What happens when you put 56 kids, each with a family member, on a river cruise? The Discovery Crew cruise set sail to find out …

AAA partnered with AmaWaterways and Allianz Global Assistance to host a group of outstanding eighth graders on a seven-day river cruise that started in Amsterdam and continued through the Netherlands and Belgium. Chosen for essays they each submitted on the meaning of travel, the students went on an educational excursion like none they’ve ever experienced. The result? A life-changing journey—not only for the kids, but their families, too.

“It was wonderful to see her explore the world and learn of opportunities that had never occurred to her,” says Anne Z., a parent on the Discovery Crew cruise.

The Discovery Crew cruise is just one of many family river cruises that’s a perfect match for kids—and education is only one reason to take them along. Here are five more:

1. They actually experience what they only talk about in school

From seeing the impact of historic conflicts to centuries-old architecture, family river cruise itineraries help bring textbooks to life in ways kids will never forget.

The Discovery Crew, for example, cruised the canals of Amsterdam and visited the Anne Frank House, where they saw inside the secret annex where Anne Frank and her family lived in hiding for two years. After, the students visited the NEMO Science Museum—the largest science museum in the Netherlands—where they watched a chain reaction and even experimented in a real laboratory. And that was only day one.

Learning opportunities are all over the world—family river cruises can help you and your kids get up close and personal.

2. Together, your family experiences new cultures (and cuisines)

Family river cruises can help your kids see the world in a context different from their own experiences—which in return highlights cultural differences, such as languages, environmental efforts, local cuisine and even politics.

And what’s a better way for kids to see a new side of the world than by visiting a school in a different country? The Discovery Crew did that in Amsterdam and Antwerp, where the kids met with Dutch and Belgian students their own age to learn about their schools’ similarities and surprising differences (like taking your shoes off and putting on slippers before class begins).

Those cultural boundaries aren’t pushed only for your kids. From trying new foods to learning new languages, family river cruises help broaden your perspective, too—resulting in unforgettable memories of experiencing new things together.

3. There is plenty of time to bond

Between work, school and busy schedules, family time can be difficult to plan for. But family river cruises give ample time for parents and kids to bond one-on-one.

With itineraries already crafted for you, river cruises take the guesswork out of family vacations so you can focus on time spent together, instead of planning what you’re going to do next. Plus, they even offer time to go out on your own with your kids in addition to in-depth exploration opportunities within the river cruise itinerary.

The Discovery Crew families grew even closer. Parents helped their kids navigate everything from new friendships to the dance floor. The students strengthened relationships with their parents, as they found new appreciation while exploring an unfamiliar place together.

4. You get to see a lot—and only have to unpack once

Travel sometimes means going to multiple cities or countries and moving from hotel to hotel. But with family river cruises, your home away from home travels with you.

That means when you’re going from point A to point B to point C, you don’t have to worry about leaving anything behind—it’s all on your ship. And for parents on the Discovery Crew cruise, not needing to pack up their child’s and their own luggage was a huge relief. Instead, they could focus on the task at hand: enjoying time with their children and seeing everything the river cruise itinerary had to offer.

5. Your kids are inspired to see the world

When kids experience new countries for the first time on family river cruises, it has lasting effects that not only help instill a desire to see even more but shapes their overall future.

After the Discovery Crew cruise, many of the students came to see that opportunities are everywhere, not just the state and country they live in—and stepping outside their comfort zones isn’t as intimidating as they once thought. Many kids are actively planning their next family trips—Athens, Budapest and Sicily, just to name a few.

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