Planning is a primary component of any cross country flight, and in some respects is even more important than the actual execution of the flight. Generally speaking, the more effort and detail you put into your planning, the more smoothly your flight will go
Planning begins with agreeing with your instructor on an appropriate trip. Next, the student and instructor will examining the VFR Sectional map of the region and choosing an exact route. Most flight routes are not straight lines, but instead track a series of way points. A way point can be a visual target, such as a water tower, railroad track or major highway interchange. Alternatively, a way point can be a radio navigation station, and airway intersection, or a lat/long fix located with a GPS device. Typically, instructors try to include a wide variety of types of way points so that the student can understand how each is used.
All of the planning discussed above can be done days or even weeks before the actual flight. However, fuel and weather planning must be done in the hours leading up to the flight itself. If the weather is conducive of the flight, a cruising altitude must be selected, and wind forecasts must be obtained for the entire route at the selected altitude.
A handheld flight computer (either electronic or mechanical) will be used to calculate the headings to be flown along each leg to compensate for the wind.