For me, what makes a camera great for traveling is one that is small, light weight, has very good high-ISO performance for shooting in dark buildings or museums where flash photography is strictly prohibited. Because of the restrictions on flash usage, having either a lens that is stabilized or camera body that uses sensor-shift technology to stabilize the image is extremely important. Having the stabilization system within the body such as what Pentax, Sony, and Olympus has done is much preferred over stabilized lenses such as what Nikon and Canon have chosen to do. In-body image stabilization will stabilize any and all lenses while with Canon and Nikon you're limited to just those lenses with IS or VR.
Travel photographers need basically two types of focal lengths: extremely wide zoom and a telephoto zoom. I've found this to be true on my on travels as I'm either shooting very wide or getting close for portraits, candids, or detail shots of architecture or the landscape. So an ideal kit will have these lenses, or if you're not looking to go with an interchangeable lens camera, then at least get a point-and-shoot with a good wide-angle lens of 24mm (equivalent to 35mm format) or wider.
For those who are not interested in taking video, Canon, Nikon, and Pentax's DSLRs are very good. Pentax's entry-level bodies are the best for travelers since Pentax uses sensor shift while Canon and Nikon only use in-lens stabilization which means more expensive lenses, and more lens elements which can lower the sharpness due to too many lens elements.
For those interested in video too, Sony or Panasonic are really the only brands who've taken video seriously. Canon hasn't because they don't want to hurt their camcorder and dedicated video camera sales. Nikon just doesn't have the know-how since they've always just rebadged Sony camcorders in the past. Plus both brands really think that their cameras are for stills and that video is just an afterthought. Not so with Sony and Panasonic which have 2-3 year old mirrorless camera bodies that have better video performance than the newest and most expensive DSLRs from either Canon or Nikon.
To keep it small go mirrorless. Sony's mirrorless are the best and have the largest sensors which produce superior image quality to any camera with a smaller sensor such as the Olympus OM-D EM series which use the Micro 4/3 format sensor. While technically not superior to the APS-C and full-frame sensor cameras, Olympus' OM-D cameras are among the best Micro 4/3 DSLRs and are a great little camera for traveling.
If you want a pocket camera, Sony, Nikon, Canon, Panasonic all make cheap to expensive models. You will pay more and get less with Canon and Nikon due to their popularity and their huge marketing budget. Compare that to Sony or Panasonic and they will provide as good if not better performance at a better price, especially at the very low-end range of cameras. At the high end of compacts (above $400) all three C/N/S are producing some very good cameras.