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Thought this would be a good place to ask, we have a good bunch of guys on here.

Have to plan a cross country for the FAA next week on my checkride. Any tips or can anyone point me to a "layout" of essentials/steps for planning so I don't miss anything?

Well good luck! I'm afraid I can't help you with the CFI ride (yet). Someone will be along soon that can...
I never had to do any kind of XC flight planning for my CFI checkride. The whole thing was about regulations, teaching, and demo flight from the right seat. I had a hec of an oral and a tough flight, but not a single question related to XC flight planning, XC flying, or diversions.

Im guessing your examiner is going to want you to teach him flight planning or some phase of XC flight. Just plan a normal XC and be certain its a text book example to use as a demo or to teach from.
I had to teach cross-country planning for my CFI. I had no idea what I was going to have to teach going in, so I didn't have a flight plan ready. He said, "Teach me how to create a flight plan to go to Ryan Field in Tucson." I pulled out my chart and flight plan log and went step-by-step and made a flight plan.

He didn't expect me to spend 4 hours and get into every detail, he just wanted to know that I had the basics down and I knew what I was doing. I went through choosing a path, taking into account that I would either go around or through the PHX Bravo and considering airspaces I'd encounter. I went through choosing good checkpoints, determining true course and converting that to magnetic heading, how to use an E6B, reading performance charts to determine top of climb, fuel burn, time enroute, etc.

Basically, be able to explain everything you did on your flight plan and the reasons behind choices you made. I think it would be best to have a flight plan ready, then create the same flight plan in front of him. Quiz the DE, acting as a student, about decisions he would make. Is that a good checkpoint? What makes it good/bad? Would you contact Approach? If so, when? What frequency? What would you say? What altitude will you fly at and why? etc etc

Teach him wind triangles, some DEs really like that!

Teach him wind triangles, some DEs really like that!

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Thanks for the tips.
Wind Triangles! Damn...I never was taught to use them, and know little about them (except for what was asked on the CFI knowledge test) lol!

I am going to have to dig in my books to find more about them!