Travel compacts, or 'long zoom' compacts, give you point and shoot simplicity but a much longer zoom to capture a wider range of subjects.
A cheap point-and-shoot compact is a relatively small step up from the camera in a smartphone, but long-zoom 'travel' compacts take their main advantage – the zoom lens – a whole lot further. A 'travel compact' is essentially a point-and-shoot camera but with a much, much longer zoom range, typically 30x.
The idea is that you have a camera that still fits in your pocket, but has such a colossal zoom range that you can photograph practically anything, from beautiful landscapes to far-off landmarks.
After all, when you go on vacation you want a camera small enough to go in a pocket so that it doesn't get in the way when you're doing other things, but versatile enough that you won't miss any once-in-a-lifetime photos.
Travel compacts have the same size sensors as point-and-shoot compacts, but this is changing, with models like the Panasonic Lumix ZS100 (known as the Lumix TZ100 outside the US) getting larger 1-inch sized sensors, while the lenses are generally better quality, quite apart from their increased zoom range. Some have more advanced exposure modes for controlling the shutter speed and lens aperture independently, and may even capture RAW files for higher-quality processing back on the computer. Some, like the Lumix TZ100 / ZS100 again, even have built-in electronic viewfinders.
If your budget can stretch to it, a long-zoom travel compact is almost certainly a better bet than a cheaper point-and-shoot model. You gain a lot and sacrifice nothing.
Pros: Massive zoom range that copes with almost any kind of subject; quality generally slightly higher than a point-and-shoot compact; may have more advanced controls.
Cons: More expensive; still uses a small sensor (with some exceptions) which limits the ultimate picture quality, especially in low-light conditions.
Our pick... Panasonic Lumix ZS100 / TZ100
It might not have the longest zoom range for a travel compact camera, but Panasonic's Lumix ZS100 / TZ100 is still our pick of the travel compacts. Panasonic has managed to squeeze a much larger sensor into the ZS100 (TZ100 outside the US) that enables the pixels to be about 2.4x bigger than they are in models like the Lumix ZS70 / TZ90 and this helps the ZS100 produce much higher quality images. The 10x zoom ranging from 25-250mm might look limited compared to some rivals, but the optics are decent and for general photography, you shouldn't need anything more. You also get an electronic viewfinder that makes it easier to compose images in bright sunny conditions and 4K video recording. It all adds up to be a powerful, if pricey option.