Flight planning can be a pain in the rear a lot of the time. Especially in X-Plane. I am well on the “I don’t know what the heck I’m talking about” side of things, but I have found some free software called Plan-G very useful.
When you run Plan-G you can point it at your flight simulator path (X-Plane, FSX, FS9 and Prepar3d are supported), and build a database of airports and nav-aids. Once this is done, you can create flight plans, and then save them in a format that your simulator can understand (FMS for X-Plane), and in a location that your simulator can find them. You can then load up the flight plan in your simulator, and use the built-in ATC and fly it.
But wait! There’s more!
Combined with a plugin for X-Plane called XPUIPC (or SimConnect, or FSUIPC for MS-based flight sims), you can easily ‘Connect’ to your simulator and view live flight data with map following and even AI planes. You can even connect to VATSIM (just a matter of clicking a button) and see where people are flying in real-time. If you’re running Plan-G on the same computer as where X-Plane is running, it’s a simple matter of clicking the ‘Connect’ button. If you’re using Plan-G on a remote computer, you’ll need to run the XPWideClient (included in the XPUIPC plugin download), and then click the ‘Connect’ button (It took me quite a while to figure out that it required XPWideClient for remote connections. Drove me batty!)