We have all done it on occasion. You know gather, the family for an awesome vacation photo, only to realize that someone would need to be left out to hold the camera. The problem with finding the perfect picture spot if you are visiting an off the beaten path location is that often times you must switch out and short of photo shopping yourself into the image after the fact, your choices are limited.
The first suggestion that I have is to simply use the time setting on your camera. This works great if there is a level surface directly from where you want the photo to be taken, but what do you do if there is no picnic table or level surface? (Que Dramatic drumroll music please!)
Check Out A Bottle Top Tripod!
Available from many locations online including eBay and Amazon, these little toppers snap right on top of most water or soda bottles. Because of their small size you can just grab it and stash it in your adventure kit, or it easily fits in your pocket. Because you will probably be travelling with at least some sort of bottle, you should be in great shape!
The commercial version shown above is great because it's not only very inexpensive, but it also fits on just about any bottle. However, if you want to make your own, it's pretty simple too! Just grab an empty bottle cap from your favorite brand of soda and follow these instructions!
I realize that you might not always want to use a soda bottle, or maybe you're on an uneven surface. My suggestion would be to check out one of the bendy table top camera tripods that are available. Again purchasing them online rather than at Walmart of a photo shop can save you a ton of cash. I have seen them for about 2 bucks online but they are usually shipped from China. If you not in a rush to get it, that is definitely the cheapest way to go.
I generally carry my iPhone with me as a camera replacement when I'm going on adventures, and I have noticed that there aren't very many tripod solutions for them that won't set you back a mortgage payment. I actually found an awesome YouTube video that will show you how to make a nice little adapter that will fit your iPhone or iPod to a bendy or bottle top camera tripod. I have a few of these little clips kicking around so I think I'll give it a shot!
One last little tidbit, to help you improve your traveling photography is an awesome idea for a camera stabilizer. I generally don't have much issue with camera shake with my small point and shoot camera, but if you have a heavy SLR type camera you might want to check an awesome DIY stabilizer that winds up and just goes in your pocket.
With all of these helpful suggestions, there is no reason why you can't take better photos and even get in a few of them yourself!