The quick answer is “it depends.”
If you’re going on a photo vacation then take everything!
Pack it into a Think Tank (I don’t get paid for saying this.) Airport Security or Airport International rolling case or their wonderful (I own one.) Shape Shifter. But remember, when you load these suckers up they are going to weigh a lot. If you’re on a family vacation this might be too much equipment to bring let alone carry. Also Think Tank bags aren’t cheap but they’re priceless when it comes to protecting my gear.
Okay then what about a point-and-shoot?
You can get tiny cameras that will do the trick and can be carried in a pocket. One of the best is the Canon S95.
There are tons of great travel cameras.
Some are DSLR-like with all the bells and whistles with the exception of interchangeable lenses. All the major camera manufacturers make these sort of cameras. Their big advantage is everything is in the camera including an wide angle to long (sometimes very long) zoom lens that’s fast enough (f/2.8) for low-light photography.
A new breed of mirror-less camera are IMHO the best of both worlds. I’ve got an Olympus E-PL-2 and four lenses which fit into a small camera bag.
When my wife takes it, I put on the standard zoom lens and set the camera into automatic. The camera resets itself to factory specs when in automatic every time it’s turned on and off. This means the camera will work every time she turns it on and off. When I take the camera with me I can use the advanced controls with ease.
The camera also shoot Hi-Def video and has provisions for an external microphone so I get fabulous audio plus great video.
Taking photos when you’re on vacation is great fun especially if you’ve got equipment that you understand and is light enough to carry all day. I can’t say I’d welcome an entire day of carrying my professional kit over one shoulder – especially at my age.
There are lots of photo opportunities when a point and shoot might be the solution and, then again, there are days when only the very best will do 🙂