"You bring up a good point about winds aloft. Extrapolate that out to weather planning. One of us should do a post on the timing and the weather products used in planning a trip. I nominate you."
I monitor the weather (wx) a week in advance for my trips so that I have a rough idea if the flight will even happen. Once the extended forecast is looking good I will monitor a host of web sites that provide all the wx info a pilot could wish for.
I will check in with the AOPA wx pages and various other sites such as Duats, Vansairforce, Skew T diagrams, wx Underground, NOAA's Model Output Statistics and Aero Weather TAF forecast on my iPhone. I have included a few of the graphics that I mentioned and use for planning.
I like to start out with the Wx Underground extended forecast for that overall long range plan.
I follow up with the AOPA wx links and review freezing levels, IFR conditions and turbulence. You can also update TAF info for your route and destination airport. This planning helps me put together plan B and C outs that I had to use this past Thanksgiving flight.
As I get closer to the day of my flight I'll review each of the links mentioned above and add in the DUATS link.
One of the best information pages for wx, a one stop shop, Vans Airforce wx page covers just about everything you will need for flight planning.
On the day of departure I will review Skew T diagrams for all my planned stops and my emergency outs (the plan B). If you haven't used this product I strongly suggest you try it. There are Skew T training CD's available and some online courses. If you experiment with the graphs you can also look down the list of Altitudes with temps/dew points, wind direction and wind speed.
I have also added in the NOAA wx page that provides a look at ceilings, winds, precip, and other useful info.
This is just an overview. I click through each of these pages everyday starting a week out, prior to my overnight trips. I try to get a feel for the wx patterns, where to look for what's coming in to the destination airport and how to flight plan my emergency outs.
The flight planning portion was covered in a previous post I put together back in December 2007 and Dave's post, Flight Planning, details a more current look at the tools available to each pilot and the process.
As a fellow pilot and keeper of a flight journal put it, "Trepidation over planning a trip to a new airport? Understandable. Concern over flying into an uncontrolled field? Understandable. But is it a justification for not going? No more so than planning a dinner at a new eatery on the far side of town. Like eating any pizza, you have to do it one bite at a time." Another great quote from Flights of the Mouse.