Best Travel Guitar: Acoustic & Electric Guitars for the Road
What's a Travel Guitar?
The purpose of a travel guitar is pretty self-explanatory. These are instruments that are easy to pack up and take with you. They may be acoustic guitars, acoustic-electric, or electric guitars, and the best models feature some pretty innovative styles and designs that cut down on size and weight.
Travel guitars are very useful. It's not always easy to take a standard guitar with you everywhere you go. Surely you'd rather a guitar you could stash in an overhead compartment on an airplane rather than check with the rest of the baggage to be tossed about haphazardly. Even when you're packing up your car for a weekend trip you might find space is limited.
There are a lot of reasons someone may choose a travel guitar, but as a guitarist you know the biggest one is this: If you can't play guitar for long periods of time you tend to become a little irritable and depressed. You end up doing things like shouting at strangers for no reason and eating entire gallons of chocolate-peanut butter ice cream.
The best way to avoid this is to make sure you have a guitar with you at all times, wherever you go. A travel guitar is the answer!
For this post I've hunted down a few of the best travel guitars for you to check out. See which one you think is right for your needs.
Travel Acoustic Guitars
Acoustic travel guitars do not require amplification. Even though they're small, some of them have very good tone. Of course they're not going to replace your full-sized acoustic, but for use on the road they are very impressive. Some guitarists like to take them camping or on day trips because they take up so much less space than a full-sized acoustic guitar.
Also note that there are some great mini acoustic guitars out there that would make great travel instruments. You can read more about those in the article below:
The Martin Backpacker is probably the most famous travel guitar in the world, so we may as well start here. You know Martin is among the finest American acoustic guitar builders, but the Backpacker has become legendary in its own right.
This is a 24-inch-scale guitar with a 15-fret fingerboard. It's got a solid spruce top just like a full-sized acoustic, and uses Richlite as a fingerboard and bridge material.
Martin has been experimenting with more environmentally friendly tonewood alternatives like Richlite to ease pressure on worldwide Rosewood reserves. If you're worried about the environment, you can feel good about choosing a Martin guitar.
The Backpacker is available as either a steel-string or nylon-string classical model.
The Rover is Washburn's entry into the acoustic travel guitar field. Some might see it as an alternative to the Martin Backpacker, but it has a few features that set it apart.
It has a 24-inch scale length, and 19 frets with a cutaway fingerboard design. The top is spruce and the back, sides and neck are mahogany.
The Rover also comes with a sturdier case than many travel guitars. This is something to consider, as gig bags only offer so much protection. If suitcases topple over on it in back of your truck, or if you're forced to check it on an airplane, you'll be grateful for a stronger case.
More on the Washburn Rover
Voyage-Air Transit Series VAMD-02
Voyage-Air has truly carved out a niche for themselves in the travel guitar market, thanks to some very innovative ideas. Their guitars are built to fold over onto themselves and fit into square pack-type cases.
At first look it may make you a little sick to your stomach to see a guitar doubled over like this, but rest assured Voyage-Air instruments are made for it. In fact, there are some pretty high-end quality guitars in the Voyage-Air lineup.
In the interest of keeping things budget-friendly, you may want to check out the VAMD-02. It's a 15/16 size mini dreadnought shape with a mahogany back, sides and neck, spruce top and rosewood fingerboard.
Amazing Voyage-Air Guitars
Acoustic-Electric Travel Guitars
Here are couple of acoustic-electric travel guitars designed for amplified sound in a compact size. You may wish to pair one with a headphone amp for personal practice, or with an super-portable amp like the Peavey Nano Vypyr for the ultimate "rig-on-the-go".
Traveler Ultra-Light Acoustic-Electric
Traveler is one of the top guitar brands when it comes to travel guitars. As such, their company name suits them perfectly! They have an array of choices and some very clever design ideas.
One is the Ultra-Light Acoustic-Electric. It looks a little like the tiny-bodied guitars listed above, but it has some very interesting things going on. For one, the body and neck is a solid piece of maple.
It has a detachable lap rest to give a feel more like a full-sized guitar, and a Shadow under-saddle piezo pickup. Notice the lack of a headstock, and the way the tuning machines are mounted within the body.
This is a full-scale guitar wrapped up in a space-saving package, you can plug it into an acoustic amp or preamp just like any other acoustic-electric guitar.
The Traveler Ultra Light
Yamaha Silent Guitar
Here's a very cool travel guitar from one of the top acoustic guitar makers out there. The Yamaha Silent Guitar was originally designed to work with headphones, but has evolved into a tool for guitarists to use through traditional amplification, and even onstage.
At first glance it looks like it will take up just about as much space as a normal acoustic guitar, but it disassembles for stow away in a compact case. The body of the guitar is maple, the neck mahogany and the fingerboard and bridge rosewood.
This Yamaha Silent Guitar also includes some useful effects like reverb, chorus and echo, and even an MP3 input for jamming with recorded tunes. It's a unique feature in a travel guitar for sure.
Check Out the Yamaha Silent Guitar
Travel Electric Guitars
Electric guitars made for travel have to do a tough job. By definition, a travel guitar has to be a space-saving design, so how can you fit all the important stuff in there and still end up with a guitar that sounds good? Traveler and Voyage-Air have come up with some interesting solutions! Either would be great paired with a mini guitar amp, which would fit right in the gig bag.
Traveler Ultra-Light Electric
Like the Ultra-Light Acoustic-Electric, the electric version packs a whole bunch of great features in a travel guitar.
It's a full 24 3/4 scale, and has the a neck-though maple body and neck construction, Ebonized rosewood fingerboard and that cool headless, in-body tuner design. What looks like a wimpy single-coil pickup is actually a dual-rail mini humbucker. Nice!
It's worth noting there is also a "Pro" version similar to this guitar. That one has a removable lap rest with a volume and tone control, a custom acoustic pickup in addition to a single coil, and an interesting "stethoscope" feature that lets you hear yourself play without battery power.
Traveler has an array of great travel guitars, and this article has only scratched the surface.
The Traveler Electric Travel Guitar
Voyage-Air Transaxe Telair
Voyage-Air, too, has a whole bunch of amazing travel guitars beyond the scope of this article. But one more I will mention is the Transaxe Series Telair.
Like other Voyage-Air guitars, it folds in half (ouch!) to fit in a pack-sized case.
It has an Alder body, maple neck with maple fingerboard, custom Tonerider Vintage Plus Alnico Pickups and a three-way pickup selector switch.
If you dig the Tele vibe, but need to fly off to Saskatoon pronto, a guitar like the Telair might be exactly what you need.
Voyage-Air's DuraTrans case is one of the best in this review. It fits the guitar, plus other items you'd want in a carry-on bag such as your laptop and some extra clothing.
Tips on Choosing the Best Travel Guitar for You
Remember that even though most of these manufacturers say their cases will fit in an overhead compartment of an airplane, that decision is ultimately up to the airline. If you do a lot of flying you may wish to choose a model with a sturdier case in the event that your guitar ends up riding in the luggage area.
If you primarily want to use your travel guitar for camping, one of the acoustic models might serve you best. To my way of thinking, the less complicated something is the less of a chance it has of getting destroyed when you're off in the wilderness.
If you think you might want to take your travel guitar onstage, my choice would be the Yamaha Silent Guitar. It has a useable preamp, and a very cool look.
Good luck choosing the best travel guitar for you!