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Small Instruments for Musicians Who Love to Travel

Small Instruments for Musicians Who Love to Travel

beach-musician-300x199Backpacking with a large instrument like a guitar, a keyboard, a bass guitar, a tuba, or heck, a cello, can be difficult. Although guitars are fairly portable, they can still be a bit too bulky for the constant traveler. Luckily, there are many small instruments that are perfectly travel-sized and ready for any journey. Not only that, many of them are also super cool in their own right.

I’m preparing to take some trips of my own over the next few months and although I’m pretty darn sentimental about my guitar, I’ve decided to leave it behind for now and track down a small instrument to call my new best friend.

This is a great list for guitar players who are looking to scale down, but it’s also worth a look for other musicians who are looking for a more portable option. A lot of skills transfer over between instruments, so don’t be afraid. Many instruments can be easier to learn than you may think.

Whether you’re brand new to music and looking to learn an instrument for the very first time, or you’re looking to travel light while doing some street performing, or you just want to jam with your many hostel-mates and Couchsurfing hosts, one of the below instruments may just be the perfect fit for you.

Ukulele

The King of Small Instruments

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The ukulele is one of the smallest stringed instruments out there, and is great for traveling musicians who want to carry light. Many ukuleles are also available at great prices, many for under $50. On the other hand, if you’re a singer/songwriter who is accustomed to singing emotional ballads you might have some adjusting to do. It’s pretty difficult to make any song sound too sad when the ukulele is backing you up.

Mandolin

The Folk-Lovers Ukulele on Steroids

The mandolin is another small instrument that’s a great choice for travelers, especially if you’re into folk music. The instrument has one of the most unique sounds you’ve heard and works great as a solo instrument or as accompaniment for your voice. Compared to the ukulele, the mandolin has a lot of versatility and can create a much more diverse array of sounds.

Harmonica

The Classic Travelers Sidekick

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If you don’t have any interest in singing while playing, then the harmonica is a great choice for you. It’s also probably the easiest small instrument to carry around. On the cheaper side you can get a harmonica for under $10, but if you’re looking for something that’s higher quality you’ll probably want to go with something like the Hohner Marine Band harmonica.  The only drawback is that you’ll need different harmonicas for different keys, which can become an issue if you want to do a lot of jamming with your hostel-mates or anyone you meet on the road.

Melodica

A Piano Lover’s Strange Mistress

The melodica is a little less well-known, but is a really cool sounding instrument that kind of sounds like a cross between a harmonica and an accordion. This also happens to be one of the best small instruments for piano players who want to keep playing while on the road. Believe me, it’s going to be a heck of a lot better than carrying a keyboard, or god forbid, a piano around.

Violin/Fiddle

For the Cultured Professional

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Depending on how you play it, you may either call this a violin or a fiddle, but regardless, there’s no denying that it can be one of the most beautiful sounding instruments in the world when in the hand of an expert. However it can also be one of the most terrible sounding if you’re not quite up to par. The learning curve for this instrument is a bit higher than many of the others on this list,  but if you’re up to the task, a violin (or fiddle) may be a great small instrument to carry around with you while you trot around the globe.

Backpacker Guitar

For Guitarists Resistant to Change

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If you’re a guitarist and REALLY can’t stand to leave your guitar behind, you do have the option of getting a Martin backpacker guitar. They’re portable, lightweight, and a perfect way to get your guitar playing fix while on the road. Although truth be told, they are a little funny looking.


How have you guys dealt with carrying instruments while traveling? Any tips, methods, or interesting small instruments that you would like to share with the class?

Let me know in the comments below.

7 Unconventional Hotel Alternatives for Cheap Travel

7 Unconventional Hotel Alternatives for Cheap Travel

If you’re anything like me, you probably love to travel and discover new places.

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BUT… your wallet doesn’t always have the same aspirations.

Luckily, over the past few years all kinds of new options have sprung up around the world for sidestepping expensive hotels and seeing new places on a budget.

Whether you’re a broke college student and HAVE no other options or you’re just looking to save a few bucks, here are some of the best cheap travel alternatives, both new and old, for seeing a little of the world while avoiding expensive hotels.

1. Airbnb and VRBO

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Airbnb is one of the best and most well-known hotel alternatives for people traveling on a budget. VRBO works the same way. Users can post a space that can be booked, while other users request to stay.

You can find all kinds of lodging spaces on these sites: entire mansions, tiki huts, yurts, an idle RV or camper, or simply an extra room in a house or apartment.

Travelers can easily sort through the available options while looking in their specific price range. Rooms can be found around the world, and prices can range anywhere from $10 a night to over $1000.

Of course it’s good to be a safe when staying with strangers in a strange locale, so both travelers and hosts leave ratings and reviews for each other.

2. Couchsurfing

Just like Airbnb, Couchsurfing lets you stay in homes of real live people. On Couchsurfing however, it’s free.

With Couchsurfing you browse through personal profiles of hosts, and then message them telling them about your trip, and requesting a place to stay. Typically all users have available is a couch, but if you’re lucky you may get a pull-out futon, or even a guest room.

The point of Couchsurfing seems to be more about facilitating a cultural exchange between travelers and locals. Travelers get a more “local-ized” experience, and hosts get to meet a cool traveler from another part of the world. It’s a win-win.

Just be sure to be a good guest. Respect your host’s property, belongings, and schedule. You may even consider cooking dinner for your host during your stay.

3. Hostels

Although this may be an obvious cheap travel choice for people living in Europe or other parts of the world, people in the U.S seem to know very little about hostels.

Hostels are similar to hotels but guests stay in dorm rooms and typically sleep on bunk beds. Many hostels also have private rooms, though.

The environment of a hostel is also very different than a hotel and is geared towards socializing, meeting other guests, and hanging out in common areas. Many hostels also lead guests out to events and activities around the area.

Basically if you can stand sleeping on a bunk bed and not having much privacy, you will have an instant social circle.

Hostels are much cheaper than hotels as well. In the U.S. most hostels seem to cost anywhere from around $15-$35 for a night.

Check out Hostels.com or Hostelworld, or Hostelbookers to find them.

4. Work Exchange: Workaway, Wwoofing, and HelpX

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For those wanting to stay in a location for a longer period of time, such as a few weeks, or even a few months, work exchange is a great way to see another part of the world and stay for free.

Workaway, Wwoofing, and HelpX all have hosts that would love to have you come stay with them in exchange for a few hours of work every week.

Opportunities include organic farming, housekeeping at hostels and guesthouses, or even helping families out around the house.

Wwoofing is focused on work exchange for organic farms, but Workaway and HelpX both post all kinds of opportunities.

5. Camping

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Camping is a pretty common method for cheap travel, and has been around since the dawn of time (Although, the cavemen probably didn’t call it camping. They probably just called it, you know, living.) Luckily, it’s now easier than ever for campers and there are many websites that make finding a good camping spot a breeze.

Freecampsites.net allows users to browse through and post free and cheap camping areas, and is a great resource for for the budget-minded traveler.

Sites like Goodsamclub.com mostly has listings of paid campsites, but is also a great resource for both RVers and tent campers.

Also keep in mind that anyone can camp for free on U.S. National Forest land. Many National Forests offer paid primitive camping sites, but go just a few miles outside of these campgrounds and you’re welcome to camp for free.

6. Stay With People You Know (Or People THEY Know)

You don’t just have to stay alone or with strangers. If you have friends or relatives across the country many of them would probably love to have you visit with them for a few days. They may have a couch for you to sleep on, a space in the backyard for your tent, or even an entire guest room available.

But don’t stop there. You can also try reaching out to your Facebook friends. Tell your friends where you’re going and they just might be able to hook you up with someone they know that would love to host you for a day or two.

You never know until you ask.

7. Car Camping

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This is probably my least favorite option for cheap travel, but it is also one of the easiest. If you’re especially lacking on funds and have no other options in the area you’re traveling through, car camping is always an option.

If you have a bigger vehicle like an SUV or a van you can probably make yourself a nice little sleeping spot in the back of your vehicle. Find a good spot and either crack open a window or load yourself down with blankets (depending on the season), and try your best to relax.

There are many public rest stops across the US, so they’re one of the best options for getting a good night’s sleep. Wal-Marts are also rampant and many are open 24 hours. Other 24 hour stores and businesses could be good options, too.

In addition to actual campsites, Freecampsites.net also lists many options for car camping.


So there you have it, several hotel alternatives that allow you to stay around the country (or world) with a minimal amount of money in your wallet. Personally there are some of these I prefer more than others, and I’m sure the same will be the case for you.

And of course all of these methods can be potentially dangerous, so be sure to travel safe and use common sense.