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What Are Travel Guitars?

By Alicia Sparks
Updated May 23, 2024
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Travel guitars are guitars that feature some specific design element, or elements, that make them ideal for traveling. Many models are designed to be taken apart when not in use, though the main features of some are their smaller size and lighter weight. Guitars for travel are available in many of the same basic types as regular guitars, and for just as wide a variety of prices. These guitars can use some of the same accessories that regular guitars use, like straps and picks, though other kinds of accessories, such as stands and cases, usually are made specifically for travel models. Guitarists interested in travel guitars can find them at online and offline music shops that sell other kinds of guitars, though some smaller shops might not have them in stock.

Generally, travel guitars are special guitars designed to make travel easier for musicians. They might feature a breakaway neck, or they might come in small sizes or lightweight models. For example, someone might refer to a travel guitar as a small guitar or mini guitar. Sometimes, a travel guitar is referred to as a backpacker guitar. Regardless of the exact name, travel guitars are guitars musicians use when they’re on the road because their size or design make them convenient for travel.

Similar to regular guitars, it’s possible to find a variety of guitars for travel. A musician who prefers playing acoustic tunes can find an acoustic travel guitar, just as one who specializes in electric music can find a travel electric guitar. Musicians can find models made of woods, metals, and plastics, and designed for use with steel or nylon strings.

Guitarists can use some of the same kinds of accessories with their travel guitars as they use with regular guitars. For example, a travel guitar usually doesn’t need a special kind of strap, pick, or strings. On the other hand, due to varying factors like their size and design, guitars for travel might require special cases and stands.

The prices of travel guitars vary as widely as the prices for regular guitars, and depend on the same kinds of factors. Such factors include the type, quality, materials, design, and manufacturer or brand. Generally, travel guitars are sold at the same kinds of music shops that sell other kinds of guitars, but since travel guitars are a kind of specialized item, smaller “mom and pop” shops might not carry them.

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Discussion Comments

By hanley79 — On Sep 07, 2011

Where is the best place to find travel guitars for sale? I've been to many music stores, and I've never seen a travel guitar in person before, leading me to believe they're kind of a specialty item.

Are there any specific stores that carry a large assortment of travel guitars? How about particular brands of travel guitar that come highly recommended?

I really like the idea of getting one, but thanks to all of the comments about sound difference on the article here, I really would prefer to pick it out in person.

By malmal — On Sep 06, 2011

@geekish - Does your husband's traveller guitar sound any different than his regular one to you?

I wonder if the folding form of a traveller guitar affect sound quality in any noticeable way, or if it's just one of those things that people with a discerning ear nitpick about. It seems like if they made your music sound too obviously bad, traveller guitars wouldn't be accepted enough to even sell.

By VivAnne — On Sep 05, 2011

@tigers88 - Wow, I didn't think of that! The vibrations being off would ruin the whole sound of a guitar.

I wonder if there are any travel guitar reviews somewhere that would honestly rate the vibration quality of a model? That, or watching a video of somebody playing one to see if it sounded good would be the only methods I can think of to determine whether a model sounded good before buying.

As your example proves, a guitar that looks awesome means nothing -- I need to hear it, or even better, be able to try playing it. Hmm...this is a good reason to buy guitars in person.

By geekish — On Sep 05, 2011

My husband has a travel guitar that is as the article described just a mini-guitar (not nearly a ukelele but nor is it close to a full size guitar, my best guess is that the size is almost perfectly between a full size acoustic guitar and a ukelele).

He never plays this guitar on a professional gig but he thinks it is the best leisure travel guitar, for example he takes it when we go on vacations when we are spending time with family but he would not take it on a trip where he is playing for money.

I cannot remember the brand of guitar he has, but I know he loves Taylor guitars and that is what his regular acoustic guitar is, so it is a good chance that his travel acoustic guitar is a Taylor as well.

By ahain — On Sep 04, 2011

Does anybody know of any professional musicians who use a traveling guitar? Of all the people who would benefit from having a travel-sized guitar that's easy to take with you on the road, musicians who travel all over the place seem like the most likely candidates to me.

I'm not that experienced at recognizing guitar models and types from looking at them, so I couldn't tell you whether somebody at a performance was playing a traveling guitar or a regular one. Are there full-size ones that just disassemble, so the finished guitar looks the same afterward?

By cloudel — On Sep 04, 2011

I wish I had known there was such a thing as a travel guitar ten years ago. I was doing quite a bit of traveling and playing then, and I had a heavy guitar.

My acoustic was very hard to carry for long distances or up and down stairs and through doors. I could do it, but it would strain my muscles, and if I carried it for very long, I would be sore the next day.

If I ever decide to be in a band again, I am going to get a travel guitar. It will be the one I bring to rehearsals and the one I take on the road. I never want to carry my big guitar anywhere again.

By gravois — On Sep 03, 2011

One thing to watch out for when you are buying a travel guitar -- because they are often designed to be small and lightweight, a lot of travel guitars are also not very sturdy. I have seen a few that have broken apart like they were made of playing cards.

When you go to buy one give it a few pulls and knocks to get a sense of its construction. There are some really good ones out there you just have to sort through the junk to find them.

By tigers88 — On Sep 02, 2011

I used to have a travel guitar that was made by a Japanese company in the 70s. It had a really goofy design, unlike anything I have ever seen.

Basically it had a bunch of joints and hinges built into the guitar. It was designed so that it could be folded up into a perfect square and could be stored easily in a closet or on an airplane.

It did fold up pretty easily and it was pretty small when it was like that but the problem was that all the joints made the guitar sound horrible. All the vibrations were off. No matter who played it or how the tuned it it would never sound right. I guess it was handy, but who wants to travel around with a junk guitar?

By jonrss — On Sep 02, 2011

I have been on a lot of road trips and into a lot of festivals. For a long time I traveled with a full size guitar in a hard shell case but it got to be a huge pain in the neck. It always ended up taking up too much space, or getting broken or hitting someone in the face. Most of the time it was more trouble than it was worth.

But then a friend of mine gave me a half size child's guitar and it solved all of my problems. It fits easily in a trunk, I can ply it while I am sitting in the passenger seat, it is built for kids so it built tough and it sounds great. I love it, I even play it when I am not traveling.

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