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The best travel guitars 2021: top acoustic and electric travel guitars for portability and performance

The best travel guitars 2021: top acoustic and electric travel guitars for portability and performance
(Image credit: Taylor, Cort, Lowden, Blackstar, Yamaha)

Guitarists are lucky – we already play an instrument that we can take and play anywhere with us. But the best travel guitars enhance and refine that concept to offer the ultimate in portability. Whether you want to take your guitar with you on holiday, work trips or have something more compact for the home, there are some high quality choices out there. We’ve selected the very best and they’re a surprisingly varied group of guitars – from full-scale electric guitars to ¾-size acoustic electrics.

There’s a good reason for this variety; a travel guitar needs to be portable, but how it achieves that can be decided by a number of factors. We’ve taken them all into consideration with our choices for the best travel guitars you can buy right now.

Best travel guitars: Guitar World recommends

Over a decade after the design’s launch, the Taylor GS Mini-e Koa is still a benchmark for travel guitars. Now including Taylor’s Expression System with on-board tuner, it’s a great guitar for home, away, gigging, recording, songwriting… it could easily become your favorite guitar.

The Yamaha CSF3M is a rarity; a travel acoustic featuring solid back and sides at a very competitive price. Like the GS Mini, it sounds much bigger than its smaller scale suggests and combined with a comfortable, roomy neck experience, it’s another travel guitar that’s great for a wide range of players and needs.

Best travel guitars: Product guide

Best travel guitars: Yamaha CSF3M

(Image credit: Yamaha )

1. Yamaha CSF3M

The best solid wood acoustic electric travel guitar

Price: $589/£432 | Type: Electro-acoustic | Scale length: 23.6” | Top: Solid Sitka Spruce top | Back and sides: solid mahogany | Neck: Nato | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 20 | Electronics: Yamaha passive SRT piezo | Finish: Vintage Natural, Tobacco Sunburst (pictured) | Bag included: Yes

Impressive build quality with solid woods
Great for recording with 
Great neck for chords and fingerstyle 
No onboard EQ  

Although Yamaha doesn’t market its CSF series explicitly as ‘travel guitars’, they have created a class-leading example with this short-scale folk electro-acoustic. Solid woods and a 105mm body depth combine to set it apart from much of the competition.

We found a rich tonal character and impressive projection with a 16-inch radius neck that feels roomy and works well for both fingerstyle and chord work. The Yamaha passive piezo pickup here offers no onboard preamp but impresses with a pleasing reflection of the CSF3M’s strengths.

Rounding out the package here is Yamaha’s hard bag to provide a reassuringly protective case for a guitar that should provide you years of inspiration, at home or on the go.

Best travel guitars: Martin LX1E Little Martin

(Image credit: Press Material)

2. Martin LX1e Little Martin

Arguably the most famous travel guitar of all time

Price: $499/£499 | Type: Electro-acoustic | Scale length: 23” | Top: Solid Sitka Spruce top | Back and sides: Mahogany Pattern HPL Textured Finish | Neck: Rust Birch Laminate | Fingerboard: Richlite | Frets: 20 | Electronics: Fishman Sonitone | Finish: Natural | Bag included: Yes

Affordable for a Martin
Great pickup
Some may not like the composite neck

A firm favorite of Ed Sheeran - although he has made a move to Lowden recently - the Martin LX1e is Martins pint-sized offering, delivering the outstanding built quality you’d expect from the acoustic giant and a quality amplified sound. 

This guitar is made with a solid Sitka spruce top and high-pressure laminate back and sides, as well as a composite neck. It may not have the elegant looks of the D-28 or HD-35, but it is incredibly strong and damn near indestructible. This mighty little guitar will undoubtedly handle any of the harsh conditions bestowed upon it. 

Best travel guitars: Taylor GS Mini-e Koa

(Image credit: Taylor)

3. Taylor GS Mini-e Koa

The best all-round acoustic travel guitar

Price: $799/£648 | Type: Electro-acoustic | Scale length: 23.5” | Top: Solid koa top | Back and sides: Koa laminate | Neck: sapele | Fingerboard: Ebony | Frets: 20 | Electronics: ES-B | Finish: Varnish | Bag included: Yes

Small guitar with a big sound
Taylor’s build quality is consistently high
Excellent pickup system and gigbag 
If you don’t like the Koa’s look there’s plenty of other options 

Taylor’s GS Mini was ahead of most of the pack when it launched in 2010, and it still stands up as a masterful design from the company’s design wizard Andy Powers. It’s a benchmark example of a guitar that sounds far fuller than its dimensions - aided by the slight arch of its back. 

With spruce and mahogany options proving popular, the Koa stands out for the visual clout of its dramatic figuring. A solid top, layered back and sides, sapele neck and ebony fingerboard provide a rich tonal recipe here. With Taylor’s Expression System preamp system (including a handy tuner) and the high quality included gigbag rounding out a superb package for one of the company’s best value models.  Left-handed models are available too – yay! 

Best travel guitars: Yamaha SLG200S Silent Guitar

(Image credit: Yamaha)

4. Yamaha SLG200S Silent Guitar

The best travel guitar for silent practice and live tones

Price: $699/£468 | Type: Acoustically silent electro-acoustic with onboard effects | Scale length: 25” | Body: Mahogany body with rosewood and maple frame | Neck: Mahogany | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 20 | Electronics: ES-B | Finish: Gloss | Bag included: Yes

Impressive plugged-in sounds
Folds down for portability
Electric playability   
The unusual design may be off-putting for traditionalists 

The Silent Guitar is an unusual proposition with a detachable frame for folding down. It’s also designed to be plugged in for amplification or via headphones – it makes very little acoustic sound of its own. This has the advantage for quiet practice but the Silent Guitar’s SRT and pickup blend system also shines via a PA or acoustic combo live for surprisingly organic tones to mimic a real acoustic being mic’d. 

Its low action, 43mm nut width and slim neck will suit electric players, if they can accept its untraditional looks. Onboard chorus and reverb further enhance the SLG200S’s usability as a travelling companion. 

Best travel guitars: Blackstar Carry-On

(Image credit: Blackstar)

5. Blackstar Carry-On

The best travel electric guitar on this list

Price: $349/£244 | Type: Singlecut travel electric | Scale length: 20.7” | Body: Okoume | Neck: Okoume | Fingerboard: Laurel | Frets: 19 | Electronics: Mini humbucker | Finish: Gloss black or white top | Bag included: Yes

Excellent one-piece design
Very portable
Good tones for practice 
Pickup lacks a little bite 

Blackstar have made a guitar!? Yes indeed, the guitar amp company joined forces with fellow Brits Gordon Smith Guitars on a down-sized electric; 20.7-inch scale with a ukulele-sized body is certainly compact but the result stacks up comfortably well with a full-size neck.

It’s a one piece body and neck design to aid resonance and we really like design touches like the tortoiseshell-like plastic binding and the playing comfort of the matt neck, sides and back. It’s also great to see a coil-split on the humbucker pickup for tonal versatility through an amp – you can even buy the Carry-on as a package with Blackstar’s Fly3 mini amp.  

Read the full Blackstar Carry-On Deluxe Pack review 

Best travel guitars: Traveler Guitar LTD EC-1

(Image credit: Traveler Guitar)

6. Traveler Guitar LTD EC-1

The best travel guitar for metal players

Price: $699/£639 | Type: Travel-size electric with built-in headphone amp | Scale length: 24.75” | Body: Mahogany | Neck: Mahogany | Fingerboard: Black walnut | Frets: 22 jumbo | Electronics: ESP-designed active humbucker, four-channel headphone amp | Finish: Vintage Black or Snow White | Bag included: Yes

An acclaimed ESP design in compact form
Full scale
Onboard headphone amp    
No built-in tuner 

Another collaboration between two successful guitar brands, Traveler already have a formidable reputation for electric travel guitars and ESP build some of the finest guitars for heavy rock and metal around with its EC series; the LTD EC-1 is the combination of those skills.

The full-scale singlecut model first surfaced in 2016 and is now available in Vintage Black with gold hardware –  a Traveler design calling card is to cut down on overall length by placing locking tuners within the body design. The pickup here is an ESP-designed active humbucker, so it’s ideal for higher gain tones and cutting lead work with the inbuilt headphone amp. It even features a bevelled cutaway for higher fret access. 

Best travel guitars: Yamaha APXT2

(Image credit: Yamaha)

7. Yamaha APXT2

The teeny tiny APX with a big amplified sound

Price: $199/£209 | Type: Electro-acoustic | Scale length: 22 13/16" | Top: Spruce | Back and sides: Locally Sourced Tonewood | Neck: Locally Sourced Tonewood | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 20 | Electronics: SYSTEM68 | Finish: Dark Red Burst, Natural, Black, Old Violin Sunburst | Bag included: Yes

Plays like an APX
Nice range of colors  
Feels a little on the cheap side 

This is the third entry for Yamaha on this list, but we felt it needed to be included. Yamaha has taken their ever-popular APX and shrunk it down to create the APXT2. This 3/4 sized acoustic is one of the smallest on this list, measuring in at only 34 inches, and will happily fit in most traveling situations. 

The onboard pickup is surprisingly good on the APXT2 and offers a tone far greater than the unplugged sound. The preamp also comes with a handy built-in tuner, meaning you don't have to pack any extra gear. The satin finish not only looks great but is very smooth to play. In fact, the whole neck is very familiar, and if you have played Yamaha guitars in the past, then you'll get on with how this feels. It also comes in a range of different colors, just like its big brother, the APX500. So if you are a fan of the APX series or are looking for a unique-looking travel guitar, then it's worth checking these out. 

Best travel guitars: Cort Little CJ Walnut OPH

(Image credit: Cort)

8. Cort Little CJ Walnut OPH

The best value acoustic travel guitar

Price: $599/£369 | Type: Travel-size electro-acoustic | Scale length: 23.5” | Top: Solid Sitka spruce Back and sides:** Laminate walnut back and sides | Neck: Mahogany | Fingerboard: Ovankol | Frets: 20 | Electronics: Fishman Presy II | Finish: Open pore | Bag included: Yes

Excellent playability
Good value electro features
Impressive machine head performance 
It’s a small guitar so don’t expect big bottom end 

With street prices under $450, the performance for price here makes the Little CJ stand up high with the bigger brands. And while some of the pricier competition offers a bit more low end, the friendly playability and valuable features like precise 18:1 ratio tuners really make a difference.

The V neck profile works very well for providing comfort on the shorter scale, while the Fishman Presys II is a cut above the company’s Sonitone system we often see on sub-$500 electro-acoustic guitars, helping this guitar sound like a bigger model live. Alongside bass, treble and phase controls, the onboard tuner further sweetens a great deal. 

Read the full Cort Little CJ Walnut OPH review

Best travel guitars: Sheeran by Lowden S03

(Image credit: Lowden)

9. Sheeran By Lowden S03

One of the best cutaway travel acoustics

Price: $1,040/£930 | Type: Cutaway electro-acoustic | Scale length: 24.8” | Top: Solid cedar top | Back and sides: Layered rosewood / mahogany / rosewood / mahogany back and sides | Neck: Mahogany | Fingerboard: Ebony | Frets: 20 | Electronics: LR Baggs Element VTC | Finish: Satin | Bag included: Yes

Made in Northern Ireland with Lowden build quality
Great plugged-in sounds
Bigger sounds than you might expect   
Sheeran’s prominent name on headstock may put some players off 

Whatever you think of Ed Sheeran’s music, he has great taste in luthier’s. George Lowden actually designed the Wee Lowden travel-size guitar for the songwriter and their friendship blossomed into a full series of guitars in 2019.

The S03 has had a refresh for 2021 – the ‘S’ stands for small body and the latest 24.8-inch scale model features a solid cedar top but with a rosewood and mahogany layering at the back and sides this time. An impressively full sound is matched with the quality of the LR Baggs VTC system for plugging in, and with the cutaway design this is one of the best travel-size acoustics for live performance. 

Read the full Sheeran By Lowden SO3 review 

Best travel guitars: Buying advice

Blackstar Carry-on guitar leaning against wall, with Blackstar fly behind.

(Image credit: Future)

What makes a great travel guitar? 

A travel guitar’s portability can be due to a smaller body, lighter weight and shorter scale (this is the distance from the guitar’s nut to its saddle) but a guitar can still be great for carrying around with you and have a full-scale. 

Having said that, acoustic travel guitars tend to have a shorter scale and smaller bodies to be portable, but they will still be tuned and play like a regular guitar. Indeed, the best travel guitars we have selected in this guide all shine for their playability as well as tone so they don’t take much getting used to. 

Electric travel guitars can usually plug into guitar amps and PAs but some have their own inbuilt amps to use headphones with, making them all-in-one practice tools. 

Can I gig with a travel guitar? 

Absolutely, and many acoustic travel guitars include inbuilt pickups and preamps to allow for this. Ed Sheeran is one of the most famous living guitarists on the planet and uses a small-scale travel guitar onstage and in the studio. He likes them so much he’s even got his own series of them now.

Even electric travel guitars designed for headphone practice can be used with amps if you wish, so they could be a great choice for travelling to jams or impromptu gigs with. 

What is the best travel guitar for me? 

All travel guitars are portable and all the guitars are great to play; but all excel in different ways. For example, some are going to be better for gigging with, while others are great for practice with headphones. So consider what you need from a travel guitar; do you want an acoustic or electric guitar? Would you like to use it for recording? The best news is whatever your needs, we’ve got the right travel guitar for you in this guide.