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.
|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
|Pros/Cons||Pro: 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
carbon design to project sound
for small body, removable neck
Con: high price
Baby Taylor Acoustic Guitar – $319
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:
Little Martin Acoustic Guitar – $299 to $399
Another 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:
Luna Safari Travel Guitar – $159 to $199
Perhaps 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:
Dean Flight Travel Guitar – $149 to $169
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:
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!
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.
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!