Welcome to our reviews of the best travel guitars in 2020. We’ve scoured the market for the best-sounding roadworthy mini acoustic and electric guitars and have come up with the list of 10 models that excel in performance, aesthetics, versatility, playability, affordability, and all of the above, so without any further ado, let’s dive into the reviews.
Here are the best travel guitars 2020:
- Traveler Guitar EG-1 Custom
- Taylor GS Mini-e Koa Plus
- Traveler Guitar Travelcaster Deluxe
- Journey Instruments Overhead OC520
- Washburn Festival EA20
- Traveler Guitar Ultra-Light Electric
- Martin Backpacker
- Traveler Guitar Redlands Mini
- Luna Safari Bamboo
- Cordoba Mini II
1. Traveler Guitar EG-1 Custom
The overall best travel guitar in 2020
We’re starting off our travel guitar reviews with what is undoubtedly the best travel guitar on the market – the Traveler Guitar EG-1 Custom. Aside from its unique shape, it brings plenty of benefits to the table, including a beautifully designed and decorated body, amazing sound quality, and an exceptional selection of popular tonewoods.
The first thing you’ll notice about the EG-1 Custom is that it doesn’t have a traditional head; rather it sports a set of machine heads built into its body, which makes the fear of bumping (and de-tuning) your new guitar a bit less of a nuisance.
Let’s start from the very top; this is a six-string solid-body electric guitar that features a mahogany body, a mahogany neck, and a walnut-made fingerboard. In terms of sonic performance, its tone is pretty warm, although it’s incomparably more versatile than most travel guitars. It actually sounds more like a traditional high-quality electric guitar, and it could be used as your main axe or a replacement.
Aesthetics-wise, it’s painted in elegant black and sports a marvelous high gloss finish; if it wasn’t for the peculiar design of the headstock and the placement of the tuning pegs, most people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the EG-1 Custom and, say an upper-tier Ibanez or a Yamaha electric guitar.
As far as playability goes, the EG-1 Custom rocks 21 jumbo frets that are super-easy to grip; this works for chord play and single notes, arpeggios, soloing, and similar techniques. It’s actually as rewarding to experienced players as it is welcoming to fresh guitarists who are setting onto their first tour.
Lastly, let’s have a quick overview of the hardware that this travel guitar comes supplied with; there’s a fully adjustable top-quality Roll-o-matic bridge, a gold-plated closed-gear set of tuners built into the body, and a single Alnico humbucking bridge pickup that is fairly hot but decently controllable.
Speaking of controllable, you’ll be able to use the volume and tone controls to find the sweet sonic spot, but this guitar also features a 0.125-inch auxiliary input and a 0.125-inch headphone input that you can use to record or practice your songs without getting annoyed by the humming of the road truck/van.
|Image credit: Traveler Guitar Check Sweetwater||
It’s pretty fair to say that the EG-1 Custom by Traveler Guitar is the ultimate roadworthy electric guitar; it packs onboard distortion, auxiliary in and headphone out, a built-in set of tuning heads, excellent action, it looks phenomenal, and the tonewoods it comes outfitted with are both eclectic and sturdy.
It’s slightly pricier than some people might feel comfortable with, but its performance is on par with some of the best-sounding boutique electric guitars.
2. Taylor GS Mini-e Koa Plus
A high-end guitar for professional touring musicians
Our next pick is a boutique guitar that we warmly recommend to veterans and professional touring musicians. Taylor is widely known as the brand that produces some of the most durable and best-sounding acoustic guitars, and GS Mini-e Koa Plus is definitely not an exception.
In a nutshell, this is one of the best mini guitar models in the high-end department of the acoustic-electric guitar market, not only because it features some of the finest tonewoods and hardware but also because it offers unparalleled sustain and soaring overtones.
Contrary to what you might initially think of Grand Symphony guitar body shapes, the ‘Mini’ variant of such is actually quite petite and tiny.
This is a six-string GS semi-acoustic guitar that features a Hawaiian koa top, layered koa back and sides, a fingerboard made of ebony, and a neck made of tropical mahogany. Again, these tonewoods sound exotic and might sound ‘warm’, but this guitar is actually very well-rounded and balanced in the sense of sonic performance.
One of the main reasons why GS Mini-e Koa Plus is drastically more expensive than most acoustic-electric guitars is that its tonewoods are not exactly common. The tonewoods used in the manufacturing process of this guitar were refined beyond perfection, allowing the instrument to retain maximal sonic resonance and responsiveness while not losing any portion of its durability.
Let’s switch gears a bit and say a few words about this guitar’s playability. First of all, the GS Mini-e Koa Plus features 20 medium-sized frets with standard dotted inlays, as well as a slightly shorter scale length of 23.5 inches. In essence, its playability is excellent, especially if you have smaller hands and a slightly smaller finger reach.
Its hardware is over the top, as it packs premium NuBone nut, well-rounded Expression System 2 electronics, and Elixir’s Phosphor-Bronze medium-gauge strings. Taylor typically provides complementary features with each purchase, and this time around you’ll get a soft-shell case that was specifically made to be lighter and more durable for traveling guitarists.
|Image credit: Taylor Check Sweetwater||
If you can agree with the maxim ‘you can’t put a price tag on quality’, you might want to check out the Taylor GS Mini-e Koa Plus. Essentially, this is an upgraded version of the heavily acclaimed GS Mini-e, and it features a sturdier setup, enhanced electronics, and minor tweaks that have uplifted its already-tremendous performance to the point of near perfection. It does cost an arm and a leg, though.
3. Traveler Guitar Travelcaster Deluxe
The best portable electric travel guitar
Our next pick is the Travelcaster Deluxe, which bears the label of ‘best portable electric travel guitar’. It could also easily fit the description of being the ‘best value travel guitar’, as well as ‘best affordable guitar’, but its performance wouldn’t exactly be portrayed in full that way.
Traveler Guitar is a brand that earned most of their fame through very unique guitar body shapes; the Travelcaster is basically a hybrid guitar that borrows specs and features from the iconic Stratocaster while sporting a half-cut body that provides extra flexibility, finger mobility, and allows for easier commuting with it in tow.
The body of the Travelcaster is its most unique feature; it’s nearly half the weight of an actual Stratocaster, it’s drastically shorter than the original, and yet it still features the exact scale length and sonic functionalities.
This is a six-string solid-body guitar that features a poplar body with a high gloss finish painted in the recognizable Surf Green color; it sports a maple neck with a 9.5-inch radius and a maple fingerboard. It sounds just slightly different from the original Stratocaster, but that’s mainly because of the fact that the body was ‘cut’ so as to provide more portability.
The Travelcaster sports 22 medium-jumbo frets and a 25.5-inch scale length, a two-point fully adjustable Fulcrum bridge and a Tremolo block, chrome machine heads, and three ceramic single-coil pickups.
Essentially, this is a perfect guitar for Stratocaster users who can’t afford the extra space; on another hand, if you have a vintage Strat that you don’t want to expose to potential damages, the Travelcaster Deluxe might be an excellent replacement for you.
|Image credit: Traveler Guitar Check Sweetwater||
Stratocaster owners cherish their guitars and are often reluctant to take them unless a high-profile gig is at stake. If you’re worried that your favorite axe might get damaged on a longer tour, we suggest that you check out the slightly modified and drastically more affordable Travelcaster Deluxe. You’ll get similar specs and a massive boon to mobility at a fraction of the price of the original.
4. Journey Instruments Overhead OC520
The biggest-sounding acoustic travel guitar
Many ‘travel’ guitars are there for people who need something to practice on, and most of them don’t actually sound too great. If you are looking for a guitar that is portable and still sounds bigger than life, you might want to see what the Journey Instruments OC520 has to offer to you.
This is a mid-range acoustic-electric travel guitar that sports some of the most unique tonewoods, passive hardware, a durable construction, and light strings that are as easy to play as they are vibrant and rich with tone.
Essentially, this is a six-string classical guitar that features a beautiful natural color with a satin-polyurethane finish; its top is made of strong solid cedar; its back and sides feature pau ferro tonewoods while its neck is made of high-quality mahogany. As far as its natural tone is of concern, it’s pretty neutral, leaning towards both brighter and warmer ends of the tonal spectrum.
It also sports 20 medium-large frets and a scale length of 25.5 inches; the hardware of OC520 is impeccable too; it sports bone nut and saddle, it comes pre-strung with Savarez light-gauge nylon strings, and you’ll even get a complementary backpack bag that can easily fit the guitar along with all necessary accessories.
One of the best things about the OC520 is the fact that its neck is removable; this unique technology literally cuts down its travel size down in half while still leaving you with the option to reassemble it when you need to play it. Due to its full ‘assembled’ size it produces a much stronger sound. It’s incredibly versatile in terms of sonic performance, and it’s definitely one of the best-sounding travel guitar models available on the market.
To top it all, it even comes supplied with Journey Instruments’ passive transducer that will allow you to wire it up to a guitar amp. This is what makes it so great for both recording and performing live shows.
|Image credit: Journey Instruments Check Sweetwater||
Travel guitars generally feature modified bodies that help reduce their size and weight, and the first casualty of such a process is the quality of sound. However, this does not apply in the case of the OC520; this guitar boasts a sound that is on a level of its own, and if you don’t want to trade your tone for a bit of extra sturdiness and portability, this might be a perfect guitar for you.
5. Washburn Festival EA20
The best travel guitar for rock and jazz styles
Washburn is the brand that rockers, metalheads, and jazz cats turn to when they’re looking for an instrument. Their guitars are often shaped in a very unique way; they sound a bit darker and stronger, and ultimately, Washburn guitars offer drastically more playability than most guitars in the same price range.
The best representative of the aforementioned qualities is the Festival Series EA20 acoustic-electric guitar. This is one of the best-sounding travel-size guitar models around as it features an eclectic selection of thoroughly refined tonewoods and top-quality hardware.
Let us start with the basics; this is a six-string Mini Jumbo acoustic-electric guitar that rocks a natural color with a gloss finish. Its top is made of select spruce material, its back and sides feature flamed maple, its neck is made of high-quality maple, and its fingerboard is made of engineered wood.
Generally speaking, the Festival EA20 is substantially more robust and durable than an average mid-range guitar, but it also has a richer, fuller sound. Maple, being one of the brightest-sounding tonewoods out there, is the most dominant material in the construction of this guitar; even so, it still boasts a massively versatile level of tonal well-roundedness.
The Festival EA20 features 20 medium frets and a full-scale length (25.5 inches); it also packs chrome machine heads that hold the tune nicely, the exquisite NuBone nut, and the EQ4T pickup system. Last, but not least, the Festival EA20 is also outfitted with D’Addario’s light-gauge .012 strings.
|Image credit: Washburn Check Sweetwater||
Exotic tonewoods and peculiar, unique shape topped with premium-quality electronics and nearly unparalleled acoustic performance would be the best way to describe the Washburn Festival Series EA20 Mini Jumbo guitar. This is a guitar made for professionals by professionals, although given the fact that it’s available at such a low price, we recommend it to enthusiasts and hobbyists as well.
6. Traveler Guitar Ultra-Light Electric
The most compact electric travel guitar
Typically, musicians turn to travel guitars when they don’t have too much space to spare; while professional musicians travel in big, spacious vans and buses, enthusiasts, and recreational players who do not wish to get rusty after a month of not playing their instrument usually can’t afford such commodities.
If you’re struggling with backpack space and still want to have a guitar by your side, we warmly recommend the Traveler Guitar Ultra-Light Electric. This is, without any shadow of a doubt, one of the finest portable guitar models that the market has to offer; it’s not too expensive, it’s a compact guitar with a huge sound, and it’s nearly three times smaller than an actual guitar.
Even though it has a very unique and rather unusual design, the Ultra-Light Electric features tonewoods that are much akin to those that ‘normal’ guitars are supplied with.
This is a six-string electric guitar that rocks a tiny body colored in matte black with a satin finish; it rocks a body made of Eastern American hard maple, a neck made of maple, and a fingerboard made of black walnut. In terms of resonance and overtones, the Ultra-light Electric is bright but fairly adjustable and customizable.
It sports 22 medium-sized frets and a slightly shortened scale length of 24.75 inches; this is what also makes it perfect for people with a bit smaller hands, as well as great for children and teens.
The Traveler Guitar Ultra-Light Electric axe features a fully adjustable tailpiece, a set of closed-gear chrome machine heads, and a single dual-rail humbucking pickup. Additionally, it also comes pre-strung with D’Addario’s EXL110 strings and a complementary gig bag.
|Image credit: Traveler Guitar Check Sweetwater||
This is a pocket electric guitar that is light as a feather and sounds like a caged beast; its playability is impeccable, and it’s definitely one of the most valuable possessions you could take on a tour. Its affordability also makes it an excellent choice for amateur guitarists who want to continue practicing while on a vacation too.
7. Martin Backpacker
The best mini guitar for practicing on the road
If you are looking for a quality guitar for taking on the road, look no further than the Martin Backpacker. This is our choice for the best backpacker guitar, and it’s absolutely perfect for musicians that want to stay in shape while being constantly on the move.
This is an exquisite guitar in terms of body shape, which is called ‘Backpacker’ after the instrument itself. It packs 15 frets and rocks shortened sides, allowing you to stuff this guitar in an actual backpack, whereas most standard guitars wouldn’t be able to fit, even in the largest of backpacks (with exception of huge cases and containers).
While the biggest and most obvious benefit of having this guitar is its portability, it also has a couple of downsides to it; namely, it’s made of hardwood for the most part, which is not the best-sounding tonewood per se. On a bit brighter note, its top is made of spruce and its back and sides are built from mahogany, so it’s not necessarily a bad-sounding guitar – it’s just that it isn’t as versatile as standard-sized and standard-shaped models.
Another interesting thing about the Martin Backpacker is the peculiar design of the fingerboard; it has only 15 frets, and the inlays are only on the 5th and 12th frets. Its scale length is also obviously shorter, measuring 24 inches.
Contrary to what most people might think of after seeing such a petite guitar, the Backpacker is actually very durable; as we’ve mentioned earlier, it’s mostly made from hardwood materials, which are known for their impeccable robustness.
Hardware-wise, the Backpacker rocks chrome machine heads with ultra-small knobs, a Corian-made nut, and it comes pre-strung with Authentic Acoustic bronze light-gauge .10 strings.
Additionally, Martin is including a complementary gig bag free of charge, which can be used to store both the Backpacker guitar and all the guitar accessories you might need for the road.
|Image credit: Martin Check Sweetwater||
Although the Martin Backpacker might not be your go-to instrument for a gig, it’s an excellent (and a rather cheap) choice for people who want to keep their chops up while on the road. Regardless of whether you’re a veteran or if you’ve just started playing guitar, you’ll find the Backpacker as a helpful tool to improve your techniques and playstyle on the go.
8. Traveler Guitar Redlands Mini
A nice backup option for practice on the road
Next up we have the Traveler Guitar Redlands Mini, which we highly recommend as a backup practice instrument for touring musicians; alternatively, if you’re someone who’s recently picked up on playing guitar and don’t want to damage the one you have at home, you might want to take the Redlands Mini into consideration.
Basically, this is a six-string acoustic guitar with a Travel body shape; it rocks a natural color with a beautiful gloss finish that is somewhat resistant to scratches, so it should be able to endure even the longest runs if it’s in a case.
Luckily, the brand provides a complementary gig bag, although you should keep in mind that it’s not exactly thoroughly padded. If you’re frequently hopping from one place to another, you might want to upgrade to a hard-shell case.
In terms of tonewoods, the Redlands Mini features a mahogany top, black basswood on back and sides, ABS binding, and nato (eastern mahogany) neck. Surprisingly enough, this guitar has a very eclectic soundstage that is drastically more versatile than most entry-level and budget guitars.
The Redlands Mini is a terrific guitar for traveling if you’re on a cash-strapped budget, but its affordability is not the only benefit you should expect from it. The ‘Mini’ hints that it has a ‘trimmed-down’ body, and that the tonewoods it comes outfitted with complement its size by making the body both light and durable.
This acoustic axe also sports 20 medium-sized frets, and a super-short scale length of 22.15 inches, so even the youngest of children and teens, and obviously, adults with smaller hands.
Last but not least, let’s have a quick overview of the hardware that the Redlands Mini comes outfitted with; it sports a nut made of phenolic resin, closed-gear machine heads that hold the tune for hours and days, as well as D’Addario’s .011 strings.
|Image credit: Traveler Guitar Check Sweetwater||
Apart from looking uniquely beautiful and elegant, the Redlands Mini also sounds amazing and feels lighter than you’d expect. This is a durable, roadworthy budget guitar that will invariably help out guitarists of all skill levels while their main instrument is not available.
9. Luna Safari Bamboo
The best for traveling buskers and street performers
Buskers and street performers sometimes find that their favorite spots in their hometown have become too small for them; this often leads to them hitting the road; exploring new places on foot is pretty beautiful, but it’s not something you’d want to do with just any guitar. That’s why we recommend a robust, roadworthy guitar such as the Luna Safari Bamboo.
Aside from the fact that this is one of the sturdiest acoustic guitars in the budget price range, the Safari Bamboo actually offers exceptional sustain and resonance topped with great tonal characteristics and a chirpy sound. In fact, you could even use this guitar to record in a studio if you want to, but it sits best in the hands of people who are constantly on the move.
First things first, this is a 3/4 dreadnought six-string guitar that sports a natural color and an elegant satin finish. Just like the title suggests, it’s mostly made of bamboo material, with the only exceptions being the neck (which is made of mahogany) and the fingerboard (which is made of walnut).
One of the coolest things about Luna guitars, in general, is that they typically feature uniquely designed inlays; the Bamboo Safari guitar rocks Mother-of-Pearl Moon inlays that portray different moon phases. It sports 19 medium-sized frets and a shorter scale length of 22.5 inches.
Intonation-wise, this guitar is equipped with open-gear machine heads that will keep it in tune for days, even if you’re playing it non-stop. Additionally, it has a relatively flimsy nut made of plastic, and it comes pre-strung with light-gauge D’Addario .012 strings.
|Image credit: Luna Guitars Check Sweetwater||
Luna guitars are some of the finest-looking, best-sounding entry-level instruments that offer high value for the money in nearly every case and scenario. The Safari Bamboo boasts a robust, exquisite sound, and the only potential problem you might have with it is relatively flimsy hardware.
10. Cordoba Mini II
A good budget option for traveling under $200
If you’re on the market looking for a classical travel guitar, we advise you to look no further than the Cordoba Mini II. This is one of the finest budget guitars, and it might just be the best travel guitar under $200. This guitar is incredibly light, and the tonewoods it comes supplied with provide a warm, highly controllable tone.
This is a nylon-string classical guitar that rocks a beautiful satin-polyurethane finish and a natural body, although you are free to choose from several different color style options, including mahogany and stripped ebony.
It sports flamed mahogany back, sides, and top, a neck made of mahogany, and a composite fingerboard. Furthermore, it sports a shortened scale length of 22.835 inches and 19 tall and narrow frets.
Just like you would expect out of a classical guitar, the Mini II’s tone is airy, characterized by soaring highs and deep, thumpy lows. Its mid-range leaves some room for improvement, but that does not take away even the slightest chunks of its value since it compensates for it with unparalleled affordability.
Its hardware is, surprisingly enough, pretty great; the Cordoba Mini II features NuBone nut and is pre-strung with Savarez’s proprietary Cristal Corum 500CJ strings that are about as durable as the body of this guitar.
|Image credit: Cordoba Check Sweetwater||
Even though it’s a cheap travel guitar, the Cordoba Mini II brings a myriad of benefits to the table. It’s perfect for new guitar players who are preparing to go on a vacation, but it’s also fun to have even if you’re a professional who likes to compose in-between gigs. Overall, we only didn’t like its presence, but otherwise, it’s a great-sounding entry-level guitar.
Mini travel guitars buying guide
Mini guitars are obviously different from standard guitars, so the general rules of ‘what you should be looking for’ don’t apply in full. This buying guide is dedicated to explaining different criteria that we’ve taken into account while evaluating each of the models in the ‘Reviews’ section, so let’s hop straight to it.
Obviously, the most notable difference between ‘standard’ and ‘mini’ guitars is their size. However, there are smaller than average guitars, and there are models that are as petite that they could almost fit inside a pocket. The question that you have to answer is just how small of a guitar do I need?
Some people struggle with storage space while others simply don’t like the notion of bringing their favorite guitar on the road. In the case of the former, you might want to check out what Traveler Guitars brand has in store; this brand specializes in manufacturing tiny guitars, whereas other brands ‘remodel’ their flagship instruments into smaller, down-scaled versions.
Size affects the weight of the guitar, so ultimately a mini guitar will be lighter than a standard-sized one. However, this is not always the case.
The weight of a guitar is affected by several different factors; the most impactful and important one is the combination of tonewoods used in the construction process. For instance, koa wood is slightly heavier than spruce, basswood and maple are a bit heavier than mahogany while hardwood and poplar are generally ultra-heavy.
The reason why you should take the weight of the guitar into consideration is that a heavy guitar can easily damage some of the other goodies you’re bringing along. Obviously enough, lighter guitars are a bit easier to play, although there are many players who actually prefer using heavier guitars.
The purpose for which you need a travel guitar plays a key role, just like size and weight. Are you a traveling musician who needs a roadworthy backup or a hobbyist that is simply too hooked onto playing an instrument that you can’t let go of it for a couple of weeks? Are you a traveling performer who needs a quality classical guitar or a guitarist that needs to practice for upcoming recording sessions?
There are many reasons why guitarists search for mini guitars and depending on the answer, your pick will most likely be different.
Boutique travel guitars, such as the Traveler Guitar EG-1 Custom or the Taylor GS Mini-e Koa Plus are perfect for touring musicians; mid-range guitars like the OC520 or the Travelcaster are excellent warm-up tools while entry-level and budget guitars are generally always welcome.
Travel guitars, just like every other guitar type, sound differently depending on their tonewoods and electronics. However, not everyone is concerned with how a mini guitar sounds like. Although it is in your best interest to find a model that sounds as best as it can for the budget you are able to afford, there are scenarios where tone doesn’t matter all that much.
For instance, the Backpacker has all the qualities but doesn’t really excel in sonic performance while Redlands Mini and the Travelcaster are exceptional in this particular field. Once again, you should scale your budget with your needs to keep practicing while on the go, which will help you determine what kind of a mini guitar you need.
Hardware is generally considered as the least expensive component of a guitar unless we’re talking about travel guitars. Mini guitars are usually equipped with specially designed hardware that can keep the tuning up for extended periods of time.
Additionally, hardware pieces of a travel guitar should be a bit more durable than average; all it takes is one sharp turn for the guitar to bump into the side of the car/truck, and one of the machine pegs might be ruined.
Last, but certainly not least, hardware pieces are cheap and easy to order, but this obviously does not apply to people who are on the road. You could always search for guitar shops, but there’s always a chance that you won’t be able to find adequate replacements.
Acoustic or Electric
Essentially, this is a matter of subjective preference. The durability and versatility of a guitar are not conditioned by the ‘type’; rather these are conditioned by the quality of the tonewoods, the level of technologies involved in the manufacturing process, and the skill of the engineers who’ve actually made the guitar.
As a general rule of thumb, you can adhere to the following principle – acoustic travel guitars are generally a bit more valuable because you will otherwise have to worry about finding an amp too. Mini electric guitars do not sound as clear and vibrant when their strings are plucked while they are ‘unplugged’.
The market is not exactly flooded with high-quality travel guitars, so finding models that are universally ‘great’ is not a small task. We hope that you’ve liked our picks and that you were able to find what you were looking for; before you start cherry picking, we also suggest that you take a look at our buying guide, as it could prove to be a very valuable tool for making the right pick.