As the title states.. A long (possibly my longest) VFR XC is coming up in less than 2 weeks and I will have the "luxury" of being dynamic with plans and return days(see my other thread). It's summer, almost every single day, everywhere on the east coast is scattered thunderstorms. I would like to be able to safely fly even when the conditions may not be "the best" (obviously within safe limits, of course) I know everyone and every situation is different as far as minimums and there isnt really a "set in stone" rule (there might be for some) but since I'm doing a local flight tomorrow with some weather that could count as minimums(or not), I would like to know some of your decision making insights. Example: Tomorrow I want to go up (with a couple of co-workers) and practice on leaning the engine better and just fly around using autopilot to gain more "trust" with it. (140hrs, maybe .3 of has been flown by the autopilot, in a fully equipped autopilot plane). I wanted to climb a little high and really work on leaning at different altitudes and such. TAF as of now is as follows: 23007KT P6SM VCSH SCT020 BK040 Looks like I wouldn't be able to climb high and working on leaning like I wanted. Thats fine, I could still work on getting comfortable using the autopilot but I would probably want to do that a little high too. That's fine. I could practice landings and take offs but heres where the question comes in: I would like to fly local but not necessarily only in the pattern since I would love to fly my friends around. I will go with the mentality of staying in the pattern and if the weather looks good enough and I feel confident maybe fly within the vicinity. What should I look for and keep an eye out as I make my decision to leave or stay the pattern? I know its an obvious question (lowering ceilings, vis, etc) but just trying to get some different perspectives and experiences from you folks.