Choosing a travel guitar involves a slightly different thought process than choosing a guitar for live gigs or recordings. Whether shopping for acoustics or electric guitars, the best portable guitars suitable for travel won’t always be the ones loaded with features or premium components.
10 Best Travel Guitars - Comfortable & Sweet-Sounding
Before we discuss the key factors that you need to keep in mind, here are my top picks for guitars that fit this category. After going through the reviews, you should have an easier time understanding how to pick a travel guitar, what to focus on, and maybe you’ll even find your best fit by the end of this article.
Table of Contents
- 10 Best Travel Guitars - Comfortable & Sweet-Sounding
- Understanding Travel Guitars
- Scale Length and Fretboard
- Gig Bags
- Everything Else Comes Last
With a 24” scale length and only 15 frets, the Martin Steel String Backpacker guitar is definitely a unique instrument. It has a peculiar neck shape that makes it very interesting to look at but also a lot easier to carry.
To get a sense of just how different it is, here are the dimensions: 4.72”x36.22”x9.45”. The fretboard is just wide enough to allow anyone to play on it comfortably, regardless of their level of experience. Furthermore, thanks to the unique body shape, the guitar doesn’t weigh as much as a regular guitar.
I also like the fact that this design is ambidextrous. The contour of the body allows you to play right or left-handed easily. If you know anything about guitars, you know that simply switching the strings on a regular guitar to fit a leftie doesn’t always make for a comfortable play style.
The guitar is made of mahogany and solid wood, with a hardwood fretboard. It’s a durable 6-string instrument that also sounds surprisingly good. Even with a smaller and uniquely shaped body, it has sufficient resonance and volume.
It also carries a specific tone. Love it or hate it, you just can’t find it in other models. And, the best thing about it is that it’s an acoustic guitar, meaning that you won’t be dependent on power during your trips.
Although I think that acoustic guitars give you more value as travel guitars, playability aside, you can’t compare the diversity that an electric guitar brings to the table. Lucky for us, not all electric guitars have to be big and heavy to sound good or look good.
The ULES BKGMP is a great example of that. The guitar is available in both left- and right-handed models, which is always a good thing to see. The design boasts a 24-3/4" scale length that’s ideal for traveling purposes.
The guitar weighs just over 3lbs. That’s great for both kids and adults. It has a rugged solid wood body and you can have your choice of maple, black walnut or rosewood fretboards.
Among the technical specifications, you will find 14:1 ratio chrome tuning machines, chrome pickup rings, dual rail high-output pickup, and an adjustable bridge. All you need in a rather compact format, without the bells and whistles that just add to the price.
You can easily tour with this guitar as it comes with its own custom gig bag molded for the guitar’s unique shape. In terms of sound quality, it may not be the best electric guitar you can get your hands on. But its purpose is not for live stadium gigs or high-end recordings. It will do a great job for you if you’re looking to practice on the road or participate in some random jam sessions at wherever you’re traveling to.
Cordoba guitars are very interesting. The overall build quality is undeniable but the actual tone is what sets them apart. Something about the design and engineering gives the Mini M travel guitar a unique appeal that’s difficult to put into words.
To put it bluntly, when you play it, people will listen. It’s also great for travel purposes. The 20” scale length makes the guitar less difficult and a lot shorter than a regular guitar. The body is light and easy to carry but also has a loud resonator box.
19 frets give you plenty of freedom in both playing and practicing. And, the Aquila string set has a very nice feel to it. Tuned to A straight from the factory, the guitar will be able to handle a lot more than most, especially when it comes to string tension.
To round it all up, a Cordoba gig bag is also included. Is this package a bit more expensive? If you’re aiming for superior sound quality even when on the road, it’s definitely worth checking out the Cordoba Mini M
The Taylor BT2 is a world-renowned small travel guitar. It has 19 frets and a 15-3/4" body length. It’s a go-to instrument for kids as well as a reliable travel 6-string guitar for professional musicians. While many other manufacturers may try to do a bit of everything with their travel instruments, the focus is purely on the sound when it comes to the BT2.
This guitar has an earthy tone and a surprising amount of volume. The 22-3/4" scale length is easy to work and you can play at lightning speed due to the thinner fretboard design.
A lot of work was put into finding the right materials and hardware for the job too. As such, the BT2 boasts die-cast chrome tuners, Elixir high-end strings, and a mahogany top. The fretboard is ebony, which gives it a beautiful color and a smooth feel.
Although slightly on the heavier side of travel guitars, the BT2 is still just 4.41lbs. All things considered, the BT2 is not the cheapest travel guitar out there. But it earned a spot in my top 10 for its impressive mid-to-high crisp sound and loud volume.
5. Martin LX1
Martin guitars aren’t always made just for those who can afford them. The diversified Martin Guitars portfolio gave birth to the Martin LX1. A great travel guitar, slightly more affordable than regular-sized Martin guitars, an instrument that maintains that unique tone associated with this legendary manufacturer.
The guitar has a 3/4 scale. This reduces its size and makes it more comfortable to carry. You can play around with the 20 frets. The width of the fretboard is close to the standard which should make it rather easy to play, especially if you prefer more string separation.
The guitar is made out of mahogany, Sitka spruce, and morado or rosewood, depending on what you prefer for the fretboard. The build quality is nothing short of impressive but also to be expected. Chrome hardware is used for the tuners as well as a tusk saddle for both class and durability.
Any guitarist will agree that the Martin LX1 is an easy sell, mainly because of how good it sounds. However, it may not be the best instrument for practicing or for beginners after all. Not having clear dots or notations on the fretboard might pose some difficulty to some users.
At Traveler Guitar, the goal is very straightforward. Make guitars, both electric and acoustic, for those that wish to travel light and still have something that plays great. This acoustic-electric guitar gives users more freedom.
It has decent volume for playing clean and unplugged, though nothing too out there. But, it can also perform rather well if you find yourself a gig while on the road. In terms of size, the guitar is long but thin with a compact body that fits airline overhead bins.
It also comes with a detachable rest frame and it is available in both right- and left-handed models, as is the case with most Traveler Guitar guitars.
You can choose between black walnut, rosewood, and maple for the fretboard. This ensures that you can get the feel you’re looking for as well as an appealing color.
At the end of the day, nothing impresses more than the acoustic-electric design, and the piezo pickup positioned under the saddle, which lets you really stand out, get as much volume as you want, and play your favorite tunes in front of a wider audience.
The Washburn RO10 has been a personal favorite for quite some time now. It’s a full-scale guitar with a very solid body that can easily take the pounding associated with traveling. It’s also another uniquely-shaped guitar that has an interesting tone.
You might find the fretboard very interesting. Although it has 22 frets, the fretboard is cut out after the 19th fret on the low E string. This gives the guitar a nice look but also makes for a more challenging play style, which could be ideal if you’re looking to practice hard.
A word of caution. Though the design appears ambidextrous due to the shape of the body, switching the strings will limit your soloing ability since you wouldn’t be able to go past the 19th fret or 20th fret on the bottom two strings.
The mahogany body creates a professional resonator box. It also makes the guitar durable and the solid spruce top reinforces the build quality even more.
With that in mind, the tone alone would be reason enough for most right-handed guitarists or amateur guitarists that travel the country a lot. You wouldn’t even have to buy a gig bag since one comes with the guitar.
And, speaking of the gig bag, it’s actually a Cordura case with a molded interior and hard foam lining. It easily fits overhead storage bins on planes and, although not waterproof, it can keep your guitar looking great and sounding great even if you travel daily.
Without boring you with too much detail, a guitalele is a guitar-ukulele hybrid. Don’t worry too much about it. Although the GL1 is sized like a baritone ukulele with a 17” scale, it sounds and plays like a guitar.
Unlike other travel guitars, this one carries a heavier tone that can be great in many situations. It was also made for A tuning. And, another reason you might appreciate the GL1 guitalele over a travel guitar is the fact that it works best with nylon strings.
The sound will be softer and better for practicing but also very melodic. Not to mention that beginners tend to respond better to smooth strings over steel strings.
So what could you play on the GL1? Just about anything really. The A tuning is quite popular and you are getting a 6-string model with 18 frets. The only limitation is your knowledge of songs or scales to practice.
Besides the obvious compact size that’s super easy to carry on trips, the Yamaha GL1 is also more affordable than many other travel guitars. And, it does have a soft case that fits it perfectly.
While Fender still has a knack for making vintage-sounding electric guitars, it also exhibits surprisingly forward thinking in the realm of travel guitars. The Fender CT-60S has an excellent clean sound with plenty of volume and it features a familiar comfortable design.
All of that, of course, while also being shortened to fit most travel requirements. Mahogany is used on the back and sides for reinforcing the build but also to give the resonator box a unique tone.
The rolled fingerboard edges are the same ones used in all acoustic Fender guitars. They’re comfortable, durable, and help with the aesthetics too.
What Fender calls a travel body style is essentially a smaller version of the Fender Auditorium. However, just the body is smaller in width. The fretboard, although shorter, has a regular width which should make it even more comfortable to play.
Sometimes the strings that come with the guitar is just as important as anything else about it. Especially if you’re looking to buy one in a hurry. One of the things that endear me to the Orangewood Dana guitar is the great price point and inclusion of Ernie Ball’s Earthwood strings.
Sure, the guitar is great too. It’s a concert-style acoustic guitar that’s smaller in size to fit most traveling requirements. Another great thing about it is the availability of 23 full frets. This can provide you with additional range and let you tackle more complex compositions.
The sound quality is also undeniable for a smaller and lighter guitar. The resonator box is obviously well-calibrated and has a surprising amount of volume. It’s possible that this is among the loudest of travel guitars.
A premium gig bag is also included in the price. As are a few adjustment tools, which are always great to have on the road, and a pickguard that you can easily install on your own.
Understanding Travel Guitars
In the beginning, I’ve mentioned a thought process involved in buying travel guitars. A process that’s different from that of purchasing regular guitars. Here’s how this thing goes.
Unlike in regular guitars where the sound, volume, tone, and specifications are at the top of any comparison list, travel guitars get often compared on two or three things only. It all starts with size in this case.
The smaller the guitar, the more portable it is. But you can’t go too far either, or you’d be better off buying a ukulele, right? So, here’s how you can break down the models.
Scale Length and Fretboard
Don’t get caught up in just the dimensions of the guitar. Small is good but not if you don’t have enough frets on the fretboard to play the kind of music you like. If you’re just starting out or if you play simple tunes, then 15 to 17 frets may suffice.
However, others might prefer having at least 19 frets at their disposal. Keep in mind that 20 to 22 frets are also pushing it in terms of scale length. You might want to think about that before deciding if the extra frets are also worth the extra guitar length.
Very few people look at guitars online and check to see if they come with a professional gig bag. That’s because most guitarists probably already have a favorite brand of bags or gig bags on hand that they can use.
When it comes to travel guitars, it’s worth looking into gig bags or case availability. It can add so much more value to the guitar if it comes ready to play with and if it has a custom bag that fits it perfectly.
I can’t stress enough the importance of impeccable build quality and materials in travel guitars. Sure, every guitar should be able to last you a few years and not fall apart after a few hits and bruises.
But, consider all the extra pounding a guitar takes when you’re traveling with it. You can’t just rely on the protection of a gig bag or even that of a hard case.
Everything Else Comes Last
Everyone wants a good-sounding guitar. But, remember that no one buys travel guitars to record albums on them. You want something that’s good enough but don’t let that get in the way of everything else listed above.
You may even find that most travel guitars sound good anyway and that it’s just the volume that differs greatly between them.
Safe Travels and Keep Practicing
By now, you’ve probably come to your own conclusion about what combination of features makes the best travel guitars that fit your traveling schedule. All the guitars on this list, although personal favorites, were chosen for their great performance and ability to handle some rough treatment, in addition to their portability.