Top 5 Best Travel Guitars that Don’t Suck

Top 5 Best Travel Guitars reviewed and rated

What was it that sparked my interest in travel guitars?  I’m traveling on beach vacation in a couple weeks and I am facing a tough decision.   Should I lug my massive full-sized guitar all the way across the ocean or just leave it at home and not have anything?

I decided I didn’t like either option. So I just went out and bought a new 3/4-size travel guitar.

That was only a week ago and there hasn’t been a moment where I’ve regretted purchasing the mini-guitar. Sure, it doesn’t have the same volume as a full-size guitar but it feels great in my hands and it’s going to travel nicely in the overhead bins.

I did quite a bit of research before buying this guitar (I know, it sounded like an impulse buy but it wasn’t). I thought it might be useful to share with you what I found when it comes to travel guitars. My goal was to find a travel guitar that didn’t suck.

What I realized is that there are actually some very high quality travel guitars on the market today. Here are the top 5 best of the lot. To start I’ll show you a comparison chart and then go into detail with each guitar further below.

 

The beautiful Big Baby Taylor beginner acoustic guitar
Baby
Taylor

LXM-Little-Martin
Little
Martin

The Luna Safari Tattoo travel guitar
Luna
Safari

Dean Flight Travel Guitar
Dean
Flight

KLOS Travel Guitar
KLOS

Price:
All USD
$418
$319
$429
$299
$264
$159
$247
$149
$599
Materials:Top: Solid spruce or mahogany

Back/Sides: Laminate Sapele
Top: Laminate or solid

Back/Sides: Laminate mahogany
Top: Laminate mahogany

Back/Sides: Laminate mahogany
Top: Laminate options

Back/Sides: Laminate mahogany
Top:
Carbon Fiber

Back/Sides:
Carbon Fiber
Electronics:NoneAvailableNoneNoneNone
Gig BagYesYesYesYesYes
and Guitar
Neck Sleeve
Pros/ConsPro: strong sound and solid top

Con: lacks bass
Pro: lots of options, good bass

Con: a bit pricey
Pro: visual appeal, pricing

Con: thin sound
Pro: lowest price

Con: high action, thin sound
Pro: custom
carbon design to project sound
for small body, removable neck

Con: high price

Check pricing on Amazon

Check pricing on Amazon

Check pricing on Amazon

Check pricing on Amazon

Baby Taylor Acoustic Guitar – $319

A pair of beautiful Baby Taylor mini guitarsI’m an unashamed fan of Taylor Guitars. I own a couple of them and I have a bit of a bias toward the Baby Taylor, I admit.

But trust me when I say that this is a quality travel guitar. It has a solid top (either solid spruce or solid mahogany – your choice), quality construction and a beautiful sound. It even comes with a very nice travel case that offers great padded protection and looks very nice.

There are some people who say that the Baby Taylor has a shallow sound lacking the bass that the Little Martin (see below) provides. I think it’s all up to preference. I like the sound and feel of a Baby Taylor and if you really need a little more “uumph” you can upgrade to a Big Baby Taylor that’s, well, a bit bigger.

I’ve taken this guitar on a couple trips and the bag handles very well. There’s a pocket in the front to keep music sheets, capos, picks and anything else you want.

It is one of the more expensive travel guitars but it’s worth the money in my opinion. You’ll keep this guitar for a while. My plan is to hand it down to my son when he’s old enough to want to play.

Check pricing on the Baby Taylor:

Check pricing on Amazon


5 Parlor Guitars that don't suck    Review of the Little Martin Series of Acoustic Guitars

 

Little Martin Acoustic Guitar – $299 to $399

The Little Martin LXM mini acoustic guitarAnother excellent travel guitar option is a Little Martin. The Little Martin series of guitars actually includes seven models, one of which isn’t readily available (the Ed Sheeran model). For more details on the series, read my more in-depth review of the Little Martin guitars.

The reason people might choose the Little Martin over the Baby Taylor is the rich bass sound that they’ve somehow been able to coax out of such a small guitar. It doesn’t sound exactly like a full-size guitar but it comes as close as possible.

Even more amazing is that they’ve created such a deep sound using all laminate wood. They call it HPL or “High Pressure Laminate”. It looks like the real deal and sounds like the real deal…but it’s not. Note: if you’re willing to pay more, they also have a solid-top Little Martin available.

Like the Baby Taylor above, the Little Martin comes with a custom padded gig bag with the Martin logo stitched on the front. It does a great job of keeping the guitar safe while also looking very cool.

Check pricing on the Little Martin:

Check pricing on Amazon


 

 

Luna Safari Travel Guitar – $159 to $199

The Luna Safari Tattoo travel guitarPerhaps you’ve never heard of Luna Guitars – frankly I’m not that familiar with them either – but they’ve made a name for themselves in the travel guitar niche with their beautifully-designed Safari series of guitars.

At first glance you might appreciate the fact that these guitars are $100 or more less than the Baby Taylor or Little Martin guitars. A big reason for this price difference is name brand.

The Luna Safari travel guitars come in a wide variety of designs which include oddly-shaped soundholes, laser etching and one painted to look like Van Gogh’s Starry Night. They also come with a custom gig-bag.

It’s an all-laminate guitar (same as the Little Martin) with a thin sound I’ve come to expect from smaller travel guitars. More than anything, these guitars have an incredible visual appeal, which for a travel guitar isn’t a bad thing. And for this price…it’s not much of a risk!

Check pricing on the Luna Safari:

Check pricing on Amazon


 

 

Dean Flight Travel Guitar – $149 to $169

Dean Flight Travel GuitarDean guitar has been a favorite among beginner guitarists for a while and their Flight series of travel-sized guitars offers one of the lowest prices you’ll find for a worth-while travel guitar.

Like most all of these travel guitars, the Dean Flight is an all-laminate wood guitar made in China. It’s well-constructed, though, and looks amazing. There are four different models in the Dean Flight series with the only difference in them being the guitar top (spruce, mahogany, black mahogany or bubinga).

These guitars are pretty basic.  There’s no special visual element other than the Dean wings emblem being used as fret markers. The sound is good without being great but again, this isn’t always the primary reason people buy travel guitars.

The Dean Flight travel guitar is an excellent budget option since it also comes with its own padded gig bag.

Check pricing on the Dean Flight:

Check pricing on Amazon


 

 

KLOS Travel Guitars – $599.99

If you have the money for it, buy a KLOS guitar! I was drawn to this option at first due to the fact that the body is made out of carbon fiber which is a very strong material. But once I actually had the opportunity to play this thing… Just wow. With this option you don’t have to sacrifice sound for portability.

This guitar was designed with two major factors in mind, functional traveling and quality sound. I think that it is absolutely safe to say that they nailed it. Being a mini dreadnought means that it is well, mini. In addition to being a conveniently compact size, it also has the capability to remove the neck so you can fit in your carry on, backpack, or wherever you need it to fit!

Durability this is obviously a big concern for travel guitars. They went with carbon fiber for the body due to its strength and then designed the rest of the guitar around it with features to bring you a truly phenomenal sound. Check out our KLOS Guitar Review article for more in depth details to how they’re made.

Unlike most travel guitars each KLOS guitar is carefully built by a small crew here in the states. When you inspect one of these it is clear that they took their time to bring you a well-crafted, comfortable playing guitar. Not only does it have a nice backpack type gig bag with a front pocket to hold your music and other things, but a neck sleeve as well. The neck sleeve fits snug around the neck for extra protection and even fits inside the gig bag.

It does cost a little bit more than other travel guitars typically go for.  However, it is still just a fraction of the price that you would pay with other carbon fiber guitar manufactures. That extra money you spend now will go a long way.  I take mine to the beach with all of my surfing gear and never have any second thoughts about it. This guitar was built for adventure!

Visit the KLOS Website


Conclusion

I would also like to mention some newer, interesting options for travel guitars. Including a collapsible carbon fiber guitar by Journey Instruments. The link there has a video review so you can see for yourself how carbon fiber sounds vs a wood travel guitar. You might be surprised!

In addition, there are a number of parlor guitars that might fit your needs.

Feedback

There you have it! These are my top 5 best travel guitars. If you think I’ve missed something, please let me know in the comments below!

 

32 Responses to Top 5 Best Travel Guitars that Don’t Suck

  1. AJ says:

    Your thoughts on the Taylor GS Mini since it did not make your list. Even for the extra $200, I found it to be a much superior guitar to the Taylor Baby.

    • Josh Summers says:

      Great point, AJ, and thanks for your comment. My reasoning is below but first I want to make sure and point you to my review of the Taylor GS Mini.

      I agree with you that the GS Mini is far superior to the Baby Taylor, especially if you plan to play on stage. If I were to write an article detailing the “Best Mini Guitars” then I would choose the GS over the Baby every time.

      However, since this is specifically “travel” I decided to choose the Baby because, in my opinion, it’s more portable and cheaper. Those looking for a travel guitar aren’t as concerned about how the guitar sounds plugged in, rather they want something light on the back and light on the wallet.

      If you have the money, though, there’s no reason the GS Mini can’t make an excellent travel guitar as well!

      • Mr Moonlight says:

        I have both the GS mini and Baby. I was looking for a travel guitar around the size of the Baby, but stumbled across the GS mini in the process. I ended up buying both. The Baby for travel and the GS mini simply because I loved the way it felt and sounded. The GS mini is perfect for hauling around the city or to take to a friends house. I take the Baby whenever I’m going to board a plane. I bought both with the mahogany tops. I felt they had a warmer sound and I figured Mahogany would be a little more durable than spruce.

        The GS mini is simply a great sounding guitar. I highly recommend picking one up. The Baby Taylor while sounding great for its’ size, doesn’t sound nearly as nice and is lacking in the low end. It also sounds a bit boxy and thin. I chose the Baby Taylor over the Martin because I felt it had a little more clarity warmth. The Martin sounded a bit more muddy even though it had a little more on the low end.

        I’ve recently been eyeing a new nylon string travel guitar. The Cordoba Mini. It’s about 4″ shorter than the Taylor too. They offer strings sets tuned to standard as well as pitched up to “A”.

  2. RBG says:

    Another great thing about the *Martin Backpacker* is that it’s small enough to leave on your couch and/or cushy chair – ready to pick up and play on a whim.

    It’s also small enough that the spouse doesn’t complain about “cluttering up the joint”. 😎

    • Josh Summers says:

      Haha! So true, Rick. Thanks for the comment 🙂

    • Michael says:

      Just my opinion but the Martin backpacker sounds absolutely awful. I wouldn’t bother spending any money on it.

      • Cary says:

        As the review says, the Martin Backpacker is specifically for when portability matters more than tone. It’s only for practicing; I would never play a gig with it. But when I’m traveling to the beach for the weekend with nothing but a camera, a swimsuit and a toothbrush, the Martin Backpacker keeps my chops in shape with a minimum of poundage.

      • Liamtho says:

        Agreed, I had one for a while and hated it. Sounds awful and you can’t just pick it up and play as you neeeed the strap all the time.

  3. Jim Gilstrap says:

    Hi Josh,

    Great article. Obviously, I’m in the market for a travel guitar. I’ve played both the Martins and while those are the top of my list, I keep coming back to a guitar called the Traveler Pro or the Traveler Ultra-lite Acoustic/Electric.

    Do you have any experience or thoughts on either of these?

    • Rob New says:

      I have two little martins also had a baby Taylor which I sold, have read reviews of yamaha jr1 that describe the sound as thin, for me it has to be the little martins, good playing action as supplied and rich full sound that you won’t get from the others; will never part with mine!

  4. Februwaty says:

    I am new to guitar. I want to play guitar to sing songs with kids. Which one is good as I am small and I have very small hands. I am only 5 feet. Thank you so much.

  5. Kean Cabigao says:

    How bout the Yamaha JR-1, JR-2, JR-2s? Is it a good travel guitar? Thanks 🙂

  6. brian says:

    The Martin backpacker is very diffucult to handle and position without the strap. I have found the Johnson travel guitars of decent wualuty and sound and superior to the Backpacker which costs neRly twice as much. My main goal for a travel guitar is to practice and keep the calluses firm. Sound is secondary.

    • Josh Summers says:

      Thanks sharing, Brian. I agree that the Martin backpacker isn’t an ideal guitar for most purposes, but if you need something small that still sounds ok, I don’t think it’s a bad deal. Of course, I’m not very familiar with the Johnson travel guitar, so I’ll have to check that out. I appreciate the tip!

      • Darren Keller says:

        I just don’t get all the complaints on having to use the strap. Standing, it’s a must, but I never use it sitting, which is 99% of the time. I find the shape very ergonomic and accommodating multiple positions:if want “normal” put the bottom point on your thigh, no pain due to light weight and gets it up close to height of normal body, put tail on thigh to play classical position, sometimes I rest tail in bend of elbow. I find the nice rounded corners make comfortable playing in bed on my back. I have to think the complaints come from trying to use it as if it had a normal body. Everything is a compromise, but I find the backpacker to be the only (best?) Compromise if ultimate portability keeping full size neck is high on your list. Ultimately, it eliminates any excuse I have for not having a guitar with me, and, therefore,not practicing.

  7. Tom Coleman says:

    I’m surprised the Washburn Rover didn’t make the list. I’ve been traveling with one of these for almost a year. Granted, the action needs some babying, but having a full size neck makes all the difference. I’ve tried the Rover and the Backpacker in the same music store, and the I and the clerk thought the Rover had the richer sound.

    The custom fully-padded case (not gig bag) is a nice touch as well. It also fits nicely into overhead compartments on most airlines.

  8. Adam says:

    Try Traveler Guitar (www.travelerguitar.com).. there is NO reason a player should have to play a 3/4 scale neck just to have a GREAT travel guitar, it not only is more difficult but it attacks all the muscle memory players build up. Plus why stop at acoustic… electric, bass, with built in amps all for the traveling guitar player.

  9. Martin Baiada says:

    I have the option to purchase an Applecreek travel guitar, the ACG10EK for $129.00. What do you feel about it’s playability? I’ve had a lifelong interest in music and took piano lessons with an ineffective teacher. I prefer guitar. Do you see it as a decent option? Thanks!

  10. Dwain says:

    If you don’t mind playing in a different key, the Yamaha GL1 makes a great travel “guitar.” I think originally they called it a 1/2 size, but then started calling it a guitalele. It typically is tuned like a guitar capo’d at the 5th fret.

  11. Kevin Smith says:

    Hi Josh,
    Full disclosure: I am the maker!

    You’ve missed the Vagabond line of compact guitars, one of the original designs, still handmade in the USA (since 1981), unlike all of the above. We make the Vagabond which is quite compact but has a great sound. Then the Hobo, which is in the class with the Baby Taylor and Little Martin but much more solid.

    These instruments are elegant, rugged, and sound great for the size. Google “Vagabond Travel Guitar” and you can find many reviews and videos

    Thank you,
    Kevin Smith – Luthier

    • Josh Summers says:

      Hey Kevin, thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment! I’ve never had any experience withe Vagabond but I look forward to giving it a try someday soon. 🙂

      • JZ says:

        Had a Vagabond for years and loved it. Not as big a sound as the others, except the backpacker which imho should not be on this list. Sole saving grace is indeed its size

  12. Ron says:

    I have a Martin Backpacker, received it as a gift about 10 years ago. It was ok when I got it, but the action has gotten higher and higher – I blame it on the lack of a truss rod. Whatever the cause, it’s miserable to play and sounds bad on the bass side. I may try to swap it for a baby taylor.

    • Darren Keller says:

      Curious if you’ve exclusively used light gauge strings during the 10 years per Martin instructions. The neck on mine is pretty substantial so wondering what may have caused your problem: also humidity and heat or out in the sun. Lastly, have you taken it to a tech for a set up? Mine is only a month old, but I hope it stays true.

  13. David Pack says:

    Hello are there different neck lengths for these? My luna safari playing neck is about 15 inches. Still too big as I have been playing the Bolivian Charango mandolin, 9″ neck, for 5 years.

  14. Joe says:

    I saw a member of Willie Nelson’s tribute band play what appeared to be a 12 string backpacker style guitar (Martin?). I’ve looked everywhere and can’t find one. Any suggestio s or leads?
    Thanks!

  15. Alan says:

    You did not mention VOYAGE-AIR guitars. These are standard size guitars with necks that hinge and fold over where the neck meets the body. They are, again, full size, coming in OM, Dreadnaught and Mini-Dreadnaught sizes. Scale is 25.5″. Cutaway is available for a bit more and they come in a case that can fit in the overhead. The price is pretty much the same as the price of a similar guitar without the hinge. Laminate guitars are cheapest, solid tops are next and all solid guitars can get fairly pricey, especially if you opt for Sitka and rosewood. They are not electrified but, as standard size guitars, all options systems should fit. Also, mine sounds every bit as good as any guitar I’d buy for what paid.

    http://www.voyageairguitar.com/

  16. Dan Hammack says:

    I would prefer a travel electric guitar as I’m usually sharing lodging, and an unplugged electric guitar is much quieter than an acoustic guitar for practicing, especially late at night.

    • Dan Hammack says:

      I thought I would also add that unlike small acoustic guitars, small solid body electric guitars do not suffer tone loss, are more compact, and sturdier for traveling than acoustic guitars. Works especially well with a Vox amPlug 2 headphone amp, and headphones.

  17. Jawn says:

    In 2011, my dad bought me a Tanglewood Roadster TWRT travel size guitar after i picked it up to play at the store despite the price tag of $150 plus at that time for it’s size n country of origin. Just sounded so beautiful and it still does. (the price has gone up by the way)

  18. El McMeen says:

    Great job and research! Thanks for this!

    I enjoy also the Martin Dreadnought Junior – a tremendous guitar for the price!

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