Acoustic guitars have been traveling alongside musicians on the road since the day they were created. Flying in planes, in the backs of cars, even on people’s backs. Over the years acoustic guitars have taken a massive beating for the sake of art; guitarists and manufacturers have taken note.
Never before have there been more quality options for acoustic guitars that are not just suitable for extensive travel, but that are designed for it.
Whether you are a working guitarist out on the road, or a hobbyist wanting to play some songs around the campfire, there is a travel guitar out there ready to go with you.
Snapshot: Top 6 Acoustic Guitars For Travel
- Taylor GS Mini
- Lava Me 2 Carbon Fiber Guitar
- Baby Taylor (BT1 and BT2)
- HOLA ¾ Acoustic Guitar Bundle
- Ibanez EWP140PN
- Martin LX1
The Best Travel Acoustic Guitars
Acoustic guitars that can withstand the demands of travel are an invaluable resource to guitarists, because travel poses many unpredictable threats to their gear. Anything could happen, and your guitar needs to be ready to meet serious wear and tear.
Unlike solid body electric guitars, acoustic guitars are hollow and delicate. A dependable travel acoustic guitar needs to have some kind of design element that makes them sturdier than other acoustic guitars. This could be additional bracing or special raw materials used for their construction.
They also need to be able to stand up against radical changes in temperature and humidity. You should be confident that your guitar will be in playable form when you show up to the gig, no matter the weather conditions.
These guitars accommodate you in your travels, as opposed to getting in the way. A good travel guitar needs to take up as little space as possible, whether you are needing to stow it in an overhead compartment on a plane or squeeze it between pieces of luggage in the back of the car. That is why all the guitars on this list are ¾ size or smaller.
It would be a bonus to know that the case your guitar comes in will protect it and give you peace of mind, as traveling can be stressful enough on its own. After all you will need to carry it in hand or on your back. Wouldn’t want it to weigh 50 pounds now, would we?
Let’s also not forget that guitarists are entertainers and appreciators of the beautiful things in life. Just because an acoustic guitar is built for the road doesn’t mean that it can’t be eye catching. And just because a guitar looks good doesn’t mean that you should have to sink your savings to afford it.
In fact, because road guitars are the most likely to get broken or stolen, bringing expensive guitars on the road can be a risky decision. Travel guitars should be affordable and easily replaceable. That is one of the reasons why all the guitars on this list are being sourced from Amazon.com. If any misfortune were to meet one of these guitars in your possession, you could easily order another one and find yourself right back out on the road with an instrument that feels familiar.
As always, the guitars that I mention in this list have to sound good. Otherwise, why even play them in the first place?
Time to hit the road!
1. Taylor GS Mini Review
- "Body Body type: Taylor Grand Symphony Mini Cutaway: No Top wood: Solid Mahogany Back & sides: Layered Sapele Bracing pattern: GS Mini With Relief Rout Body finish: Matte 2.0 Orientation: Right-handed...
The Taylor GS Mini is the king of travel guitars. While I am giving it that unofficial title, it is undeniably one of the most popular travel guitars due to its affordability, design, and tone. On the surface it looks like a traditional acoustic guitar, but it has a couple of tricks up its sleeve to make it road-worthy. That being said, you’ll want to play this guitar while you’re at home too.
The first trick up Taylor’s sleeve is that they chose to use sapele laminate for the neck, backs and sides, giving you added stability and also saving you in terms of cost. You have the choice of either solid sitka spruce or mahogany for the top wood. An ebony fretboard pops against the top wood and makes the fret markers easy to see.
The GS Mini is incredibly stable due to its X Bracing design, arched back, and relief route. The scale length is 23.5”, making it resemble more of a ¾ size guitar without sacrificing the feel or a full size guitar. The body doesn’t have any cutaways, which can make playing high up on the neck difficult, but the body resonates fully when played.
While the GS Mini comes stock without electronics, Taylor has made sure that you can install an after-market pickup called the ES-GO. It is a passive magnetic soundhole pickup developed specifically for the GS mini and it can be installed in minutes.
The ebony bridge mirrors the fretboard and is accompanied by a tusq saddle. The die-cast chrome mini tuners do a great job of keeping your strings in tune as long as the weather and humidity don’t fluctuate too much. The GS mini has a fully adjustable truss rod should the neck move on you at all, though it comes set up professionally.
For being a small guitar, the GS mini projects loudly (especially with the sitka spruce top models). Whichever top wood you choose, this guitar has a sweetness and deep resonance to its tonal character that can’t be beat. You won’t find any tinny or offensive frequencies here. It sounds like a full-size guitar. It is often pigeon-holed as a travel guitar, but it will quickly find its way into your studio sessions as well.
- Body Material: Sapele laminate backs/side with sitka spruce top
- Neck Material: Sapele laminate
- Fingerboard Material: Ebony
- Pickups: ES-GO passive soundhole pickup available aftermarket
- Bridge: Ebony
Final Thoughts on the Taylor GS Mini
The Taylor GS Mini packs some serious bang for your buck and there was no question that it would take the top spot on this list. It has something to offer to all acoustic players. Its design is perfect for couch playing, or taking on vacation, without ever compromising the sound. Taylor knocked it out of the park with this one.
2. Lava Me 2 Carbon Fiber Guitar Review
- The World’s Leading Unibody Guitar: One-piece injection moulded technology makes LAVA ME 2 more comfortable to hold, gives it excellent acoustic performance. LAVA ME 2 can offer a loud, wide range...
A guitar not made of wood? Blasphemy!
Or perhaps it is the future of travel guitars. The Lava Me 2 delivers one revolutionary design concept after another that will make you rethink what a guitar can be. It is one of the more expensive options on this list, but what you get for the money makes it a serious option worth considering.
The Lava Me 2 is fully composed of a carbon fiber composite known as Super AirSonic. Using this material for its ¾ size unibody design makes it incredibly sturdy. So much so, that it can adapt to temperatures between -68℉ to 140℉ and humidity from 10%-90%. In other words, you could take this guitar literally anywhere in the world and it will stay in the same condition as when you left home.
The FlyNeck design utilizes parametrization theory for its design to further optimize stability. Whatever it is, it sounds impressive! It also has a unique rectangular shaped soundhole positioned above the strings to allow for more resonance within its Breathe Net Honeycomb soundboard, giving it a light feel and clear sound.
The Lava Me 2 continues to push the limits of acoustic guitars with its L2 pickup equipped with FreeBoost Technology. The top of the guitar has three controls (volume, reverb, and effect) which allow you to amplify the guitar tone and blend in effects without plugging the guitar in.
This is great for traveling because it means there is no need to bring a pedalboard along with you. One less thing to pack!
This guitar comes with built in reverb and a switchable effect of either delay or chorus. The switch for chorus/delay is in the soundhole and you then control the effects from the three controls.
It also comes with the Ideal Bag 2, specifically designed to fit the Lava Me 2 guitar. It is a thin, light, and robust gig bag.
It sounds like a guitar! That seems like an inadequate summary of the sound quality, but it is worth mentioning because I was expecting it to sound thin and metallic. Almost like a corny sci-fi robot trying to act human. Yet, the Lava Me 2 manages to sound convincingly like a traditional wooden guitar.
The effects are also of high quality. They may not be worth putting down on a record in the studio, but would serve well in live performances or as a means for additional inspiration in writing sessions.
All of these far out design choices with the materials, body shape, and electronics would be pointless if it didn’t sound good. I am happy to report that is sounds absolutely wonderful.
- Body Material: Super AirSonic carbon fiber composite
- Neck Material: Super AirSonic carbon fiber composite
- Fingerboard Material: Super AirSonic carbon fiber composite
- Pickups: L2 pickup with FreeBoost Technology
- Bridge: Super AirSonic carbon fiber composite
Final Thoughts on the Lava Me 2 Carbon Fiber Guitar
I was completely blown away by the Lava Me 2. It may be a bit too radical for the traditionalists out there, but the fact that there is a travel guitar out there that could survive a Pete Townshend-esque guitar smash is amazing. This thing will last you a lifetime and it comes with effects and features that will keep you inspired in your travels.
3. Baby Taylor (BT1 and BT2) Review
- 6-string Acoustic Guitar with Mahogany Top
- Layered Sapele Back
- Sides - Natural
The Baby Taylor acoustic guitar is possibly the most influential travel guitar of its time, as it was one of the first truly successful ¾ size acoustic designs. It’s a perfect starter guitar and has made its way into the studios of Katy Perry, Bono, and the Zac Brown Band to name a few.
In this review I will be focusing primarily on the BT2, as it is the guitar I own and have years of personal experience playing. However, these two models are practically identical save the top wood, so most of this review will be applicable to both models.
Solid spruce (BT1) or solid mahogany (BT2) tops are available in combination with sapele back/sides shaped into a mini dreadnought body shape. The Baby Taylor has a 22 ¾ inch scale length, making it ¾ of an inch shorter in scale length than Taylor’s GS mini. This means even smaller frets and lower string tension.
The neck is made of mahogany, has no heel with standard carve, and an ebony fretboard.
A pickup/preamp combo via ES-B electronics is available in the BT1e model, but traditional models of the Baby Taylor do not sport any electronics.
Baby Taylor guitars all come with a new bone saddle and small button closed gear tuners. In my experience, the Baby T requires daily tuning and needs to be set up properly to have the best intonation possible. Once this is done though, the playability is amazing.
The BT2 sounds noticeably smaller than the Taylor GS Mini, but still manages to have a full frequency spectrum and a resonant tone. I choose this guitar in the studio specifically for its uniquely tighter tone. The Baby Taylor is the perfect guitar to play around a campfire, even if people are talking, as it manages to pack a quite a punch. For being so small it is not a quiet guitar.
- Body Material: Sapele laminate backs/side with mahogany top
- Neck Material: Mahogany
- Fingerboard Material: Ebony
- Pickups: ES-B electronics available on BT1e only
- Bridge: Ebony
Final Thoughts on the Baby Taylor (BT1 and BT2)
The Baby Taylor is the perfect guitar for anyone who is beginning to learn how to play guitar. I know from experience as this model was my first guitar and it served me well. Just because it is small does not mean it can’t be played by adults. I still play mine to this day. If you are considering buying a smaller guitar for yourself or your kids, you can’t go wrong with the Baby Taylor.
4. Hola! ¾ Size Acoustic Guitar Bundle Review
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If you are starting completely from scratch, then Hola! has a ¾ size guitar bundle that is just for you. This guitar has started musical journeys for many people and has earned its “Amazon’s Choice” title with ease from beginners and hobbyists alike.
Mahogany makes up the back and sides of the Hola! ¾ acoustic guitar and comes with a spruce top. It is a dreadnought shape guitar, so despite its ¾ size you can expect big sounds to come from it. The neck is also made of mahogany and has a walnut fretboard.
The Hola! is also available in four different finish options, including natural satin, sunburst, pink, and purple. These finishes are all very fun, especially for the kids, so there is an option for everybody!
There are not any electronics available on this guitar, so it may not be ideal for gigging musicians. This is a straight-forward, reliable acoustic guitar that is meant for beginners. Unlike most beginner guitars that use plastic for the saddle, Hola! chose to use a TUSQ compensate saddle, which gives the guitar a more natural sound and makes for better intonation.
Like the neck, the bridge is made of walnut. The die-cast chrome tuners are adequate, but may require daily tuning depending on what the humidity is like in your area.
The bundle comes with D’Addario strings, a padded gig bag, guitar strap, optional pick guard, and a set of picks! It is literally the perfect starter pack for anyone who is trying to play acoustic guitar for the first time, and all for an unbeatable price.
I was not expecting much in sound quality from this guitar considering its price point, but I have to admit I was wrong. The Hola’s spruce top gives the guitar a clear voice along with a warm low-end tone. The guitar offers enough clarity to make it suitable for beginners who want to learn fingerstyle, or who want to use a pick. It’s not exactly the richest tone I’ve ever heard, but it is more pleasant than I was expecting. As a parent you would not be upset to hear your kid pick this up!
- Body Material: Mahogany back/sides with spruce top
- Neck Material: Mahogany
- Fingerboard Material: Walnut
- Pickups: None
- Bridge: Walnut
Final Thoughts on the Hola! ¾ Size Acoustic Guitar Bundle
The Hola! ¾ size guitar bundle is the perfect option for anyone who is looking to learn the guitar. When first learning to play, having the ability to take a guitar anywhere is a nice benefit. It’s cheap enough that you won’t be upset if it gets beat up in your travels, but sounds better than what the cost would suggest. It doesn’t have any surprises, but that makes it a fun beginner’s guitar through and through.
5. Ibanez EWP14OPN Exotic Wood Piccolo Acoustic Guitar Review
- Piccolo cutaway style EW body Ovangkol top Ovangkol back and sides Rosewood fretboard and bridge Abalone rosette Chrome die-cast tuners 17" scale
This tiny 1/3 size guitar is a bit different from all the rest in shape and sound. Ibanez manages to offer a piccolo acoustic guitar that is satisfying to play and that will take up almost less space in your car than your backpack. And it’s PRETTY!
The Ibanez EWP14OPN comes with an Ibanez original body design known as the compact Florentine cut-away. It also features a tenor ukulele body and scale length. It is also different from most travel guitars because it has a higher tuning system (low to high: A, D, G, C, E, A) as if a traditional guitar were capo’ed at the fifth fret. The scale length is by far the smallest on this list at 17”. The smaller scale length and higher tuning accommodates for string tension and keeps the guitar in a tuning that is somewhat familiar to guitarists.
The top, back and sides are made of West African ovangkol with an abalone rosette, which is absolutely stunning. The neck is made of Okoume and features a purpleheart fretboard with maple dot inlays.
The EWP14OPN doesn’t have any electronics. If you want it to sound louder, you’ll just have to strum harder.
The tuning machines are chrome die-cast tuners. With such a small scale and string length, the tuners seem to do a good job of keeping the guitar in tune. The nut is made of plastic, which is about the only shortcoming I noticed in material choice for the instrument, though it is a small gripe I have. The bridge, like the fretboard, is made of purpleheart.
Even though the look of the guitar was what initially caught my attention, the sound is what truly reeled me in. Tuning the guitar up a 4th from standard tuning gives it such a unique and fun sound unlike any of the other travel guitars on this list. It has a small sound, but it is filled with chiming high end and a satisfying midrange.
I could see this guitar fitting in with a folk band (in place of a banjo) or Hawaiian music (in place of a ukulele). It sits in such a unique middle ground and seems to effortlessly blend multiple instrument sounds together, that I think it is a very versatile instrument.
- Body Material: West African ovangkol
- Neck Material: Okoume
- Fingerboard Material: Purpleheart
- Pickups: None
- Bridge: Purpleheart
Final Thoughts on the Ibanez EWP14OPN Exotic Wood Piccolo Acoustic Guitar
You can’t get much smaller than this guitar, so it would make an excellent travel companion. I think it is one of the more unique guitar designs, and I am not surprised that it came from the always creative folks at Ibanez. I would recommend this guitar to anyone who likes the sounds of a ukulele, or who are tired of their normal acoustic guitars and are in search of a fun niche instrument.
6. Martin LX1 Review
- Mahogany pattern HPL (high pressure laminate) textured finish, solid sitka spruce top
- Rust Stratabond neck, shortened 3/4 scale
- Chrome small-knob tuners. Tusq saddle.
Like the Baby Taylor, the Martin LX1 is a staple in the travel guitar market. Martin has been making some of the best acoustic guitars since 1833, and it stands to reason that their quality wouldn’t stop at ¾ size guitars.
The body is a concert acoustic shape, with laminate mahogany back/sides and a sitka spruce top with X-Bracing for additional stability. The use of laminate woods is hotly debated, but they make for a good choice in travel guitars because they are more resilient to changes in weather and humidity. They also lower the cost of the instrument and are environmentally sustainable. The scale length is 23”, making for an appropriate string tension and easy playing.
Just like the laminate woods, Martin’s Richlite fingerboard is a sustainable choice that looks and sounds like rosewood. The neck is a Mortise & Tenon, rust stratabond and has a neck heel.
A Fishman Sonitone pickup and pre-amp tuner is available in the LX1E models, but the standard model features no additional electronics.
The LX1 has a tusq saddle, which lends to its natural resonance. The tuners are chrome, small knob tuners mounted on the classic Martin headstock.
The LX1 is responsive to your touch in a way that can only be matched by a few guitars of its class. It sounds like a traditional martin, despite being at ¾ the size. Though not as rich in overtones as the Taylor travel guitars to my ear, the LX1 is still a pleasant sounding instrument that can punch through the mix. If it’s good enough for Ed Sheeran, it’s good enough for me!
- Body Material: Mahogany high-pressure laminate HPL back/sides. Sitka spruce top
- Neck Material: Stratabond
- Fingerboard Material: Richlite
- Pickups: Fishmnan Sonitone on LX1E only
- Bridge: Richlite
Final Thoughts on the Martin LX1
Martin has delivered a fantastic ¾ size instrument that would function well for beginners and professionals alike. For those who don’t like the Baby Taylor, but like the price point and build quality, the Martin LX1 is a worthy competitor.
A Note on Guitar Cases
Guitar cases deserve an article of their own, but for the sake of this article let’s stick to the kinds of cases that will come with these guitars. When it comes to travel guitars you want something that is not going to take up too much space, while still offering enough protection to get your guitar to its destination safely.
When it comes to protection, what you really want is a case that offers some kind of protection of the guitar’s neck, as this is the weakest point of the guitar and most likely spot to break. The best options are like the bags offered by Taylor, which are essentially padded gig bags, or the Ideal bag from Lava. There are many other awesome options out there, but these were included with the guitars on this list and can serve as a good jumping off point for your own further research.
You must always be considerate of your surroundings when traveling with a guitar, and a thin paper bag for a guitar case just won’t do. Unfortunately, this is what many guitar companies send along with their guitars as a free addition. I would suggest ditching that bag and spending a little more money on something that will better protect your instrument.
Travel Guitars Quickly Become Your Best Friend
Travel guitars often become some of the most important guitars in a player’s collection. They are there with us when we make some of our most cherished memories. They take a beating for us so that we can continue to perform and share music around the world.
In my case a travel guitar is also the source of many childhood memories. They are easy and fun to play, and I owe a great deal of gratitude for the life that I have to that instrument. Without it, I wouldn’t have learned the way I did and I wouldn’t be nearly as fascinated with the guitar as I am.
Any of the guitars on this list are likely to inspire you and to make you want to venture out into the world with your music. Safe travels to all!
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Last update on 2020-05-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API