Are you looking for a guitar that sounds great but that’s compact enough for travel?
Or maybe you want a more portable option for family outings, jamming around the campfire, or beach parties. If so, you’re in the right place, as we went on a mission to find the best travel guitar.
Before we start, you should know that travel guitars generally come in two varieties.
- Smaller versions of a full-size guitar (¾ or ½-size) which have the same shape and proportions of full-sized versions, but smaller. A ½-size size is 33 inches tall, while a ¾ size measures at 34 inches. This is a significant difference compared to a full-size averaging at around 40-42 inches.
- The ‘Traveler’ type is a tiny, thin-bodied guitar that is highly compact and, as the name suggests, perfect for traveling.
Asides from the size and them being more comfortable to transport, there’s another less documented benefit: their sound.
Many players prefer these smaller-sized instruments for the mid-range heavy sound that smaller guitars produce. Whereas dreadnoughts and other large acoustic guitars can give out a boomy, low-end sound, small body guitars encourage something lighter and, to many, more pleasant sounding.
At a Glance: Our Pick of the Best Guitars for Travel
- Taylor BT2 Baby Taylor (Our Top Pick)
- Traveler Guitar EG1C BLK V2 (Electric Option)
- Martin Steel String Backpacker (Super Compact)
- Little Martin LX1E Acoustic-Electric
- Washburn RO10SK-A Rover
- Cordoba Mini M
- Fender CT-140SE
Note: Clicking the above links will take you to further information on Amazon.
Table of Contents
- Product Round-up and Reviews – Best Travel Guitars
- Buyer’s Guide – Key Considerations
- So, Which Should I Choose?
Product Round-up and Reviews – Best Travel Guitars
Taylor BT2 Baby Taylor Acoustic Guitar
The Baby Taylor BT2 from distinguished guitar makers Taylor is a ¾ size, dreadnought shaped travel guitar.
It’s a flipping great guitar. So good that Taylor Swift supposedly uses one.
The choice of tonewoods is excellent, with solid mahogany top and neck, and an ebony fingerboard (ebony is generally considered the creme-de-la-creme when it comes to choice of fretboard wood).
The scale length is 22″ (the size of a typical short scale guitar) with 19 frets but with no cutaway.
It projects amazingly well for its tiny size, with plenty of low end.
Finally, it comes with a decent padded travel bag. Not the most important, but you want to keep your guitar safe from harm on those long haul trips, don’t you.
- Taylor are one of the great acoustic guitar brands
- Comfortable and convenient to grab and go
- Ebony fingerboard
- Mahogany top and neck
Traveler Guitar EG1C BLK V2
Looking for a travel electric guitar? Does such a thing exist? It sure does.
Meet the EG-1 from Traveler Guitar. It’s a bit of design genius at play.
The traditional tuning mechanism you find on guitars (tuning pegs on the headstock) has been completely done away with here.
Instead, the tuning is built into the lightweight body between the bridge and the neck. This avoids one of the biggest issues when traveling: namely the strings getting knocked out of tune.
That’s the genius bit I was referring to.
There’s a single humbucker pickup (you only get one, don’t be greedy), a volume and tone knob that allows you to cycle through clean, boost, overdrive, and distortion tones. All very handy when you’re probably without pedals.
Finally, the headphone jack for late night jams in your youth hostel (or whereever it is you young dudes hang out these days :-).
- Shrunken down electric guitar that’s built for travel (and light as anything)
- Full-size scale length (24 ¾”) with headstock and tuners built into the body
- Gold covered alnico humbucker pickup
- Built-in headphone amp w/ clean, boost, overdrive, and distortion
- Aux-in for jamming with your music
- Chromatic note indicator
Martin Steel-String Backpacker
The Martin Steel String Backpacker is a pretty far-out looking guitar, but bear with me, it has some tricks up its sleeve.
One word captures the essence of this guitar: portability (the name ‘backpacker’ may have given that away).
It’s extremely thin: the body is hardly wider than the neck. The neck itself is also very short, only containing 16 frets, so perfect for those fans of short-scale guitars. It’s basically a slimmed-down guitar.
But despite its size, it vibrates well. The tiny body and unique contour body take a bit of time to get used to, but once the adjustment is made, it produces some surprisingly good acoustics.
It has a solid Sitka spruce top, which gives it an excellent resonance, and it’s made of solid tonewoods.
It’s also a quality piece of kit that’s easy to tune and sounds much better than you’d expect.
There are no electronics, so this isn’t the kind of instrument you’d put before a sound engineer.
It’s perfect for those who need something reliable that they can carry around without the stress that can accompany transporting an instrument.
- Tiny size and super slim
- Ultra-lightweight: weighs around 2lbs case included
- Exceptionally portable – ideal for backpacking (as the name suggests!)
- Solid Sitka spruce top, for excellent resonance
- Affordable choice
Little Martin LX1E
The Little Martin Series from the brilliant Martin are a fantastic range of miniature guitars that sound great despite their size.
The LX1E is an acoustic-electric guitar has a Sitka spruce top and high-pressure laminate (HPL) construction. It’s Martin’s smallest guitar, and despite it’s tiny size, is big on tone. Many travel guitar aren’t serious guitars. Not the LX1E – here you get a mortise and tenon neck joint, non-scalloped X-Brace, standard tapered neck, and even chrome-enclosed gear tuners.
It comes fitted with a high-quality Fishman Sonitone pickup, making it easy to plug in and play. It also means you won’t need to fork out for an additional pickup and acoustic guitar preamp when you realize you need one for gigging (it’s going to happen).
This instrument isn’t cheap, but the quality and craftsmanship that goes into the build is worth it if you have spare money.
- Unrivaled quality and craftsmanship from nearly two centuries of guitar making
- Solid Sitka spruce top offers a superior resonance
- High-pressure laminate (HPL) construction makes it tough as houses and less susceptible to changes in humidity
- Quality Fishman electronics (pickup and tuner)
Washburn RO10SK-A Rover
The Washburn RO10SK-A Rover is another extremely thin, portable model.
It has a mahogany neck, body, and back which give it a rich, warm tone and a solid spruce top that has excellent resonance and projection.
The thin shape still has the grooves of a full-size guitar, and the neck is also pretty long with 18 frets, so you have access to up the neck.
The bridge and fretboard are rosewood, adding to the smoothness and the tuners are chrome die-cast, so you can trust it to hold its tune.
- Thin, portable shape
- Solid Spruce top, mahogany back and sides
- Sitka spruce bracing, ABS rosette, offset dot fingerboard inlay
- Matte finish, engineered fingerboard
Cordoba Mini M
The famous guitar maker Cordoba are known for their full-size classical guitars but they also make a pretty great mini classical guitar too, called the Mini M.
The Mini M is a solid spruce topped with your pick of back and side tonewoods such as mahogany.
Despite its small size, the Cordoba Mini M has plenty of bass, with a satisfactory depth of tone and a generous amount of projection.
It sounds bright and surprisingly loud for its size with plenty of bottom end.
As it’s a classical guitar, it comes with nylon strings and there’s no pick-guard option. There are also, of course, no electronics.
The strings are tuned a fourth up (A-A tuning, notes: ADGCEa). While you can tune it to standard E, it’s worth sticking to this tuning as it’s so much easier to play.
It will suit beginner players and seasoned fingerstyle players alike as a portable, pleasant-sounding instrument that be easily transported.
- Mini guitar from master builders Cordoba
- Nylon strings are easy on the fingers, and tuned to A-A
- Surprisingly bassy and projects well
Fender have a travel option too of course.
The CT-140SE Travel body may well remind you of the auditorium guitar shape – that’s because it’s been modeled on it, but with a shortened-down scale length of 23.5”.
The CT-140SE comes packed with the top-of-line Classic Design appointments that players of all levels are sure to appreciate, including rosewood back and sides and an Fishman Presys preamp system. It also features a solid spruce top and a new easy-to-play neck with rolled fingerboard edges.
A nice choice of tonewood: solid spruce top, rosewood back and sides, and an easy-to-play neck with rolled fingerboard edges.
They haven’t scrimped on the choice of pickup either, and have packed a Fishman Presys preamp system and pickup inside.
- new travel body style modeled on the auditorium
- Solid spruce top with scalloped “X”-bracing
- Rosewood back and sides
Buyer’s Guide – Key Considerations
There are a few things to consider before rushing out to buy a mini-guitar.
Compared to other instruments such as drum kits (although there are some pretty decent portable ones now) guitars are relatively good for traveling anyway. That said if you’re planning to do extensive traveling for months at a time, and size and weight is an important consideration, one of the ‘traveler type’ guitars may suit you much better as they’re incredibly small and light.
If you want something more substantial but still portable, a ¾ or ½-size guitar will do you nicely. Also, if you’re planning to busk your way around the world (lucky you), consider what you’re going to sit on. There are some superb collapsible lightweight guitar chairs that give you the right posture for playing.
Will you need to mic it up? If so, get a model with a built-in pickup. Although sound engineers can mic up acoustics, they often don’t like doing so, and if you’re playing into a mic you’re limited in terms of how much you can move. A built-in pickup will instantly transform your acoustic into an amplified guitar, making life easy for both yourself and the sound engineers you deal with.
Some of these are quite high-end in terms of price. It tends to be the ones with built-in pickups that are higher in price. The choice of wood also plays a big part in the price – a lot of mahogany and solid-spruce top models will ensure quality but are on the pricey side. However, if you sacrifice the solid-spruce for laminate spruce, the price often comes down.
So, Which Should I Choose?
If you want a really great-sounding acoustic guitar, our top pick is the Taylor BT2 Baby Taylor Acoustic Guitar.
If you want some mega compact and light that you can literally stow away in a backpack, the Martin Steel-String Backpacker is superb.
Finally, if it really has to be an electric guitar you travel with, the Traveler Guitar EG1C is genius.