When you’re packing for a trip or vacation, the very last decision you want to make is whether or not to pack your prized guitar and risk damaging it. A travel guitar can be an optimal alternative for serious musicians or frequent travelers. There are several key factors you need to consider before choosing the best travel guitar. Make sure to research the following: size, sound, material, and (of course) the price tag.
Don't have time to read? Check out our recommended travel guitars:
What size should you get?
One size does not fit all when selecting an acoustic travel guitar. Choosing the right acoustic body size can have a huge impact on the ability to transport your guitar and the sound projection (which we'll cover in the next section).
The compact size of your travel guitar can be a huge benefit when traveling on planes, trains, or automobiles. If space is an issue, a travel guitar's lightweight structure makes it easy to store in overhead storage, or in the trunk of your car.
In my opinion, one of most popular travel guitars is the 3/4 acoustic guitars, which are common among beginners. The 3/4 offers a more compact size, which is convenient for an on the go musician.
Smaller guitar sizes can have benefits for the non traveling musicians as well. The compact size is ideal for younger musicians, or players with smaller hands, and women too!
Travel guitars offer either a full, or almost full scale length, to maximize playability. This means that you only need to make minor adjustments before starting your jam session. For a more relaxed playing feel, shoot for models with shorter scales. The shorter scales result in less string tension making an easier playing experience.
The convenient size of a travel guitar is best for musicians wanting to travel and enjoy strumming along while on vacation. Imagine strumming your travel guitar on the beach in Maui. Plane tickets not included, see the video below for inspiration!
What kind of sound are you looking for?
Acoustic travel guitars provide a "quieter" sound due to the smaller neck and body. No small guitar will have the same sound as a full sized guitar, but manufacturers have created some great sounding travel guitars.
A softer sounding guitar can be beneficial if you live in shared housing, like an apartment or condominium. To avoid disturbing the neighbors, and creating quiet tunes, a travel guitar allows jam sessions that don't result in angry neighbors and cops at your door.
Acoustic-electric travel guitars typically have built in preamps and output jacks to get the sound of a full-sized guitar. The preamps also include a tuner, which provides convenience when you're on the road.
One of the downsides of a travel guitar is the lack of recording quality. Due to the smaller size, the sound quality is lower compared to a full sized guitar. Full sized guitars are more equipped for learning, recording, or developing musical skills.
What are your material options?
Full-sized guitars are made with materials that can handle changes in climate and are made of solid wood, thus giving the best volume and sound. To achieve the desired portability, travel guitars are made with other than solid wood. The most common materials include solid spruce or laminate on the top and laminate on the bottom.
For the best sound and quality, I recommend looking for a combination of solid spruce on the top and and a laminate material on the sides and the back. The solid spruce top creates the best sound quality and tone. Laminate ensures durability to the guitar, because it holds up well to temperature changes and humidity.
No guitar is indestructible, but most travel guitars can be subjected to extreme temperature and humidity. Make sure to follow the guitar manufacturer's guidelines for care.
What’s my price range?
Travel guitars can range from $40 to $500. As much as the price can vary, so can the quality. When you are selecting a travel guitar, steer clear from the “cheapest” model and make sure to read reviews! The cheaper options typically lack quality and sound. Investing extra money when selecting a travel guitar will make you a happy musician.
Travel guitars are less expensive than full sized guitars, because a travel guitar is made of a combination of materials, where as a full sized guitar is made of solid wood. A major benefit of have a less expensive travel guitar, is the ability to subject it to the stress of traveling. A chip or crack in your $3000 guitar is much more substantial than normal wear and tear on your $300 travel guitar. Movement and handling on airplanes, trains, and buses can cause significant damage.
A travel guitar can meet your needs if:
- You want to travel and bring your guitar (imagine Maui example earlier)
- You are not concerned with recording quality
- You want to play the guitar at any location life takes you
- You do not require a strong sound projection
Check out Traveler Guitar’s video comparing 3 of the best travel guitars: The Baby Taylor, the Martin Backpacker, and the Dean FLY MAH. Traveler Guitar explains how scale length and frets affect the sound quality of travel guitars. The video also demonstrates how to measure the fit and balance when holding a guitar. This is a great beginning guide when considering any travel guitar.
For the best sound quality, I suggest investing in the Baby Taylor guitar. The solid spruce or solid mahogany material provides a strong sound. The Baby features a scale length of 22 3/4-inch scale length and 19 frets. The price of the Baby Taylor is more expensive than other travel guitars, but you'll have a much higher satisfaction.
When convenience and portability are a major concern, consider the Martin Backpacker Guitar. The Backpacker features a 24-inch scale length and 15 frets. While this unique guitar is ideal for a traveling lifestyle, be prepared to sacrifice on sound quality when compared to a full sized guitar. The inexpensive price of the Backpacker is a huge bonus for musicians on a budget.
The Dean FLY Mah provides a non-bulky size that makes it easy to cart around with you. It's actually 3/4 the size of a regular guitar. The mahogany for the body and sides gives you warmth in your tones and helps with sound projections. This budget option is perfect for when you need to play on the road, or perhaps around a campfire.
Life on the road can cause serious wear and tear to a guitar. Investing in a travel guitar can save unnecessary damage to a more expensive, full size guitar. Packing a travel guitar saves space on the tour bus and makes flying less of a hassle. A travel guitar is perfect for the musician looking to play wherever and whenever!
“I just love playing the guitar, so that’s what I’m going to do.” – ST. VINCENT