Acoustic guitars are lightweight, portable instruments and generally not too difficult to carry – so what’s different about a so-called “Travel Guitar,” and why would anyone need one of these? First off, we should mention that the term “travel guitar” is a bit misleading. This term may suggest that such guitars are only meant to be taken on vacations, or that they are designed as substitute instruments and not quite as good as “real” guitars. In reality, many fine guitars built today could be classified as travel guitars (whether or not their manufacturers choose to market them as such). Although you could travel with almost any guitar placed in a protective case or gig bag, we want to narrow our choices to those instruments that you can take along on trips with the least amount of hassle. Sure, you can lug that jumbo in its hard-shell case – but when your arm starts to feel about two inches longer after a few days on the road, you may wish you had considered other options for a traveling companion.
A number of guitar builders make mini acoustic or travel guitars with different styles, features, and sizes. Choosing one that’s right for you will depend on a number of factors, including your budget, the intended use, and desired features. We’ve found no strict system for classifying travel guitars; but what often comes to mind are the small instruments marketed specifically as travel guitars (such as the Martin Backpacker, the Washburn Rover, and the Applecreek Acoustic Travel Guitar). A wide variety of such acoustics are available, including those made by some specialty manufacturers. They typically have non-traditional shapes, with small and thin bodies, or short necks, or even folding and sliding necks.
While such specially designed travel guitars are certainly intended to be taken just about anywhere, you should expect a compromise in terms of their sound and playability. There’s just no way around that. Are there any other options? Well, many traditional small size guitars would also make good travel companions. Among these are the double and triple “0” body parlor guitars that were a mainstay during the first half of the 20th century. Interestingly enough, today’s popular large bodied dreadnoughts and jumbos did not begin to gain widespread use until after mid-century. The parlor guitars that we would today call “small” were actually the “big” acoustics well into the 1900’s. During that period, musicians commonly traveled with guitars on their backs; so small size, lightweight instruments were ideally suited to moving about with relative ease.
With the advent of today’s lightweight backpack style gig bags, many triple or double “0” size guitars can make a good choice for travel. An attractive and affordable guitar in this class is the Morgan Monroe MMV-5 Mini Six. This solid spruce top model offers you a great sounding and smooth playing “jumbo style mini” guitar with a 22 1/2” scale and a 34 1/2” overall length. Finished down to the essence of simplicity, this no frills guitar includes a deluxe padded gig bag and makes an ideal travel companion as well as a great guitar for daily use. Another good choice among traditional looking guitars – and one specifically designed and marketed as a travel guitar – is the Compass ST10 from Sierra Guitars. Similar in length to the Morgan Monroe MMV-5, this 34 inch instrument also has features that most guitar players expect (including a solid spruce top). It comes in a compact size that makes it ideal for taking along on vacations and other trips; but it still produces a big sound and a rich tone. The ST10 includes a stylish padded gig bag and offers the benefit of an affordable price tag, as well. In addition to travel uses, the Morgan Monroe Mini and the Sierra ST10 Compass Travel Guitar both make great choices for children, smaller framed individuals, or anyone who just wants a more comfortable size instrument.