A uke can be a fantastic travel companion. Whether you’re camping or heading out for an adventure, having a uke with you can allow you to entertain friends, enjoy some great tunes or just keep yourself company on your solo adventures. The best travel ukulele not only provides fantastic sound quality and tone, but is durable enough to handle the rigors of travel and is small enough for you to comfortably carry or fit into airline overhead storage bins.
Our team has reviewed over 20 travel ukuleles to assess how they perform and the sound quality. We’ve compiled a list and our editor’s choice, the Luna Vintage offers an excellent sound and beautiful finish while being beginner friendly. However, we’ve also ranked other travel ukes at different price points and different types to ensure there is a top pick to suit you.
Top 5 Travel Ukuleles Review 2020
Our team has spent hours researching the very best options to find which travel ukulele has the best design and features, whether you’re a beginner looking to learn or a more experienced uke player. The first and foremost thing we considered was sound quality, which is critical for any instrument. The weight and materials were also important, as your uke needs to be light enough to carry while being durable enough to withstand the rigors of traveling. The overall look and feel of a travel uke were also crucial, in addition to the balance between price and quality features. We’ve presented our research as a simple overview table coupled with a list of detailed travel uke reviews. You’ll also see that we’ve included a buying guide to guide you through the decision-making process.
Luna Vintage Ukulele – Editor’s Choice
- Type: acoustic
- Size: soprano
- Dimensions: 27 x 10 x 6 in.
- Body material: mahogany, spruce
- Weight: 1.14 lbs.
Other features: 12 frets, walnut fingerboard, open-style tuners, walnut bridge, black satin finish, triangle inlays and a laser-etched rosette around the sound hole
The Luna Vintage ukulele is another soprano model from the popular brand. It has a lightweight and small size that makes it a great choice for all players including beginners, as it is easy for practice and transport.
What makes this model stand out as our pick for the best travel ukulele is the materials used. Luna only uses excellent materials to provide a quality sound. This helps the Luna Vintage to sound bright and warm like any uke should sound. These materials also provide superb durability, so you can be assured of a reliable instrument for many years to come.
If you don’t like all the tattoo or gimmicky designs, the Vintage is the instrument for you. It has a down to earth, unassuming design with a satin finish that makes it even more beautiful. This makes this uke ideal for those who prefer to be calm and collected.
If you’re looking for a stylish and great sounding uke, then Luna is a brand to deliver. These instruments are carefully crafted with beautiful designs and high quality strings. Despite this quality, the Luna Vintage is in the moderate price range, so you don’t need to worry about breaking the bank.
- Beginner friendly
- Beautiful finish
- Excellent Sound
- Gig bags that are often supplied are not the highest quality
Kala KA-SSTU-T Ukulele Bundle – Best Tenor
- Type: acoustic
- Size: tenor
- Dimensions: 28 x 6 x 11 in.
- Body material: spruce, mahogany
- Weight: 2.35 lbs.
Other features: 18 frets, laurel fingerboard, satin finish, an easy-to-use clip-on tuner, Custom Deluxe gig bag included
The Kala KA SSTU-T is our pick as the best tenor travel ukulele offering players a sturdy wood top with laminated back and sides for excellent durability and sound. The genuine rosewood fretboard and bridge produce clean and resonant notes and chords with a pure, clear timbre.
This tenor ukulele weighs only 2.4 pounds, making it an incredibly portable and compact design. It is also thinner than many standard tenors, so it is easier to carry around on your travels. This instrument really does have it all; great sound quality, excellent ease of play, quality workmanship and superb aesthetics that exemplify the Kala brand. WIth the KA SSTU-T you don’t need to sacrifice audio or instrument quality for lightweight and compact portability. You can enjoy a professional, potent tone that can be taken with you wherever you do. This instrument plays as neatly as it looks and is built to be used on the go. It offers a surprisingly rich, full audio quality despite its size and showcases the quality workmanship with rosewood detailing and die cast chrome geared tuners detailed with black buttons. There are even position marks on the top and sides of the fretboard incorporated into the design to aid new players as they learn. This makes this ukulele a great choice for beginners or experienced players alike.
- Quality workmanship
- Rich and full audio quality
- Great for beginners or experienced players
- Thinner size may take a little getting used to
- Slightly high nut and string action
UBETA UC-031 Ukulele Bundle – Best Concert Ukulele
- Type: acoustic electric
- Size: concert
- Dimensions: 2 x 8.3 x 23 in.
- Body material: mahogany
- Weight: 2.1 lbs.
Other features: rosewood bridge and fingerboard, advanced tuner, special fret wire to avoid scratching, full set of essential accessories for beginners
The UBETA UC 031 is a fantastic beginner-friendly concert ukulele offering superb features for a modest price. This bundle also provides some great accessories including chord charts, a ukulele tuner, strap and strap pins.
The UC 031 is far thinner than a regular uke, but it has a rounded back that creates better resonance and bright, warm tones. The strings hold their tune and can provide a good sound, while the wood feels sturdy and looks nice. At this price point, even if the accessories are not the best quality, you’re getting a great instrument at a very reasonable price. The strings tend to be too high, so it is not completely playable straight out of the box, but it does make a good choice for a beginner if you have access to help with the setup.
The mahogany neck and body provide brighter sounds, while the rosewood bridge and fingerboard offer a comfortable feel as you play. The Italy Aquila nylon strings are very durable and deliver optimal volume with a clear, balanced tone. The UC 031 is also supplied with a gig bag that is an acceptable quality that feels lightweight yet sturdy enough to carry your ukulele on all your travels.
- Beginner friendly
- Decent sound
- Lots of additional gear provided
- Requires professional set up
- Does lack a little sophistication
Kmise Travel Ukulele – Best Starter
- Type: acoustic
- Size: tenor
- Dimensions: 28.1 x 12 x 4.3 in.
- Body material: zebrawood
- Weight: 2.34 lbs.
Other features: 18 frets, rosewood fingerboard and bridge, natural matte finish, Aquila strings, celluloid abalone rosette and binding
The Kmise travel ukulele may be an inexpensive option, but it lacks the “tinny” sound that is often associated with a plastic ukulele. The brand has made a great number of changes and the company’s entire product range is stellar. This makes this ukulele an excellent option for those who want to get started but lack the cash for a mahogany uke. You can purchase a Kmise travel ukulele and all the accessories you need to get started for less than what you may pay for just a uke from other brands.
For the price, this uke is great. It offers amazing tone and a rich sound with contrasting details that look attractive in any setting. The copper tuning pegs do a great job of keeping the gears and tuning stable, particularly after the initial string stretching period. The Kmise ukes also feature a special bridge design that allows players to easily change strings if they need to be replaced or break. All of these features combine to provide a uke that looks cool, sounds great and is easy to play.
- Impressive sound
- Nice design
- Good starter price
- String stock is not the best
Kala Makala Shark Soprano Ukulele – Budget Pick
- Type: acoustic
- Size: soprano
- Dimensions: 21.1 x 7 x 2.4 in.
- Body material: kauri
- Weight: 1.35 lbs.
Other features: 12 frets, a mahogany neck, walnut fingerboard, shark-shaped bridge, geared tuners and Aquila Super Nylgut strings
The Makala Kala Shark is an affordable, yet decent instrument from one of the best names in entry level ukes. While the build quality is not flawless, it is better than most in this price range. The Shark also offers great playability and nice sound.
Considering the price point, the Shark is reasonably good and it is better than many ukes in this price range and beyond. The only obvious quality issue is that the tuners have loose plastic washers that can vibrate at certain pitches. This is a small issue, but it may annoy some players.
Straight out of the box, the Shark plays well with low enough string action, so you won’t struggle to play. The action may be a little high for some, but this can be brought down with a little basic set up work. This may go beyond the comfort level and skill of a beginner, so you may need to consult an expert or tutor.
The tone is quieter and thinner than some other models, but the Shark does sound far better than many cheap ukes. This may be due to the composite sides and back, which can also leave this uke feeling a little dense.
Like all ukes in the Kala line, the Shark is equipped with Aquila Nylgut strings, which are superior to the cheap nylon strings that are often found on a budget uke.
- Very affordable
- Great playable
- Nice sound
- Quieter, thinner tone
- Some build quality flaws
A ukulele can be a fantastic travel companion, providing entertainment on the road even if you are off the beaten track. However, with so many different models on the market, making a purchase decision can be a little tricky. So, we’ve produced a buying guide with the things to consider and features to look for, in addition to answers to common questions to help you make your purchase decision.
Things to consider before buying a travel ukulele
Before you start shopping, there are a number of things you will need to consider. Ukuleles can be sensitive to the environment, so you will need to consider where you intend to travel. If it is too dry or it may be exposed to water at the beach or pool side, it can suffer damage, so you may need to opt for a plastic model. If you intend to travel frequently, a harder wood instrument is likely to be more durable to stand up to the rigors of travel. Finally, you need to consider how you will transport your ukulele. You’d better avoid baggage handlers and take your ukulele as carry-on when you fly, but it is still a good idea to have a hard case to ensure that it is fully protected.
Features to consider when choosing a travel ukulele
With so many ukuleles on the market, it can be difficult to make a purchase decision. However, there are some features to consider that can help you to narrow down your options and find the right instrument for your specific requirements.
There are a number of types of ukulele, but the most common are wooden and plastic. As with any instrument, the quality can vary according to the materials used and low quality materials can not only affect durability, but also sound quality and tone. As we touched on above, if you’re planning to travel to a very dry environment or your ukulele may be exposed to water, poolside or at the beach, a plastic uke may be the best option. However, if you’re not planning to travel to these types of areas, you may prefer the sound quality and feel of a wooden uke.
Another consideration for the type of uke, is whether you opt for an acoustic instrument or an acoustic electric. Most of us think of acoustic instruments when we picture a uke, but there are also acoustic electric models that feature built-in electronics that allow connection to an external amp to project the sound.
The durability of a uke is largely a result of the build quality and materials. Obviously, you want your uke to be able to handle the rigors of travel, so it is important to choose a model that offers decent durability without compromising on sound quality.
The first ukuleles were often soprano sized like Luna Vintage Ukulele and Makala Kala Shark Ukulele and this is still known as the standard size today. As the popularity of the instrument increased over time, tenor and concert size ukuleles were introduced to meet the demand for fuller, bigger sounds. The first tenor and concert sized ukes were sold in the 1920s and immediately made the instrument more accessible. It wasn’t until the 1950s when the baritone uke appeared on the market. This was thought to be designed as a small guitar or big uke, but it meant the instrument appealed to an even larger demographic.
The dimensions of a uke are often determined by the type. Sopranos are obviously smaller than the other types, but this is not the extent of the issue. There are different body thicknesses that can affect the quality of the sound and tone.
While all ukes are generally lighter compared to guitars, there are some differences in weight between models. The style of uke is a major factor, with the small sopranos being the lightest and baritones being heavier. However, the material also plays a role. Harder wood is heavier and will affect the overall weight of the instrument. For example, mahogany is heavier than softwood, and both are heavier than composite.
If you’re planning on taking your uke on your travels, it is a good idea to purchase a good gig bag. A good quality gig bag will not only protect your uke from the elements and any debris, but make it easier to carry around. If you intend to travel frequently, it is worth investing in a hard shell case that can provide greater protection against dents and scratches.
Finally, there are other features to look for. Geared tuners can help your uke to remain in tune for prolonged periods and if you’re a complete beginner, you may prefer to choose a uke that is supplied with additional extras such as straps, and other essentials that can help you to get started. Even if the accessories provided are not the best quality, you can always upgrade as you become a more confident player and develop your preferences. For example, the UBETA UC 031 is supplied with a full beginner’s kit making it an excellent option for new players.
Travel ukuleles tend to be lighter with a thinner body and greater durability. Typically, a travel ukulele will cost less than a standard model, but this depends on the cost. If you opt for a top of the line travel ukulele, you may end up paying more than you would for a budget standard uke.
It is always a good idea to avoid exposing your uke to baggage handlers and the potentially damaging conditions in the hold. Most airlines publish guides for the size and weight of carry-on items, which will affect whether you can bring your uke on a plane. For example, Delta classes a uke as part of the free carry-on baggage for passengers, but it must be able to easily fit in the overhead bins or approved storage areas in the cabin.
In our list of the best ukes, the UBETA UC-031 stands out as it is not only supplied with a great starter kit, making it very beginner friendly, but it also provides a great sound. While it does lack a little sophistication, it is decent quality and delivers a clear, balanced tone.
The Kala KA-SSTU-T is another great ukulele bundle that offers a fantastic balance of excellent ease of play, superb aesthetic, quality workmanship and great sound quality that are an excellent example of what is produced by the Kala brand.
However, the stand out as the best travel ukulele has to be the Luna Vintage. Despite the modest price range, the Luna Vintage is carefully crafted with high quality strings and a beautiful design that exudes quality, providing a bright, warm sound that you would expect from a fantastic uke.