I have recently taken several trips that required searching for airfare. Not one of my favorite things to do, but compared to driving thousands of miles I will invest time and effort to squirrel out the best deal.
My first stop is always Travelocity, followed by Kayak and various others. I always end up on Priceline and usually purchase through them. If booking far enough in advance, there are ways to save money such as purchasing tickets at least a month before travel dates, purchasing tickets on Tuesday (why Tuesday?) and by checking surrounding airports or being flexible on your dates of travel.
On our most recent trip, I needed 4 airline tickets with different return dates, a one way rental car and a couple of hotel rooms. A tall order when looking to save enough to make it less expensive than driving the entire trip.
Normally, I can add on a hotel or car and watch the price drop. Often it drops more than that cost of the additional item added to the trip. For example, three of us traveling and needing a car. I searched for the flights from Cincinnati, OH to Jacksonville, FL without a car. Prices varied from $275 to well.. UNREAL… Then I added a car to the trip and the entire price for all three tickets AND the car was less than just the three tickets alone! Done.. book it now please!
Another option is to use the Name Your Own Price. The pop ups all claim you can save an average of 40% by using that option. Upside: Saving money rocks! Downside: They get to pick your flight and route (something to consider if time of day is important).
I usually make an offer that I honestly would fall over if they accepted but I would be one happy camper to pay. And they usually politely decline..but offer a counter offer back to me. This counter offer is usually less than the original price for the tickets and if I am including a car or hotel rooms it is always a major savings.
So the tip for using Priceline.. search for your tickets. Then make an offer on the Name Your Own Price and see if it will go through. If not, consider the counter offer compared to other airlines.