Today we’ll be talking through some of our favorite travel electric guitars.
We’ll take a closer look at five of the best models out there, outline the pros and cons of each before giving you an idea of who we think each model best suits. Some of the most common FAQs will also be tackled so read on and you’ll be well equipped to choose your next travel-sized guitar.
For the most dedicated of players, having a trusty guitar with you at all times means you can play to your heart’s content whenever inspiration strikes. Maybe you’re sitting on a beach somewhere or watching the sunset from the top of a mountain when the perfect riff or set of chords pop into your head.
Well, fear not, getting yourself a travel guitar could be the perfect solution!
The travel guitar market is filled with plenty of options to suit all needs and styles of play. From miniature electric guitars right through to shrunken acoustic options and everything in between, there’s sure to be the right option for you.
These bespoke instruments are designed purely with portability in mind, with some incredibly clever designs that allow them to be ultra-compact and lightweight whilst also sounding as good as their larger counterparts.
Before we dive in and take an in-depth look into our five favorite travel guitars, let’s take a look at an overview of what you can expect from each one.
5 of the Best Travel Guitars
|Taylor Baby Taylor Acoustic Guitar||Natural||Guitar, user manual, deluxe gig bag||$$|
|Martin Steel-String Backpacker Acoustic Guitar||Natural||Guitar, user manual, padded gig bag||$$|
|Travelcaster Deluxe Electric Travel Guitar||Surf Green||Guitar, user manual, gig bag||$$|
|Hofner Shorty Electric Travel Guitar||Black/Blue||Guitar, user manual, Hofner gig bag||$|
|Traveler Guitar Escape Mark III Acoustic-Electric Guitar||Natural||Guitar, user manual, deluxe gig bag||$$$|
What Exactly is a Travel Guitar?
A travel guitar is exactly that, a guitar that is designed to travel easily with. They achieve the desired levels of portability and mobility through a few clever design tricks. Firstly, the overall body is built to a much lighter spec. This usually involves reducing the overall size and using much lighter materials during construction.
Secondly, travel guitars often include a number of clever space-saving solutions, such as inventive tuning methods and well-thought-out storage options. Lastly, travel guitars are designed to be sturdy.
The overall build is much less delicate than your standard instrument as they are designed to be carried around a lot, thrown into the back of vehicles, and manhandled to a much greater extent.
Whilst portability, mobility, and reliability are the name of the game, there are other elements that cannot be overlooked. Who would buy any guitar if it didn’t sound good? That’s right, the key to the success of any travel guitar is to not only nail the travel elements but to nail the tone and overall sound too.
What Makes Travel Guitars so Different?
Due to the manufacturer’s quest for portability, travel guitars can often appear dramatically different from their more traditional counterparts. It is not uncommon to see electric guitars with little or nobody at all and some models even skip the headstock altogether.
Despite the often considerable difference in appearances, there are certain elements that all guitars, whether travel-sized or not, simply must-have. Tuning pegs and a bridge, for example, must be present in all models.
This means that the overall playing experience can differ from what you are familiar with and may take some getting used to. It is imperative that you select a model that will suit your style!
What are the Key Features of a Travel Guitar?
When it comes to the design of these specialist guitars, there are often two ways that the manufacturers go about it. The first is to essentially take a full-sized traditional guitar and shrink it down until it is deemed portable enough.
This approach works well as it allows the guitars to retain an element of familiarity and is often a popular choice for younger players or those who are slightly less experienced musicians.
The second is totally redesign the instrument from the ground up. Doing this often leads to elements of the guitar being totally repositioned and can alter the playing experience significantly.
Don’t be put off though, the company making these types of travel guitars have put millions of dollars into their research and development and often come up with innovative designs that are both portable and, crucially, playable.
Who Uses Travel Guitars?
At their core travel guitars are designed for musicians who want to take their instrument with them wherever they are in the world. They may just be heading off on vacation or planning a 6 month round the world trip but wherever they go, their guitar needs to go with them.
Alternatively, travel guitars have proved to be a popular choice with children who are not yet big enough to play a full-sized instrument. In fact, one of the guitars on our list actually started out as a design specifically aimed at kids!
In terms of style and genres, there is a travel guitar to suit all. The modern range available of electric, acoustic, and acoustic-electric options means no genre and no playing style is left uncatered for.
5 of The Best Travel Guitars Currently Available
Taylor Baby Taylor Acoustic Guitar – A Classic Acoustic Design That Produces Outstanding Tones
The Taylor Baby Taylor actually started life as a guitar designed for children to play. Its compact size but the familiar layout was intended to allow younger musicians to get used to the feel of an acoustic guitar before graduating to a full-sized model.
It turned out that the design and build were so good that even players well suited to using regular-sized guitars found the sound of the Baby Taylor was perfectly good enough for them, far exceeding the expectations of a ‘learner’ model. The logical result was that the Baby Taylor became a very successful and generally well-respected traveler’s instrument.
Its classic dreadnought looks are ¾ of the size of a normal Taylor and the included gig bag makes it ultra-portable whilst being easy on the wallet. If the more outlandish designs aren’t for you then the Baby Taylor could well be a perfect choice.
- ¾ sized dreadnought
- Solid Sitka Spruce top wood
- Layered Walnut on the back and sides
- Taylor Standard Baby X-bracing pattern
- Satin varnish finish
- Standard Taylor Baby profile
- 1 11/16-inch (42.8 mm) nut width
- Genuine African ebony fingerboard
- Sapele neck wood
- 22-¾-inch scale length
- 19 frets
- Satin varnish finish
- Copafera headstock overlay
- Chrome Baby tuners & buttons
- Genuine African ebony bridge
- Micarta saddle & Nubone nut
- 6 strings
- Taylor Deluxe Baby gig bag included
- Produces some of the best tones on our list
- Excellent build quality
- Good value
- Players with larger hands may struggle
Martin Steel-String Backpacker Acoustic Guitar – A Unique Aesthetic That Won’t Appeal to Everyone
With the Martin Steel-String Backpacker, we have the first example of a guitar that has been radically changed and redesigned to fit the portability brief. Although the looks of this travel guitar won’t appeal to everyone, you can be sure that Martin has managed to deliver crisp and clear tones despite the redesign.
The solid Mahogany used in the construction of the body really helps this little guitar kick out a more than the respectable level of volume. With a name like Martin behind this one, you can rest assured you are purchasing a quality product.
This model in particular has been designed with the traveler in mind. By that, we mean that not only has it been shrunk in size, but the construction has also made this model tougher than a lot of the other options on our list.
This means that the Martin Steel-String Backpacker is the ideal choice for those planning on taking their travel guitar away on camping or hiking trips.
- Solid top
- Mahogany back, neck & sides
- Chrome tuners that are enclosed
- Small, ultra-lightweight size
- Padded gig bag included for portability and protection on the road
- Creates a good level of volume
- Super easy to travel with
- Great tones
- Visually, this guitar won’t appeal to everyone
Travelcaster Deluxe Electric Travel Guitar – A Lightweight Take on a Heavyweight Electric Guitar World
The Stratocaster is an instantly recognizable electric guitar that has been around for decades. But what happens when you want to take yours away on holiday with you? Well, unless you want to be lugging around your full-sized model then you should seriously consider getting yourself a Travelcaster Deluxe Guitar!
Coming in at only 5bls, the Travelcaster is 35% lighter and 14% shorter than its older brother. Despite this difference in size, we found it to provide a pretty good version of the classic Stratocaster experience. If you can get over it visually and need your travel guitar to be electric, this is a pretty awesome one to go for.
For guitarists on the go, there aren’t too many better options. It features three single-coil pickups, one volume control, two tone controls, and a five-way pickup selection.
- Poplar body
- 1.75 inches thick
- 9 inches wide
- Bolt-on construction
- Maple wood
- 9.5-inch neck radius
- 1.65-inch width at the nut
- Maple fingerboard
- 22 medium/jumbo frets
- Passive electronics including tone. volume, & 5-way switch
- 3-inch overall depth
- 33.75-inch overall length
- 3 ceramic single-coil pickups
- Gigbag included
- A great option if you need an electric model
- Classic Strat feel and playing experience
- Portable & lightweight
- It may not appeal to everyone. Some may say the original Strat design shouldn’t have changed or tampered with in any way.
Hofner Shorty Electric Travel Guitar – An Electric Travel Guitar That Has Withstood the Test of Time
Originally designed and brought out by Hofner in the 1980s the Shorty Electric Guitar has proved to be a popular choice for the guitarist on the go ever since.
One of the reasons for this is that it provides that full-scale feel and familiarity a lot of players automatically look for. This full-length scale combined with its shrunken body results in one of the comfiest and best playing experiences you can get from a travel guitar.
There’s a classic Maplewood and Rosewood combination on the fretboard and neck whilst the humbucker situated on the bridge is beefy enough to blast even the most demanding of riffs.
The playability of this travel guitar is really why it made our list, along with the price. At such a low price point you really can’t go wrong. There are other models on our list that perhaps sound a little better but the Hofner Shorty is a brilliant choice if you’re not looking to break the bank.
- Basswood top & back
- Maple neck
- Rosewood fingerboard
- 24.7-inch (62.8cm) length scale
- 42mm nut width
- 22 frets
- Hofner Open Humbucker
- Hofner gig bag included
- Ultra-lightweight & portable
- Very cheap
- Good quality for the price
- The overall sound isn’t as good as other options on our list
Traveler Guitar Escape Mark III Acoustic-Electric Guitar – A Full-Scale Option for the Distinguished Guitarist On-The-Go
This is a really cool piece of kit. If you’re looking to take a no-compromise approach to your playing then this could well be the model for you. Featuring internal tuning pegs and extensive onboard electrics, the Escape Mark III allows you to put on a show no matter where you are.
The internal tuning pegs mean there is effectively no headstock at all. Visually this is quite something to get over but it allows for portability whilst sacrificing little to no loss of sound quality.
At 26% shorter and 10% lighter than a standard electric-acoustic guitar, you’ll have no trouble carrying this thing around whilst the integrated electrics include things like a headphone port, an under-saddle Shadow NanoFlex piezo system, tuner, and aux-in. The overall package is perfect for just about any player.
The only downside with the Mark III is the price. It comes in as the most expensive model on our list in quite some way. Depending on how you intend to use your travel guitar and where you actually intend on traveling with it, it may be worth considering some of the cheaper options.
Of course, if the optimum sound is your thing and budget isn’t an issue then we say go for it! If, however, you’re concerned your portable companion may be exposed to a few more bumps and scrapes than your dreadnought at home then maybe consider a slightly cheaper model.
- Travel body
- Single cutaway
- Mahogany or alder wood back & sides
- Modified traditional bracing pattern
- Natural satin body finish
- 1.75-inch (44.45 mm) nut width
- Black walnut fingerboard
- Mahogany or maple neck wood
- 25.5-inch scale length
- 22 Frets
- Satin Finish
- Shadow pickup
- 3-band EQ
- Gigbag included
- The best sounding guitar on our list
- Excellent electronic components
- Rich sounds when amplified
- High-quality materials used
- It’s the most expensive guitar on our list
Answer: Generally speaking, yes. Due to the change in size, you will find that there may be significant changes in sound. This is particularly prevalent in acoustic models as they rely on their large bodies to convey their sounds. However, you can still expect to notice a difference in electric guitars too due to the modifications made to the electrical elements.
This is not to say the overall sounds will be any worse, just that they may differ from what you are used to.
Answer: Yes, you can. In the vast majority of cases, you are free to put your favorite strings in your travel guitar or replace them as they break. However, it is always advisable to check with the individual manufacturers before you do so just in case.
Answer: Yes, they are perfect for beginners! Travel guitars make ideal starting instruments as their smaller size makes them generally easier to navigate when starting out.
They are often much less complicated than their full-sized counterparts and are therefore easier to play. The problem is when learning you may outgrow a travel guitar pretty quickly.
Also worth noting is that due to their size and weight, travel guitars can often be the ideal models for children when starting out.
Answer: There are many things to remember when taking care of your guitar. When we travel with our favorite instruments there are extra things we have to worry about to ensure no harm comes to them.
For example, it is imperative that you invest in a good quality bag that will offer a level of protection as well as portability. Many models will come with a perfectly good bag but it is always worth checking that it will give you enough protection.
Another thing to remember is to loosen your strings whilst in transit. This guards against any nasty surprises when you get to the other side, the pressure and temperature changes often experienced during a flight are well known to regularly damage guitar strings.
The Final Word: Which is The Best Travel Guitar
Choosing your perfect travel companion will come down largely to your budget and where you’re traveling to. If you’re not looking to break the bank and just want to have a little fun whilst you’re away then you can’t beat the Hofner Shorty Electric for the price.
If, however, you’re uncompromising and want nothing but the best whilst on your travels, then the Traveler Escape Mark III could well be your perfect choice.
For us though, when looking through the huge range of choices available to the traveling guitarist we kept coming back to the Taylor Baby Taylor. A classic design and beautiful tonal range married with a price tag that doesn’t instantly put you off did it for us.
Jodie is a trained classical guitarist. She is also a full-time blogger and loves to write about different types of guitars. Just give her 60 seconds of your time, and she’ll tell you all that you need to know about any guitar of your choice.