The Deal Mommy

Three is the Worst Age to Fly. Here’s Why

Three is the worst age to fly. Here's why.

Cute enough to almost make you forget the nightmare getting there. Almost.

I’m so glad that Sam from Milenomics has returned to the keyboard. He wrote today about how his two and a half year old is a joy in the skies. While I hate to ruin Sam’s day I have to let him in on what I’ve learned: three is the worst age to fly.

Before you think the “three year olds suck in the sky” phenomenon is unique to my kids, many stories I’ve read about a family ejected from a flight involved a three year old. Reasons range from incessant screaming to projectile vomiting to refusing to buckle up to generalized mayhem. 

Most parents who have been out the other side will tell you that “terrible twos” is a misnomer. While two has its challenges, in many ways three-nagers have even more. A three year old might not turn into a poo-koo clock over the Atlantic like two year old Deal Kid did. However, our flying adventures with Deal Kid then Deal Girl at three made me nostalgic for the good old days of blowouts at 30K feet. 

The circumstances vary but usually come from a toxic combination. Two of the ingredients parents of two-year olds will recognize: strong will and lack of self-control.

While a temper combined with a stubborn streak are annoying, as a parent you can cajole, bribe, or do whatever you have to do to get a toddler to calm down on a plane. Worse comes to worse, you can let the kid scream it out while you hold him down. Of course your seatmates won’t love you, but it is manageable. Two year olds are squirmy but generally small enough to control.

Three Year Olds add Another Ingredient to the Mix: Size.


Three year olds are bigger, heavier, and louder. A difference you desperately feel racing through O’Hare on a forty-five minute connection with your “big boy” who won’t ride in the stroller and kicks and thrashes when carried. Or when he won’t consent to an airline seat belt until you hold him down while your spouse does the buckle. 

“But three year olds are potty trained” you might retort. Yes, but prone to accidents. Especially with the extreme air pressure changes going on in their digestive systems inflight. You still have to pack extra clothes for both the kid and you. 

Of course three year olds don’t behave like tasmanian devils all of the time- at times they’re charming, helpful and downright cute. However, like Taz, you can never predict when your little creature will go Looney Tunes on you. 

And I’m not even mentioning that other factor…by the time you have a three year old you might have one of these as well:

What's the worst age to fly?

And then you get to do it all over again.

Readers: how was your experience flying with a three year old? Please share in the comments. 


What's the worst age to fly? I have a definite answer.

12 thoughts on “Three is the Worst Age to Fly. Here’s Why

  1. Sam Simon

    I’ve so far had way, way harder times on the ground in destinations. The Maui Meltdown and Portland Pout are events neither my wife nor I will be able to dis-associate with those trips. I hope you didn’t just jinx me Dia!

  2. Kelly

    I can’t remember much of flying with a three year old. I think we didn’t actually didn’t fly as much then. But I will second that the threes were way worse than the terrible twos for all of my kids!

  3. pfdigest

    I think ~18 months is harder… they want to walk around and play but they don’t understand that they can’t, plus giving them a tablet/smartphone doesn’t pacify them for very long.

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Seems to be about a 75/25 split between 3 and 18 months. Mine at that age would fall asleep just as the jet engines turned on.

    2. JW

      agree on the 18 months range (14-22 months for our twins, our singleton hit 14 months and is starting to be a problem on 5+hour flights). We did 1+months all over Europe when our twins were 3 years old and 2.5-3.5 years old was a golden time for us. They still listened, had more stamina, understood what was going on, and games/toys/screens/movies worked.

  4. Chuck N

    We found flying with our 3yo. twins much easier than 2 yo, I can’t stress how much easier it was at 3, 2 was miserable, three was a breeze…for us.

  5. Pingback: Best and Worst Ages to Fly with Your Child - Trips With Tykes

  6. Pingback: Tips for Traveling with a Toddler - asthejoeflies

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