It might be easier to be a guitarist than an upright bassist or a tuba player, but the fact is that sometimes toting around a full-sized guitar isn’t practical or possible. But, you still need to play, so what are you supposed to do? Invest in a travel guitar.
Today, we’ll check out the best travel guitars available, and share some sage advice that will help you narrow the field and choose the perfect axe for the way you play.
The Thirteen Top Travel Guitars Available Now
Without further adieu, let’s take a look at some of the best overall travel guitars that are available now.
Travel guitars are nothing new, but it wasn’t until Traveler Guitar came on the scene in the early 90s that you could purchase a travel axe that played as well as your Les Paul or Strat. Their Ultra-Light electric model is one of the most popular and well-loved travel guitars on the market.
The Ultra-Light offers the same scale length as a Les Paul, yet it’s only 28” long from tail to nut; small enough to fit in the overhead bin of an airplane. This guitar is appointed with a neck-thru-body design, a rock maple body and neck, and a variety of finishes and fretboard options.
Rounding out the Ultra-Light is a single rail style humbucking pickup, a tune-o-matic style roller bridge, and a custom travel case.
- Plays as well as a standard guitar
- Premium construction and components
- Extremely compact without sacrificing scale length
- No upper bout takes a lot of getting used to
The Traveler brand didn’t leave acoustic players out in the cold when they designed their Ultra-Light model. No, they managed to create a warm and rich-sounding acoustic that delivers big tones in an impressively tiny package.
This guitar weighs in at just shy of three pounds, and it features North American rock maple and a thru-body design. The guitar strikes a beautiful silhouette in natural shades, but there’s a variety of other eye-catching colors.
The Ultra-Light features a traditional bridge with a piezo pickup and a phenolic resin saddle that provides more efficient vibration transfer than bone saddles do, which translates to more resonance and tone from this tiny guitar.
Like the Ultra-Light electric, this small axe measures 28” long, which is small enough to fit in the overhead bin of an airplane.
- Plays as well as a great full-sized acoustic guitar
- Great-sounding piezo pickup
- Thru-body construction for improved resonance and tone
- Takes some getting used to - balance is very different than a regular acoustic
Also Consider: Great Acoustic-Electric Guitars
Acoustic players who want a travel guitar without sacrificing the classic look of a traditional guitar are sure to love the Washburn Rover. This guitar blends premium materials and components with a classic design that most players will love.
The Rover offers a solid Sitka spruce top with mahogany back and sides and an 18-fret mahogany neck. The fretboard and bridge are made from engineered wood, a strange feature, but one that doesn’t seem to affect the playability or tone of this travel guitar.
Like the offerings from Traveler Guitar, the Rover includes a deluxe gig bag, and it’s small enough to fit in an overhead bin on an airplane.
- Looks and feels like a real guitar
- Premium Sitka spruce and mahogany construction
- Impressively big sound despite the small package
- Fretboard and bridge aren’t made of real wood
Guitarists who aren’t interested in sacrificing the classic look and feel of a full-size acoustic are sure to love the G-Mini 55 from Washburn. This guitar features a ⅞ scale and all the premium appointments you’d expect for an excellent Grand Auditorium style acoustic.
The G-Mini 55 offers a solid koa top, back, and sides, with quarter-sawn Sitka spruce bracings, a satin mahogany neck, and a gorgeous ebony fretboard. Guitarists will be hard-pressed to find a travel guitar that’s more nicely appointed than the G-Mini.
Rounding out this premium travel guitar is a Graphtech Nubone saddle and nut, a 3-ring rosette, 18:1 gold tuners with ebonite buttons, and coated D’Addario phosphor bronze strings. Washburn even throws in a premium gigbag.
- Looks, feels, and sounds like a full-size acoustic
- All solid wood construction
- Includes deluxe gig bag
- Not as compact as other travel guitars
Electric and steel-string acoustic models have been well represented in the travel market for years now, but it wasn’t always easy for classical players. Thanks to the Cordoba Mini M, nylon string guitarists can now get in on the fun from anywhere in the world.
This diminutive classical guitar is well appointed and offers a standard 1.96” nut width despite it’s tiny 20” scale. The Mini M provides solid mahogany back and sides and a Sitka spruce top, so it delivers tons of resonance and a rich tone you wouldn’t expect from a guitar that’s practically the size of a ukulele.
The Mini M is appointed with rosewood binding, a rosewood bridge, and bone nut and saddle for added resonance and rich tone. A custom Cordoba gig bag is also included. For acoustic players searching for a travel guitar that doesn’t force them to sacrifice feel or sound, the Mini M is one you need to play.
- Solid spruce top delivers beautiful resonance
- Standard nut width despite the shortened scale
- Can be tuned to standard or pitched up a fourth to A
- Mediocre tuning machines - goes out of tune frequently
A classic-style, no-frills electric that’s as well-suited for the stage as it is to travel, the Shorty Electric from Hofner is one of the best travel guitars you’ll find. This small axe delivers full-size tone that greatly outpunches it’s weight class.
The Shorty features a basswood body with a bolt-on maple neck and rosewood fretboard, a combination as old as rock ‘n roll itself. Despite the tiny size, the guitar still manages a 24 ¾” scale length, so it’s going to be exceptionally comfortable for electric guitarists, especially Gibson purists who will recognize this scale length from the Les Paul, SG, 335, and more.
The Shorty offers 22 frets, an open-coil humbucker, and volume and tone knobs for controlling the pickup. Also included is a Hofner gig bag.
- Same scale as a Gibson Les Paul
- Well-balanced and comfortable to play
- Sounds great when plugged in
- One-piece bridge is more difficult to set up and intonate
With a slim profile and a travel-friendly scale, the Trailblazer from Johnston is an ideal choice for the guitarist on the go. The Trailblazer is affordable and well-appointed, making it a strong choice for anyone looking for a travel guitar without breaking the bank.
The Trailblazer features a comfortable 24 ¾” scale, a white wood top, back, and sides, and a mahogany neck with Revebond fretboard. A rosewood bridge, plastic nut, and closed-body tuners complete the guitar.
This guitar is a joy to play, and the scale length is already familiar for most acoustic and electric guitarists. However, this guitar doesn’t quite deliver the massive, round tones that other travel guitars made from more expensive tonewoods. This is a travel guitar, so many players will be happy to trade some tone for a guitar that looks and feels great.
- One of the most comfortable travel guitars to play
- Bound body and headstock for a premium look
- Includes gig bag
- Sounds thin
- Engineered wood fretboard
One of the original travel guitars made by one of the most storied guitar manufacturers in the world, the Martin Backpacker, is a no-brainer for most guitarists looking to add a travel axe to their arsenal.
This oddly shaped and tiny guitar delivers a warm, vibrant, and immersive tone that’s hard to believe it’s coming from such a small guitar. The hourglass shape aside, the Backpacked looks and feels like a high-end Martin, and it plays like one, too.
This guitar features a solid Sitka spruce top, and the back and sides are constructed from tonewoods as well. The hand-rubbed finish suits this guitar perfectly and provides a beautiful finish that looks as nice in your hands as it does in your studio.
- Classic Martin feel and sound
- Premium tonewoods throughout
- Includes gig bag
- Balance is a bit off, difficult to play sitting down
- Only 15 frets
Steinberger’s guitars have been a favorite with the shred set for decades. Whether you’re traveling or not, the Spirit GT Pro is a great guitar, making it such an excellent choice for a travel axe. Unlike other travel guitars that force you to make some concessions, the Spirit GT Pro delivers amazing tone and unbeatable playability.
This guitar features thru-body construction with a rock maple neck and maple sides. The 25 ½” scale neck features 22 jumbo frets and a Rosewood fingerboard. There’s no skimping in the electronics department, as the Spirit GT Pro offers deluxe covered humbuckers with a mid-position single-coil and 5-way selector switch.
Rounding out this well-appointed axe is Steinberger’s patented R-Trem locking bridge system, so you can shred to your heart’s content without having to worry about tuning issues. If there’s one gripe with this guitar, it’s the double-ball string design, which requires you to use Steinberger’s strings exclusively.
- Best playing and sounding travel electric on the market
- 25 ½” scale is perfect for rock and metal styles
- Versatile HSH pickup configuration
- Have to use Steinberger strings
We’ve profiled a few different Traveler Guitar models above, and while they sound great and play well, the design isn’t for everyone. If you prefer a more traditional look, the Escape Mark III may be right up your alley.
This guitar is tailor-made for travel. It offers a 25 ½” scale despite only being 30” long. It looks like a high-end Les Paul that someone chopped the headstock off of, and it plays like a great. The Escape Mark III features a mahogany body and bolt-on mahogany neck with a 22-fret black walnut fingerboard.
Instead of a headstock, the tuners have been relocated to the body of the guitar, which allows for a shorter, thinner guitar without sacrificing tuning performance. The acoustic style bridge features a piezo pickup, and there’s an onboard headphone amp that provides controls for volume, bass, treble, and phase, as well as an aux input and chromatic tuner.
Thanks to the onboard amp, the Escape Mark III is a solid choice for the best travel guitars on the market.
- 25 ½” scale
- Beautiful Les Paul-style looks
- Onboard tuner
- Onboard amplifier sounds weak
Not interested in sacrificing looks or feel to score a guitar you can travel with? The Mikro from Ibanez is well worth a closer look. This tiny ax is intended for children and smaller players, but it perfectly fits the bill for veteran guitarists looking for a smaller guitar they can bring on the road.
The Mikro is essentially a scaled-down Ibanez RG, and it provides many of the formidable features Ibanez is best known for. The guitar offers a basswood body with a rock maple neck and Jatoba fretboard, which is beautifully appointed with signature Sharktooth inlay. The Mikro is one of the few travel guitars on the market with a 24-fret neck.
Two humbuckers provide this strat style axe with plenty of power, and a hardtail bridge offers a familiar feel and stable operation.
- Classic look and comfortable feel
- 24-fret neck is ideal for shredders
- Comfortable neck joint and double-cutaway for unrestricted access
- 22” scale is prone to intonation problems
Nothing beats the look, feel, or sound of a genuine Fender Strat, and with the Mini Stratocaster, you won’t have to sacrifice that classic Fender styling when you’re traveling. The Mini Strat is available in several traditional colors, and each delivers plenty of Strat vibes.
The Mini Strat offers a lightweight poplar body with a rock maple neck, Indian laurel fretboard, and synthetic bone nut. Three classic single coils ensure you’ll be able to tap into all the tones Stratocasters are best-loved for, and a hardtail bridge keeps things locked in tune no matter how hard you’re playing.
The guitar is a ¾ scale, and while it’s ideal for traveling, it still provides the balanced feel of a full-size guitar, so this axe is a smart choice for travelers who have a hard time adjusting to the strange body styles of more traditional travel instruments.
- Classic Strat looks
- Lightweight and comfortable to play
- Comfortable and classic C-shape neck
- Looks like a strat, but the tone isn’t quite there
Gibson and Epiphone purists will find plenty of travel guitars that feature their preferred 24 ¾” scale, but there aren’t many travel guitars that offer the look of a classic Les Paul. Thankfully, the Les Paul Express from Epiphone is just what the doctor ordered if you’re after that classic rock ‘n roll styling.
The Express offers an Okoume neck with granadillo fingerboard, and a solid mahogany body that delivers the sustain and tone the Les Paul is famous for. The 22” scale means this guitar comes in at ¾ scale without compromising the look or feel of the guitar.
Rounding out this guitar is a beautiful two-tone sunburst finish, Epiphone 650R and 700T pickups, a 3-way selector switch, and bell knobs for volume and tone.
- Looks and feels like a Les Paul
- Great sounding pickups
- Much lighter than a typical LP
- Bolt-on neck doesn’t sustain quite like an LP does
- Short scale is prone to intonation problems
How to Choose the Perfect Travel Guitar For Yourself
There’s more to choosing the best travel guitar for your playing than just purchasing the first axe that fits the bill. Read on, and we’ll take a closer look at the things you’ll need to consider before parting with your hard-earned cash.
Selecting a Guitar
When you’re shopping for a travel guitar, you’ll mostly be evaluating guitars using the same criteria you’d use when buying a full-sized instrument. You’ll want to find a guitar that sounds great, feels good in your hands (especially if your hands are on the smaller side), and is comfortable to play. Of course, there are some concessions you’ll need to make, so let’s look more closely at the most critical areas to consider.
The quality of materials is perhaps the most important thing you’ll want to evaluate. Some manufacturers use cheaper and lighter woods when making travel guitars as a way to keep costs down while making a lighter and more travel-friendly guitar.
But, if you’re concerned with how the guitar is going to sound, you won’t want to skimp on quality woods. For acoustics, look for models made from quality tonewoods, like Sitka spruce, rosewood, koa, and maple. For electrics, try and avoid instruments that use manufactured wood, especially for the neck or fingerboard.
Whether you’re shopping for an acoustic or an electric, there’s a strong chance the guitar will have at least one onboard pickup. You’ll need good pickups to electrify your travel guitar, and these components are especially important if you’re going to be gigging with the guitar.
You’ll want to make sure that the pickups that are included provide a rich and warm tone that jives well with the music you play.
Guitar size is a significant concern with a travel guitar since you’ll need the guitar to be as small as possible to make traveling a breeze. The design of some travel guitars allows them to provide a full-scale instrument in a form that’s around 2 ½” long, while some guitars are only slightly smaller than a standard electric or acoustic.
A ¾ scale guitar is undoubtedly more portable than a full-sized one, but if portability is your greatest concern, you’ll want to look towards instruments from Traveler Guitar, as their instruments are exceptionally compact while still providing a full-size neck and scale.
An incredibly important and often overlooked aspect of travel guitars is their scale. While many travel guitars offer a full 24 ¾” or 25 ½” scale, many others feature a compact scale to shrink the guitar down to travel size.
Guitars with a shorter scale are often intended for children, so there isn’t as much care put into how they sound. While these instruments can still make great travel guitars, the shorter scale makes it more difficult to intonate the guitar properly, so it plays in tune.
If you’re looking for a guitar that plays and sounds as good as a full-size instrument, make sure that it offers a full scale.
Bags and Cases
Since travel instruments can vary significantly in size and shape, it’s often difficult to find a suitable case for your instrument unless the manufacturer includes one with your purchase. Many travel guitars include custom travel cases as part of the package. If a guitar doesn’t include a bag or case, make sure you’ll find a suitable case before making your purchase.
Further Reading: Best Gifts to Buy For Guitarists
Travel guitars open up a world of possibilities to guitar players. With a travel guitar, bringing your instrument on a plane, to the beach, or on vacation becomes much easier than it would be with a full-size instrument. While each of the guitars on our list is an excellent choice for your next travel axe, one guitar in particular rises above, and earns the title of the best travel guitar.
The best travel guitar is the Traveler Guitar Escape Mark III. This guitar provides a full-scale neck, a familiar Les Paul-like silhouette, and a tonal palette that has no trouble competing with the best full-size guitars on the market.
If you’re more interested in an acoustic travel guitar, the Martin Backpacker is one of our favorites. The Backpacker offers the comfort, playability, and build quality that Martin is so famous for, in a compact package that’s perfect for traveling with anywhere your musical journey takes you.
As the Head Editor at Music Grotto, Liam edits content produced from over 30 professional music/media journalists and contributing writers. He works closely with journalists and other staff to format and publish music content for the Music Grotto website. Liam is also the founding member of Music Grotto and is passionate in disseminating editorial content to its readers.