You can do pretty much anything from home these days. You can buy movie tickets, book airline flights, tour a waterfront condo, even buy your groceries. If you're planning a vacation and you're not interested in surrounding yourself with the generically expensive confines of a hotel room, you can just as easily find an apartment or condo to rent instead. Here's some advice on doing so.
Where to Look
A search for "vacation rentals" in any search engine will yield literally thousands of results, since there are nearly as many agencies peddling rental properties as there are real estate agents wanting to sell you a property. Some of the best known sites are vacationrentals.com and vrbo.com (vacation rentals by owner), but you can also find some vacation rentals through web-based travel agents like Travelocity or AirBNB. There is no one way for letting vacation property, so be sure you know who you're dealing with.
What to Look For
In the same way that you know you can trust that a property suggested to you by a real property being sold by its actual owners, you'll want to look for an agency that acts as an intermediary between the property owner and you. That way there's a smaller chance you'll get scammed by someone who posted pictures of a property they don't own. You'll also want to look at the hotel rates in your destination city to make sure you're getting a good deal, and you'll also want to look at location and size to see if it suits your family and travel arrangements.
Popular Vacation Destinations
It is much easier to find whatever you're looking for in a place with a lot of people. There are more townhouses in Toronto than there are in Thunder Bay, and there are more vacation rentals in Maui than Fargo, North Dakota. However, with vacation rentals, availability depends less on the population of the city or town than it does on its popularity with vacationers. Tofino, British Columbia ranks near the bottom of that province's settlements in terms of proportion, but it has a high proportion of vacation rentals because it's a popular tourist destination.
Even if you can't persuade a real estate agent to act as an intermediary, it is still possible to proceed safely. Check public property ownership listings for the city to make sure the owner can let the house. And never send money in advance.