I think there is some really great information above in regards to SLRs and their benefits. However, after reading the first post in this thread, an SLR just seems like too much camera and certainly more than what the poster wants or needs.
My thoughts are that he is looking for something that will be point and click but also provide good quality pictures. I would also think that if he plans on taking some vacation photos and getting some flexability out of his camera then he would want something with decent optical zoom as well. Also, I would think camera size plays an important role as well and something that can fit in a large purse would probably be the max size.
That being said. I like these three cameras.
- Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ5k
-Canon Powershot A520
-Sony DSC S60
The Panasonic is the best "bang for your buck" in my mind as it has 12x optical and plenty of options other than just auto shot if you are looking to get in to the details of picture taking a bit more. The Panasonic also has a somewhat slim profile even though it has 12x optical zoom. The only knock I have on this camera is the lack of an external flash "adapter". The built in flash will give you about 8-10 feet of range like most digitals these days.
The Canon and Sony are very similar in performance and price and offer the more commonplace 3-4X optical zoom. I threw these two in here as they were the ones i was looking at when I was making the same descision of what to get a year or so ago. I ended up going with the Sony as I thought it captured pictures just a bit quicker than the Canon but I think you can't go wrong with either one. Also, both of these should be in the sub $200 range right now.
If I was in the market to buy another camera right now it would be the Panasonic hands down. I just think you can't beat the performance for that price.
I would go check out the cameras in store before you buy just so you can try them out and see what you like. If you do end up getting a camera that takes AA batteries, do yourself a favor and get a good set of rechargable batteries.
Some good sources of information --
www.circuitcity.com -- the customer reviews are great.