Planets are generally bright, so a dark observing site is less critical than it is for deep-sky objects. And since planets seldom stray more than a few degrees from the ecliptic, the site does not need to provide access to the entire sky.
Planet watching demands no special type of telescope. Steadier and sharper views let you see more with less effort, so the most desirable items are a sturdy equatorial mounting and high-quality optics.
Because atmospheric seeing is rarely steady, most planet observing is done using eye-pieces that yield about 200x magnification or less. But planet watchers should have on hand at least one eyepiece that provides 300x or more. You may not be able to use it very often, but as all planets have apparent sizes smaller than many of the craters on the Moon, large magnifi-cations are called for at times. Many amateurs also use a set of filters—either glass eyepiece filters or the less expensive gelatin ones available from camera stores.
For sketching, a clipboard with a dim red light attached will be handy. Purchase a set of circle and ellipse templates from an art store, along with pencils in several grades (2H to 3B), a stub stick, and a white eraser. Photography with film or CCDs can be challenging, but is another satisfying way to record the planets.
Observing planets is a skill like any other—you get better with practice. Beginners who take their first look at Jupiter, for instance, are often disappointed. "Is that all there is to see?" they think, when their telescope shows a tiny oval disk with just two faint, dusky bands crossing it. Likewise, reports of colors seen in astronomical objects often strike newcomers as exaggerated.
When the sight in the telescope eyepiece is unfamiliar, we need to educate our brain to recognize and understand the image it is receiving. The best way to see more detail is to spend lots of time with your telescope exploring the sky.