I'm having a blast with my hobbyzone champ. It's perfect for the beginner. It's small, takes a beating and it's a rtf kit. Bad side is wind is not its friend. I flew mine at work, put it in the wind and handed the controler to two guys at work who have never flown a rc plane. Two minuets later they had the hang of it.
I started with the Park Zone RTF Night Vapor. The box it came in was also its own traveling case. The weight was low and because it flew so slow little crashes dent did not hurt it. Every thing that you needed was already supplied. The only draw back is it that it does not like wind at all. It flies great when there is no wind. Plus if you have a large enough room in the house, it is able to fly there.
I'll second Baron's Vapor vote *as long as* you have at least a clear 20x20' room. I've got a finished, enclosed 2-car garage (20x20x8'), and I can *barely* fly a figure 8 w/o going into high alpha (plane is hanging from it's propeller, not really lifting w/ it's wings). If you have the indoor space, you have the advantage of flying whenever you have time. When it's calm outside, it's a joy to let it go. Very stable, very slow, very easy to control.
Will help learn attitude & orentation (which way is it pointing, do I move the stick right or left to turn the way I want to go), throttle/elevator managment (throttle for altitude, elevator for speed), Crash damage avoidance (chop the throttle when you're in trouble) and yes, minor repair. If you go this route, get a 1mm prop saver (hard to find, but worth it) and check out the vapor mod thread over on RC-groups for tips to repair and reenforce the weak points.
That's good, but what do you want to do? Being able to build and understanding everything that goes along with it are two different things. If your build doesn't go just right and it flies wrong, knowing why and how to fix it can be frustrating. If you start with something RTF then it's just replacing parts after a crash. It's instant gratification whereas a build can be a pain in the butt. So, which direction do you feel like going?