I have been working on similar plans for the last 10 years or more, as I prepare for retirement. There is a lot of research you can do on every aspect. The books that were mentioned above are very good.
Two others that I found informative were:
Blue Water, Green Skipper, by Stuart Woods. And Fastnet, Force 10, by John Rousmaniere.
Stuart Woods book is good because he tells the entire process he went through to go from being a completely novice, to experienced sailor, and ultimately a race sailor crossing the Atlantic.
In making my list of suitable boats to fit my needs, I found it very helpful to read lots and lots of used boat reviews. I found the Spinsheet sailboat reviews to be particularly informative. Boats are rated according to their suitability for Bay Cruisers, Coastal Cruisers, and Bluewater Boats.
My wife was concerned about what the cruising life might be like, as she had no knowledge of it whatsoever, and had not done all of the reading, dreaming, and research that I have done. So I booked us on a week long Cruise and Learn bare boat Skippers course out of Vancouver. It was great. I specifically requested one of their female sailing instructors so that my wife would feel more comfortable spending a week on a boat with me is the only man. The instructor was great and the course covered every single thing that's included in ASA 101, 103, & 104 sailing courses. In addition the course included boat handling, docking, anchoring, mooring, chart reading, pre-sail checklists, and enough navigation to find your way back to base.
It was great to have direct hands-on experience doing all aspects of things required for cruising. The Cruise and Learn course was scheduled in conjunction with the sailing school's members flotilla, so my wife got to meet other sailing wives and see that there are actually women who go out to sea on small boats, with their husbands, do just fine, and return home safely.
We anchored one night, we moored on a mooring ball another night, and we visited two marinas, even joining the flotilla group for dinner and drinks one night.
I have since built on my experience from that, by doing two, week long charters, in the Florida Keys, and one out of Oriental North Carolina.
These are some ideas about how you might gain some experience and knowledge.
There are a number of YouTube videos taken by people who have passed through the Panama Canal. My conclusion from watching those videos, is that it is a rather expensive, and somewhat involved process. It's not something you just go and do without some research.
Best of luck