walls at Sonder The Cole, I was really hoping for a second floor room given that I would be working from my room all week. But when I received the confirmation a few days before my booking, I saw that I had been placed on the first floor. I immediately reached out on the live chat in the Sonder App and asked nicely if there was any chance I could be moved to the second floor. Within 15 minutes, I had been taken care of and had a room on the second floor.
However, the next day I went on the app and realized that I had been downgraded from a King Suite to a King Room. This was a big deal to me because I did not have a separate living space with a couch to do my virtual meetings. I immediately went back on the live chat dreading the impending conversation, but after a couple of minutes going back and forth where I explained to the person that the rooms were indeed not the same size, Sonder was able to find me a second floor King Suite. And I must say that this made a huge difference during my stay.
Moral of the story: don’t be afraid to utilize the live chat feature before your stay to ensure yourself the best room possible. There was barely a wait to speak with someone and they were able to resolve my issue within a matter of minutes.
I arrived at the Sonder a few hours after the 4pm designated check-in time and was pleasantly surprised with the ease of getting into my room. I had received a code on the app that opened both the front gate and my room. The Sonder itself was exactly what I needed.
The rooms inside had been renovated with trendy furnishings and I was impressed that they included a white noise machine, earplugs, coffee, and plenty of towels for the week. I had actually brought a towel from home just in case, but there were 5 large towels, a shower mat, and plenty of smaller hand and face towels.
The King size bed was soft and cozy and there were two smart TVs in the room. One that you could watch from the bed and the other on the wall across from the couch. There was also a small round table so you could eat your meals or do some work from there. I would say that the room’s biggest downside is that there is no microwave. I knew this based on the description going into my stay, but it made it difficult to only have lunches in my mini-fridge that did not have to be heated up.
I would agree with the reviews that the cleanliness left something to be desired. It was evident that the company had renovated an old building as the exterior carpeting was old and stained. There were a few hairs on the floor in the bathroom and the couch had some stains, but I did see housekeeping cleaning other rooms extensively throughout my stay. It wasn’t enough where I felt that it was worth mentioning, but if I had wanted to, I know that there were people there each morning who could have re-cleaned if necessary.
I actually really loved the fact that there wasn’t daily housekeeping during my stay. Not only is it sustainable, but I didn’t have to worry about anyone knocking on my door and trying to come in to clean during a work meeting. I felt at ease knowing that I could work the hours I needed to without having to leave the room while someone came in to tidy up.
The air conditioning/heater was an old machine that was very loud, so I do understand the other guest complaints. I visited in December so I simply made sure the heat was on really high right before bedtime, and then turned the machine off while I slept. It was a bit chilly in the morning, but I was able to turn the heat back on as soon as I woke up and the room heated up quickly. I imagine you could do the same but with the air con during the summer.
The best part of the Sonder was the phenomenal wifi throughout the property. I had multiple Zoom meetings a day and never once did the Zoom lag or glitch. The Wifi was super fast and did not go out at all during my week stay. Sonder truly succeeds in making their accommodations a great place to work remotely with their speedy internet.
The facility itself has pretty great amenities. There is 24-hour luggage storage, a pool and hot tub, and a restaurant and bar, Freddie’s Kitchen. The reviews for the restaurant are fantastic (5 stars) and while I did not get a chance to eat there, Freddie himself was super friendly. I definitely recommend you try out the restaurant and let us know how it is!
There were plenty of available parking spaces in the lot behind the Sonder, which was a huge plus. You drive a lot in Palm Springs, so it was amazing not having to worry about where to park my car.
All in all, I was incredibly pleased with my stay at the Sonder Palm Springs and would absolutely do another workcation at the property again if I could get a similarly good deal on pricing.
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