A few years ago, my dad went up to our local pub to support a charity auction. He came back with a night's limo hire (don't ask) and a holiday to the South of France. I can't remember how much he paid for his holiday, but I do remember thinking that it was a bargain. His flights were not included, I booked those separately for him through a budget airline. I did the same with the car hire. What he did win in the auction was two weeks in a fantastic villa in a remote part of the South of France. It had a swimming pool, it was close to the beach and it was wonderfully well looked after because it was somebody's holiday home.
Fast forward a few years and holiday auctions are becoming more common. I haven't since seen one in a charity auction (and believe me, I've searched high and low!), But there are quite a few websites online where people auction a stay in their holiday home or timeshare. As with my dad's bargain, these sorts of auctions don't tend to include your flights. That said though, with budget airlines springing up all over the place, flights don't tend to set you back too much. It is also worth hiring a car if you are going to be staying in somebody's privately owned apartment. They are often slightly away from the main tourist areas.
Other websites allow you to bid for a stay in a hotel. Again, flights are often not included. You need to make sure you read the small print if you are going to bid on these kinds of auctions. You often have to pay to bid, and the highest bid over a certain (undisclosed) amount will win. Before you bid, you need to either be absolutely sure that you want to win the auction or make sure that you are not under an obligation to pay if your bid wins. The more reputable sites will never force you to pay if you later decide that you don't want the holiday.
More recently, it has become possible to win a holiday through a lowest unique bid auction. These are similar to normal auctions, but instead of the highest bid, the lowest bid that only one person has placed will win the auction. Reputable lowest unique bid companies will pay for your travel as well as your accommodation. Again, a fee is charged to enter these auctions. The fee can vary from £ 1 right up to £ 10 and more. Make sure you set yourself a budget if you are going to try to win your holiday in a lowest unique bid auction. Winning becomes easier the more bids you place, because you will be told the status of each bid so you can work out what the lowest unique bid is likely to be. However, if you go for a company that charges £ 10 per bid, the cost of entering can soon mount up.
If you are thinking of going on holiday, it is certainly worth shopping around and considering some of these more unusual ways of buying (or winning) your holiday.