So at the insistence of my mom, of all people (she digs my photography), I went out and plunked what should've been a good chunk of my upcoming trip money on a new Nikon digital SLR (D40).
Here are the results from mucking around with it last weekend... I don't think I can ever go back to point-and-shoot, except to have it as a "sidearm" when going to places where a big ol' SLR would be inappropriate.
The camera's rock solid. It's super light, somewhat compact for an SLR, and despite having a low pixel count (6.2mp as opposed to the 10mp of its peers) it is ridiculously sharp. The best part is that it's compatible with every Nikon lens made since 1959 (only you can't autofocus/meter if it's not an AF-S lens) which means I can use all my dad's old stuff from his Nikon F1.
A few days with this mofo and I already feel like an expert! :D