The 10 Best Travel and Mini Guitars (2023) – Play Music on the Move
If you’re always on the go, you might wonder which guitar is the most portable. Regular guitars are relatively heavy and delicate instruments that are sensitive to fluctuations in temperature, humidity, and wear. This is where travel/mini-sized guitars are handy.
Fortunately, there are several models of so-called “travel guitars” on the market. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, which is fantastic. First, there were junior guitars. These are smaller, ¾-size guitars that look like full-sized instruments and are meant for children.
Soon after, manufacturers recognized the high demand for portable guitars, so these days we can find various travel-sized or mini guitars. Some of them feature pretty odd shapes, while others can be disassembled. All in all, you have plenty of choices.
My main recommended travel/mini guitar is the Martin Steel String Backpacker travel guitar. It’s a stylish and nice-sounding instrument that’s bound to catch some eyes and ears.
My second recommended travel/mini guitar is the Yamaha JR1 FG. A well-built mini guitar that provides a good value for money.
The Best Travel and Mini Guitars (2023) – At A Glance
And now onto the full list:
1. Martin Steel String Backpacker Travel Guitar
It’s important that a guitar sounds great. But it’s even better when it looks great as well. That’s what this Martin Backpacker travel guitar gives you.
- Has a really nice tone
- Looks quite stylish
- Well-made and ideal for traveling
- A somewhat heavy neck relative to the rest of the guitar.
With just 24 inches in length, it’s ideal to take along on your travels. It has a very unique and slim design. What’s nice is that its odd body shape doesn’t affect its sound too much.
Naturally, it’s not a full-sized guitar and neither does it claim to sound like one. However, the tones are just right. With 15 frets, you can replicate the real experience wherever you are.
|Number of Frets:||15 frets|
The guitar is really well-built, having been made of mahogany wood with bronze strings. There’s also a soft gig bag so that you can keep it safe while on the go. It’s honestly one of the best travel guitars you can find.
2. Yamaha JR1 FG
If there’s one thing Yamaha instruments are known for, it’s their build quality and efficient pricing. The Yamaha JR1 FG does a good job of living up to that. It has a decent build quality and is quite inexpensive.
- Extremely well-priced
- Has a decent tone considering its price
- Good for beginners and children as well
- Needs a bit of fine-tuning before playing
This small guitar is good for beginners, children, and taking along on the road. It sounds much more pleasant than what is expected of it while having a knack for being durable. Plus, it’s ambidextrous.
If you’re looking for the best tone on a guitar, then this Yamaha JR1 FG might not be the best option. But if you’re willing to take a decent tone that can be enhanced with some fine-tuning, while also saving a lot of money, then this is an excellent option.
|Number of Frets:||20 frets|
|Material:||Spruce, Meranti, Nato|
It’s 21.25 inches long and just 4.75 pounds heavy. Light, bronze strings, a nato wood neck, and meranti wood body, packed in its gig case make it an ideal budget travel guitar.
3. Taylor GS Mini
Taylor guitars haven’t been around for as long as some of the household brands. However, there is no doubt that the company makes some of the best acoustic guitars with the Taylor GS Mini being one of its best sellers.
- Has a bold, full-sized tone
- Features excellent craftsmanship
- Great for live performances as well
- A bit pricey compared to other mini guitars
- The neck might be too thin
The guitar is based on the Grand Symphony, which is a highly critically-acclaimed model. It punches well above its weight class with a bold and melodious tone despite the smaller size.
GS Mini is a pro pick for a reason. It is well made with an ebony fretboard, Sapele back, and mahogany body. There are 20 frets on it and the neck is just over 1.68” wide. You can not only use this as a travel companion but also for writing songs, and even live performances.
|Number of Frets:||20 frets|
Overall, the GS Mini also carries a professional price tag. But if you don’t want to compromise the sound, then it’s perfect. There’s also a bass version.
Another Taylor guitar on the list, the BT2 is a great travel partner. The size, the tone, and the handiwork on this thing are ideal for almost anyone looking for a nice sound in a small body.
- Has a solid construction and hardware
- Carries a deep, bold sound
- Easy to play for beginners and pros alike
- A bit heavier than many other travel guitars
- The neck size might be too small
To start off, it’s three-quarters the size of a full-sized guitar. The neck is a pretty slim one as well with 1.68 inches. This could be a pro or con depending on your hand size.
Like most Taylor guitars, the Baby Taylor also has a nice sound. It can be compared to some of the full-sized guitars on the market. You won’t have to tune it too much either. Simply take it out of the box and start playing. It should sound good.
|Number of Frets:||19 frets|
The mahogany top, ebony bridge, and Sapele back make it a pretty sturdy guitar. And weighing 4.4 pounds, it comes with a soft gig bag that makes it comfortable to carry around where you like.
5. Martin LXK2
The second Martin guitar on the list, the LXK2 is the company’s smallest, yet one of the boldest and most versatile guitars. It’s great for students, intermediate, and pro-level players alike.
- Can be used in a range of settings
- Sounds nice right out of the box
- Has ambidextrous orientation
- Koa laminate protects from wear and tear
- The action is a little high
Despite being ¾ of a full-sized guitar, it packs a bold tone. Also, it doesn’t need a lot of fine-tuning. You can simply take it out of the bag and start jamming.
At just eight and a half pounds and 23 inches scale length, it is very comfortable to travel around with. It’s also layered with the Koa high-pressure laminate on the neck, back, and body. So, the guitar is well-built and can face some wear and tear.
|Number of Frets:||20 frets|
|Material:||Koa Wood, Stratabond|
The LXK2 does not have electronics. But if you want a compact and nice-sounding guitar to play at campfires, in jam sessions, or just practice at home, then it’s a good choice.
6. Fender FA-15N
Any guitar list is incomplete without featuring a Fender. The guitar maker has been one of the most well-known brands on the market for a very long time. And that’s because it makes really good products.
- Very easy on the pocket
- Excellent choice for beginners
- The laminated finish and gig bag make it last a long time
- Needs frequent tuning
The Fender FA-15N is no exception. It’s a great guitar to watch out for if you’re just starting to learn the instrument or want something inexpensive to take on your vacations.
Apart from the price, what really makes it a great starter guitar is its build. At just 3 pounds, it’s very lightweight. This makes it easy to play and carry pretty much anywhere. The strings are nylon. While they may not sound as good as metal strings, they sure are easy on your fingers.
|Number of Frets:||18 frets|
|Material:||Agathis, Sapele, Nato Wood|
The back is laminated Sapele while the top is laminated Agathis. Pair it with a soft gig bag, and it should stay protected for a long time.
7. Yamaha APXT2
Yamaha isn’t known just for its great pianos or drums or bikes, for that matter. The company also makes some really sweet guitars. Their best-selling guitar, the semi-acoustic APX500II, is also one of the best ones on the market. And the APXT2 is the 3/4th-sized version of it.
- Light, well-made guitar for travel
- Semi-acoustic System 68 pick-up and amp
- Has a built-in tuner
- The tone lacks a bit of depth
The APXT2 makes for a nice mini or travel guitar for many reasons. First off, it’s quite easy to play thanks to its solid construction. It’s only 5.3 pounds and has a 22.81-inch scale length.
Give it some fine-tuning and you’re ready to practice or take it with you anywhere you like. Also, the 3+3 headstock configuration makes it suitable for both left and right-handed people. The guitar also has electronic support. With System 68 pickup, an active preamp, and an onboard tuner, it’s a great fit in many settings.
|Number of Frets:||21 frets|
The craftsmanship on the APXT2 is also solid, a rosewood fingerboard and a spruce top. The electronics and the chrome hardware make it a great acoustic-electric travel guitar.
8. Cordoba Mini II M
Cordoba is one of the world’s best classical guitar makers. They have plenty of full-sized guitars in their catalog. They also have a smaller guitar, the Cordoba Mini M, but the consensus is that they sound like a ukulele.
The Mini II M is the perfect crossover for this problem. It’s a compact, half-sized classical guitar and actually has good character to its sound.
- The half-sized body makes it convenient to pack
- Is super affordable
- The wide neck is comfortable to hold
- Has an onboard tuner
- A bit thin
With a well-rounded and warm tone that tunes perfectly to standard E tuning, it’s great for jam sessions and beginner practice. Whereas, the nylon strings are easy on the hand and produce a softer sound.
It has a scale length of 22 ⅞ inches and weighs just 2.4 pounds. It also has an onboard tuner. So, you won’t give it a second thought before taking it with you on the road.
|Number of Frets:||19 frets|
Don’t expect the Mini II M to sound like a full-sized pro guitar. But it’s a very affordable and fun-to-play option that you should enjoy.
9. Gretsch Jim Dandy G9500
The Gretsch Jim Dandy G9500 is an ode to the 1930s and 40s vintage American guitars. It’s a great-sounding parlor guitar that’s ideal for campsites or jamming in the backyard.
- Warm, resonant tone
- Great for live performances and songwriting
- Easy to play, and stays in tune
- Setting action and fret level requires some effort
It’s a very comfortable guitar to hold and play. The 24” scale is made of basswood and offers a bold, resonant sound. You could strum or fingerpick all day and you won’t get tired of it.
The G9500 is extremely lightweight which makes it very suitable for traveling purposes with a 3-pound weight. 18 frets are more than enough for an immersive experience, as well as a 1.68” neck width.
|Number of Frets:||18 frets|
|Material:||Basswood, Nato Wood|
The G9500 Jim Dandy is a good, affordable pick for a variety of uses. Use it for songwriting at home, practice sessions, or live performances and you won’t be disappointed. No matter if you’re a beginner or a pro.
10. Ibanez 3/4 Mini
Ibanez is another one of those names that you’ll find a lot of musicians recommend. Their Mini Dreadnought is a pretty nifty mini guitar that is a great option for students or frequent travelers.
- Sits well in the hands of beginners and pros alike
- Produces a mellow yet rich sound
- Looks really nice with an open-pore finish
- Tends to fall out of tune
The guitar comes at an entry-level price but still manages to sound well above its expectations. Its mahogany body gives it a well-balanced tone, making it good for wherever you feel like playing.
Instead of nylon string, like other beginner guitars, the Mini comes with metal strings. Add to that the Ibanez advantage bridge pin and you have a guitar that doesn’t need too much maintenance.
|Number of Frets:||20 frets|
This is a lightweight, sturdy guitar that you can take with you conveniently. Store it in its soft gig bag and it will be with you for a long time.
What is a Travel/Mini Guitar?
A mini guitar is a scaled-down version of a regular guitar. It’s mostly aimed at adults with smaller hands, children, or people who want a good guitar to travel along with. Most mini/travel guitars are ¾ the size. Although, there are half-sized guitars available as well. Good quality mini guitars are lightweight and also sound great. This makes them an ideal choice to bring on a vacation.
Is a Travel/Mini guitar usable for gigs?
As the quality of mini guitars has increased over time, they have become an excellent option for gigging. In addition to having rich, full-sized sounds, they are also easier to carry. Another thing that mini guitars have going for them is that they are cheaper than regular guitars. So, even if you scratch or damage a mini guitar, it doesn’t hurt as much. Regarding the sound, they can hold their own.
What is the difference between a Travel/Mini guitar and a regular guitar?
While the design for both is the same, there are some key differences between the two. The most obvious one is their size. A guitar’s size is greater than 24” while a mini guitar doesn’t exceed more than 24”.
Full scale guitars have higher spring tension. Due to this, they tend to stay more in tune than mini guitars. Also, regular guitars have much more character and richness to their sound.
Mini guitars, however, are cheaper and weigh less than regular guitars. This makes them a cost-effective and a bit more convenient option for many guitarists.
What to look for in a Travel/Mini guitar?
Since the whole purpose of a travel/mini guitar is to have better portability and be more comfortable to play, the scale length, weight, and body size are major factors you should look out for. The lower they are, the better.
The guitar’s size will play a huge factor. Mini and travel-size guitars are mostly short-scale or 3/4 in size as opposed to full size, which is why they are travel-friendly and ultra-light. Luckily, the above list has many good choices. With a good guitar strap, you’re all set up.
You also want quality material like a maple neck, or hard maple body, perhaps a humbucker or classic single coil pickups. You might also come across a solid spruce top or a solid Sitka material which is also good.
There’s also the option of an acoustic-electric guitar, preferably with headphones for clear practice sessions, maybe an effect or two like reverb. Just something to consider.
Next is the price. Mini guitars come in a variety of price ranges. How much you want to spend is totally up to you. That said, you don’t want to pay a lot of money if you’re mostly an amateur player.
Above all though, you want a guitar that sounds nice. Don’t let any factors compromise that. If the guitar you buy with your hard-earned money has poor playability, then it can ruin the whole experience for you.
These are some of the best acoustic travel guitars on the market. Although, there are many more for you to choose from. A Mini guitar is a great travel companion due to its lightweight build and good-sounding tone.
The top pick, Martin Steel Spring Backpacker, is a uniquely stylish and great-sounding instrument that will please you and your audience.
If you’re running on a budget and want a reliable mini guitar, then the Yamaha JR1 FG might be a good pick for you.