Best Travel Electric Guitars In 2020

Guitars made for hardcore travel are a completely different market of their own.  Everything changes from the body shape to hardware placement that all affects overall sound and tone.

Some travel guitars are more suited to hitting the road or being stowed away in an overhead cabin, and others retain some traditional features for comfort, playability, tone, and sustain. 

But, true travel guitars are limited in availability.  The market offers slim pickings that are worth buying as many sacrifice tone and build quality for portability and convenience.  Is there a guitar that can do it all? 

Can they handle the rigors of life on the road and still sound and play better than just good?  You betcha there are.  We have ‘em here. 

Snapshot: Top 9 Travel Electric Guitars

  1. Traveler Guitar Ultra-Light Series Review
  2. Traveler Guitar EG1B Review
  3. Traveler Guitar Pro Series Review
  4. Stewart Travel Guitars Stow-Away Review
  5. Jackson JS Dinky Minion JS1X Review
  6. Traveler Guitar Travelcaster Review
  7. Asmuse Foldable AD80-E Review
  8. Asmuse Leaf Review
  9. Hofner Shorty Review

The Best Travel Electric Guitars

We go far beyond short scale, mini, and 3/4 -size by bringing you a lineup of unique guitars made for handling the abuses of everyday travel.  These guitars will often have “headless” builds that forgoes a headstock to save space and shorten the overall length.  Many of these guitars will have extremely thin and short bodies with an average weight somewhere between 3-5 lbs. 

When it comes to sonic projection, be prepared for the weaker side.  The odd shape and portability features often take away from resonance, tone, and obviously volume output.  The great thing about these types of travel axes is the fact that they’re electric, so you can still plug in and use that amp to help with overall sound.  However, if you’re on the road, you’re likely not bringing your stacks with you.  Maybe a small, practice solid state amp or a battery-powered mini amp will do.  Some travel guitars will also have a headphone jack that you can use to practice silently with or connect with an audio interface.  Don’t forget a case to protect your guitar!

Too often, many guitars with good intentions come short of the bar.  Many travel guitars are made with mediocre materials and hardware that proves to be nothing but extra weight that can’t be used while on the road.  There are many skilled players that still want quality out of their road guitar, so be sure to look to the build, hardware, and electronics to see if it will meet your standards. 

Finally, let’s hit the road! 

1. Traveler Guitar Ultra-Light Series Review

Traveler Guitar Ultra-Light Series

Traveler Guitar dominates the market with the largest inventory of guitars made specifically for the road or skies.  If you’re after one of the lightest and smallest models available, you must look to the Ultra-Light series. 

Body & Neck

It looks like a small guitar because it is.  Compared to a full-size electric, it’s 28% shorter at 28” long and 68% lighter at 3.2 lbs.  However, it’s still a full-scale guitar with 24.75” scale length.  It has the same playable surface length of a Les Paul – how about that, eh? 

The neck is made from Eastern American Hard Maple and has a neck-through-body construction that helps to improve strength and resonance.  The fretboard is made from Black Walnut and has 22 medium frets with a 15.75” fingerboard radius that’s great for making fast runs with.

Electronics & Hardware

With a headless look, the 14:1 gear ratio tuners are moved to the center for in-body tuning where the strings move through an adjustable Tune-O-Matic (TOM) bridge.  A removable lap rest with comfort foam helps to keep the guitar up closer to the chest to support balance and prevent it from slipping off your lap. 

For sound, it has a dual rail humbucker but there are no pots for volume or tone.  The output jack is found on the back of the body.  Just to make it clear, you can’t plug headphones directly into this guitar – it’s just like a traditional electric guitar.  If you hook this Ultra-Light up to a headphone amp, you’ll get to practice without disturbing passengers or hotel guests. 

Sound

Traveler was smart to put a dual rail humbucker on board.  It only takes up the space of a single-coil pickup, but you also get the advantage of consistent volume and tone since the strings are always within the magnetic field, and you also eliminate the need to be precise with string spacing. 

Plugged into a quality amp, the pickup can offer a variety of tonal sounds.  It’s really quite powerful, so don’t judge by size alone.  If you didn’t quite pick up the gist that this has shredding appointments, you’ll be surprised to know that this pickup is capable of pulling off Metallica sound.  The rail humbucker spikes in the low-end, is dark and warm, and you may find yourself balancing the EQ for more mid and treble response. 

Spec Summary

  • Body Material: Eastern American Hard Maple
  • Neck Material: Eastern American Hard Maple
  • Fingerboard Material: Black Walnut
  • Pickups: Dual Rail Humbucker
  • Bridge: TOM w/string through rollers

Small guitar.  Big sound.  Excellent tonewoods. 

Final Thoughts on the Traveler Ultra-Light Series

The small guitar also comes with a gig bag for extra protection when you’re on the go.  You bet this guitar can fit into an overhead cabin on a plane, in the backseat of your car, or can even be safely stowed in the trunk – just don’t forget it’s in there. 

2. Traveler Guitar EG1B Review

Traveler Guitar EG1B

If you’re not willing to give up some traditional guitar appointments, then look to the EG1B to get a well-executed blend of travel and conventional electric guitar features. 

Body & Neck

The EG1B lacks a headstock, but it has the familiar look and feel of a Les Paul with its curvaceous lower bout and single cutaway.  Even though it’s 27% shorter at 28.5” long and 59% lighter at 3.15 lbs, it has a full-size scale length of 24.75”. 

It’s an all-Mahogany guitar with a Black Walnut fingerboard that features a 15.75” radius, 21 jumbo frets, and the neck is bolted-on.  The body thickness is a mere 1.6” and is 10.5” wide. 

Electronics & Hardware

This is no knock-around, cheap guitar.  It has a Seymour Duncan Devastator humbucker at the bridge with volume and tone pots.  The push tone pot has circuitry for 4 EQ channels to kick into Clean, Boost, Overdrive, and Distortion. 

You also have the In-Body Tuning system and an adjustable Roll-O-Matic bridge.  When it comes to hook ups, you have your standard ¼” output jack, a headphone jack, and an AUX In for playing alongside tracks streamed by your smartphone.  Yes, you can plug your headphones directly into the guitar as it has a built-in headphone amplifier for discreet playing.

Sound

The humbuckers were designed by Seymour Duncan for the Blackout guitar.  They’re powerful and sound thrashing when overdriven as they have the gain and voice of metal stylings.  They’re dark sounding, but it can be cleaned up for singing highs and crystal-clear note articulation when you play clean. 

Spec Summary

  • Body Material: Mahogany
  • Neck Material: Mahogany
  • Fingerboard Material: Black Walnut
  • Pickups: Seymour Duncan Designed Devastator Humbucker
  • Bridge: Roll-O-Matic

Powerful sound.  Haunting finish.  Familiar comfort. 

Final Thoughts on the Traveler Guitar EG1B

This should be a touring musician’s favorite travel guitar.  It has the comfort and feel of a traditional, full-size guitar, the sound and power to match, and it’s still in portable and easily stow-away size.  It also comes with a Deluxe gig bag to keep it free from scratches and bumps. 

3. Traveler Guitar Pro Series Review

Traveler Guitar Pro Series

The Pro Series guitars are inspired by the original production model.  There’s a lot going on with this guitar, so let’s break it down. 

Body & Neck

It has the iconic Traveler Guitar shape that’s especially short, slim, and thin.  You have Eastern American Hard Maple tonewoods for the body and neck and Black Walnut for the fingerboard.  It has an Antique Brown Satin finish, but it’s also available in Maple and Matte Black finishes.  Like many similar shaped Traveler guitars, it has a 24.75” scale length, weights about 3 lbs, and it’s significantly shorter (28”) in length. 

It has a 15.75” fingerboard radius and 22 medium frets that we’re absolutely sure you can work with for the fastest riffs and even single-note playing. 

Electronics & Hardware

This is where you have both acoustic and electronic advantages in one guitar.  You have a single-coil pickup for plugging-in and you also have a Piezo bridge pickup for acoustic sound.  Each has their own volume pots and a 3-way switch allows you to use either pickup or even blend the two. 

You can also plug directly into the guitar for super quiet practice with the included Stethophone headset.  It looks just like a stethoscope, but instead of listening to heartbeats, you can hear the pluckings of each string. 

It has Traveler’s proprietary In-Body Tuning System, and the included lap rest stows down close to the body for a compact fit. 

Sound

Both pickups are bright and crisp.  When you combine the two, the sound is unique.  It doesn’t produce stage-worthy sound, but it’s good enough for practice and jamming sessions when you’ve left home. 

The best way to get that acoustic sound is to route the Piezo pickup through an acoustic amp or simply hook it up to your electric guitar amp and run it through a clean channel with the gain on low.  If you’re using any audio interfaces or apps, just be sure to run it clean.  Of course, you can further modify tone with distortion and gain through your amp. 

Spec Summary

  • Body Material: Eastern American Hard Maple
  • Neck Material: Eastern American Hard Maple
  • Fingerboard Material: Black Walnut
  • Pickups: Single-coil/Piezo
  • Bridge: None/String-Through-Rollers system

Great tonewoods.  Stethophone included.  Silent practice. 

Final Thoughts on the Traveler Guitar Pro Series

It’s an expensive travel guitar no doubt, but with both acoustic and electric advantage without batteries required, you may be swayed to invest in it.  Of course, you can experiment with what plug-ins you find best to use while on the road, but at least the Pro Series has everything else covered from great tonewoods, a portable body shape, and quality specs. 

4. Stewart Travel Guitars Stow-Away Review

Stewart Travel Guitars Stow -Away

It looks like a headless Strat.  Perhaps, that’s the look Stewart Travel Guitars was going for, and it works.  As a full-size guitar, does it make the cut? 

Body & Neck

There’s no headstock, and the guitar looks like it’s been sliced in two.  That’s all thanks to the Patented ClipJoint Removable Neck Connection System.  It snaps out and gets stored into the body of the guitar where a specially-designed pocket protects the neck.  The overall design makes for a compact fit into suitcases and even carry-on luggage. 

The familiar, double cutaway Strat body is an attractive feature for those not looking to stray from the conventional body shape.  You gotta admit – some travel guitars can get weird-looking.  Put together, it has a full 25.5” scale length, 14” fingerboard radius, a neck length of 19”, and a body length of 18”.  It weighs on the lighter end of the scale for an electric guitar at 6.8 lbs. 

Electronics & Hardware

While there are a few pickup configurations available, this model has the S-S-S combo.  There are two tone controls which I assume is for the neck and middle pickups, a Master Volume, and a 5-way pickup blade.  The tuning system is housed on the backside of the body.  The onboard bridge is a slotted hardtail with GraphTech saddles. 

Sound

The single-coils have Alnico magnets that aren’t as hot as ceramic, but they do produce a warm, sweet, and mellow sound.  The highs are glassy, but the lows are sort of soft and airy.  The mids provide a good boost of full-rounded warmth.  While it obviously has modern appointments, it can sound like a vintage Strat. 

Spec Summary

  • Body Material: Alder
  • Neck Material: Maple
  • Fingerboard Material: Amaranthus
  • Pickups: Alnico Single-Coils
  • Bridge: Slotted Hardtail w/GraphTech Saddles

Full-size specs.  Full-size sound.  Full-size collapsible guitar!

Final Thoughts on the Stewart Travel Guitars Stow-Away

Brilliant concept executed well.  It’s a great compromise for the traveling guitarist who doesn’t want to give up full-size sound and specs just because they often hit the skies or road.  A backpack travel case that fits the collapsed guitar is also included in the buy. 

5. Jackson JS Series Dinky Minion JS1X

Jackson JS Series Dinky Minion JS1X

You may not think of a Jackson guitar as a travel-worthy guitar.  It doesn’t separate at the neck.  It doesn’t fold down.  It has a conventional Super Strat body shape.  What’s it doing here? 

Body & Neck

For those who don’t want to resort to odd shapes or guitars that feel like kid’s guitars and have weird hardware here and there, consider the Dinky Minion.  It’s a great electric guitar with a scale length of 22.5”.  Believe it or not, that trimmed off 2-4” makes a big difference when you’re flying across country. 

A Poplar body, Maple neck, and Amaranth fingerboard are the tonewoods of choice when costs are kept to a minimum, but it still has some classic Jackson features that you’ll love.  The neck has graphite reinforcement rods, and angled headstock at the top, and speed shape profile.  A 12” fingerboard radius and 24 jumbo frets promise ultra-smooth playability. 

Electronics & Hardware

You don’t have one pickup on this guitar like many travel axes have – you have Jackson High-Out Humbucking pickups with a 3-way switch blade and Master Volume and Master Tone controls.  Jackson tuners sit on the headstock and a 6-saddle string-thru-body hardtail with block saddles makes up the bridge system. 

Sound

Highly saturated tones are produced by the high-output humbuckers with warm, rich, and round sound.  However, they still give way for crystal-clear note definition especially noticeable when played clean.  Although these pickups are hot and will always have a slight hint of crunch to them, they’re versatile enough when looking to toy around with multiple genres and playing styles.  You can always upgrade the pickups if you want to get more specific with your tonal palette. 

Spec Summary

  • Body Material: Poplar
  • Neck Material: Maple
  • Fingerboard Material: Amaranth
  • Pickups: Jackson High-Output Humbucking
  • Bridge: Hardtail w/Block Saddles

Huge sound.  Excellent brand.  Short-scale guitar. 

Final Thoughts on the Jackson JS Series Dinky Minion JS1X

This guitar doesn’t cost a fortune like some travel guitars do.  It may not be a “travel guitar” in the sense that it has unique, portable, or collapsible features, but its smaller frame and shorter scale length certainly count for something. 

6. Traveler Guitar Travelcaster Review

Traveler Guitar Travelcaster Deluxe

Travel Guitars comes through with something that looks like a Stratocaster with features that don’t sacrifice tone, playability, and full-size comfort.

Body & Neck

It’s like a Strat cut in half.  There is only one noticeable cutaway that gives room to access all 22 medium jumbo frets.  The Maple neck is bolted onto the Poplar body and is capped with an HD Catalpa fingerboard with a radius of 12”. 

The guitar itself is 33.75” long and weighs 5.3 lbs.  The actual body depth is 1.75” thick, so it’s going to be very slim but still comfortable thanks to the curves in the body that hugs the lap. 

Electronics & Hardware

It has three single-coil pickups that are standard size that can be controlled with the 5-way pickup blade, 2x Tone controls and Master Volume control.  A 2-point Fulcrum tremolo bridge allows you to get your whammy on – there’s no need to leave the dive-bomb skills at home when you’re out and about.  While we’re accustomed to the brand’s headless look, this guitar maintains a traditional look with a headstock and tuners where they’re supposed to be. 

Sound

With a steel saddle and bone nut, you have increased sustain and some consistent contribution to tone.  The single-coils sound like single-coils with their bright, crisp, and bell-like chime.  They can be twangy if you know how to shape them alongside the tremolo bridge.  You won’t need to swap these pickups out if you’re strictly using them for on-the-road practice, but if you want to be able to perform some sweet gigs here and there, install your favorites since they’re already fitted for normal size. 

Spec Summary

  • Body Material: Poplar
  • Neck Material: Maple
  • Fingerboard Material: HD Catalpa
  • Pickups: Single-Coils
  • Bridge: 2-point Fulcrum Tremolo

Tremolo bridge.  Great aesthetic appeal.  Lightweight & Full-Scale.

Final Thoughts on the Traveler Guitar Travelcaster

It’s funky and retro, and the pickups certainly add vintage to its tonal range.  It has some nice hardware on it, and its aesthetic will make for an interesting impact when strangers see it as you strut your stuff on the road. 

7. Asmuse Foldable AD80-E Review

Asmuse Foldable AD80-E

Foldable, lightweight, and compact – everything the ultimate travel guitar should be.  But, what does it have to offer for the high price?  Let’s take a peek. 

Body & Neck

The guitar is 30.2” long, 5” wide, and 2.4” thick when folded down.  It comes with a lap rest attachment and an upper bout attachment with the familiar curves of a solid body guitar.  With the attachments, it’s 11.1” wide.  You can also remove the lap rest and install the upper bout attachment to rest on your lap if you prefer that type of comfort fit. 

The body of the guitar is made from CNC Aluminum while the neck is made from Maple and the fingerboard from Rosewood.  The neck is bolted on to the body and sports a C shape profile and the fingerboard has a radius of almost 14” with 24 frets.  These specs speak to its playability as a legit guitar and not just some metal frame. 

Electronics & Hardware

It has a headless design, but the brass locking nut is an excellent feature.  Many travel guitars often have trouble with staying in tune, so with the locking nut, you have added assurance that it’ll keep its tune while you’re out of town.  The lack of a headstock also allows for a hidden compartment that keeps your picks conveniently close by. 

It seems the bridge also houses the modulized tuning system.  The AD80 guitar has H-S-S pickups and are regulated with a 5-way switch blade that splits the humbucker coil with the middle single-coil at position 4.  The pickups share Master Volume and Master Tone controls, but there’s an additional Volume pot for the built-in headphone amplifier.  Yep – you can plug your headphones in and play silently to the world but loudly to yourself.  It has a built-in lithium battery that you can recharge and allows up to 8 hours of practice. 

Sound

Surprisingly, the P-KD30 single-coils and the P-KD40 humbucker aren’t too shabby in the sound department.  The coils are overwound, so they may produce a different sound than you’re after, plus you must factor in base plate, pole, and screws material and quality that affect output and tone. 

But, as a general guideline, the KD30s deliver thick, full, and warm tones while the middle pickup sings out with clarity.  The KD40 is hot, bright, and has better sustain than expected. 

Spec Summary

  • Body Material: CNC Aluminum
  • Neck Material: Maple
  • Fingerboard Material: Rosewood
  • Pickups: P-KD30 Single-Coils/P-KD40 Humbucker
  • Bridge: Modular Brass Saddle Bridge w/Tuning System

Excellent hardware.  Slim & compact.  Ultimate travel/silent guitar. 

Final Thoughts on the Asmuse Foldable AD80-E

It’s a well-thought out guitar with its built-in headphone amplifier, locking nut, and detachable rest frames.  The pickup configuration allows some tonal versatility but also gives you the foundation to swap these out for your favorite after-market pickups.  These features may be enough to sell you on the buy. 

8. Asmuse Leaf Review

Asmuse Leaf

Once again, this off-brand guitar manufacturer manages to make the lineup not once, but twice.  The Leaf guitar is gorgeous and almost has an offset body shape that reminds us of Fender.  We both know it ain’t no Fender, but let’s check out what the Leaf offers us.

Body & Neck

I like the Black finish, but it’s also available in Blue and Green.  The colors are bright, attractive, and it almost looks as if it has a slight burst finish with the contoured edges.  The double cutaways make way for the bolt-on Maple neck with a Rosewood fingerboard.  The fingerboard has 24 medium frets and the neck shape has an Oval C shape that has sort of a flattened, shallow depth with slightly broader shoulders. 

This is another headless model with a tight 40 mm nut width, and it also houses a hidden pocket for small essentials like picks and Allen wrenches.  Even though it comes in shorter due to the lack of a headstock, it still maintains a full scale length of 25.5”. 

Electronics & Hardware

It has two humbuckers that govern sound, the Lightning LH-N and Lightning LH-B.  They’re designed as copies after the PAF 59/60s and incorporate aluminum nickel and cobalt metals.  There’s a 3-way switch blade, Master Volume, and Master Tone controls.  The volume pot also allows for splitting coils of both humbuckers for vintage single-coil tone. 

You have a locking nut, a K DW-1016 modular bridge where you also tune the guitar, and a Pure Tone output jack that reduces feedback issues and ensures full and tight contact. 

Sound

Everyone has tried to duplicate the classic sound of the PAF 59s.  While the Lightning humbuckers can try, don’t expect legendary duplication.  However, they do a decent job of bringing out smooth mids, rich lows, and sweet harmonics with some oomph.  The bridge humbucker has sweet, rolling highs – not bad copies. 

Spec Summary

  • Body Material: Mahogany
  • Neck Material: Maple
  • Fingerboard Material: Rosewood
  • Pickups: Lightning LH Humbuckers
  • Bridge: Modular K DW-1016

Vintage sound.  Full scale.  Travel-worthy. 

Final Thoughts on the Asmuse Leaf

It’s a guitar for travel where you don’t have to compromise on traditional comfort, features, and sound.  Although the bridge system and lack of a headstock provide portable and compact benefits, it has all the stylings of a full-size, conventional electric guitar in a travel-worthy package. 

9. Hofner Shorty Review

Hofner Shorty

With a glance at the Shorty, you can quickly see how slim and thin that guitar body is – ideal for travel, but that neck looks long, and it still maintains the headstock.  What are the specs?  I’m glad you asked. 

Body & Neck

Overall, the guitar is 32.5” long, and it has a 24.75” scale length – so, it it’s a full-size neck.  The small and short body is made from Basswood, the bolt-on neck from Maple, and the fingerboard from Rosewood. It has 24 frets, a 42 mm nut width, and dot inlays.  There’s nothing flashy here except for maybe the Shorty body style and headstock. 

Electronics & Hardware

It has a fixed bridge with a tailpiece, and in order to replace a string, you must remove the entire bridge to do so.  Fortunately, it’s easy to do, maybe just tedious.  There’s a Hofner Open Humbucker at the bridge position and has volume and tone pots made with nickel.  Hofner reckons they have a bone nut on this guitar, but we wouldn’t put too much stock into this indicated by the low price and mediocre hardware.  The good news is the Shorty guitar presents a great, affordable platform for hardware mods. 

Sound

The humbucker is practically sitting on the bridge, so you know it’s going to have a strong, trebly, high voice.  It’s a hot pickup with good output that has great sound distorted and overdriven, but it may still retain some crunch when trying to play clean even with the gain turned down to the lowest value. 

Spec Summary

  • Body Material: Basswood
  • Neck Material: Maple
  • Fingerboard Material: Rosewood
  • Pickups: Hofner Open Humbucker
  • Bridge: Fixed w/Tailpiece

Ultra-thin.  Full-size neck.  Great potential!

Final Thoughts on the Hofner Shorty

The build quality is great and the concept of trying to copy the original 1980’s Shorty is a great idea.  But, the hardware falls short of my expectations.  However, it’s worthy of being in the lineup because it has all the right specs for a travel guitar.  And, it’s priced so low that you can afford to put on better hardware and still get value out of your buy.  It’s a win-win. 

Find Your Perfect Electric Travel Guitar

With all the many, great guitars that have been specifically designed for travel, there’s no reason you should leave your groove behind when you hit the road.  A travel guitar allows you to take your music with you.  It’ll make time fly by when you’re delayed at the airport, sitting alone in a hotel room, and chilling in the backseat of a long road trip. 

With variety in body shapes, hardware quality, and price points, you’ll find a guitar worthy to search the corners of the world with.  When you have your guitar with you, you can travel with music magic. 

Further Reading:

 

About Evie | Owner & Editor of MagicInstruments.com

For me, music really is a form of magic. It has the ability to transport you to another time and place with just a few soft notes, drifting on the wind. It can invoke joy, excitement, sadness and even fear. Music can strengthen communities and bridge cultural differences. Our lives are truly enriched by the music entwined within them and I look forward to helping make your musical journey a magical one.