London is a starter city for U.S. parents who want to take their kids out of the country, after you've explored the nearest metropolitan city and your national parks. "They speak English in London but a child will know just how foreign it is, with things like Marmite," says Bellows. "The wonderful thing about it is, this is a little like Harry Potter world. It's familiar enough to be safe and foreign enough to be thrilling."
Older children will love the ghoulish (and true) tales of the Tower of London. Begun in the 1070s by William the Conqueror, the tower was Europe's first fortress. Queen Anne Boleyn was beheaded there in 1536 and is rumored to still haunt the place.
How could medieval warriors run in chain mail armor? How heavy is a stone ax, really? Head to the ruins of the Dominican Black Friary, a short distance from Trim Castle in the town of Trim, Ireland.
Once a home for religious men and women, the friary's ruins are being excavated in a special way. Visitors can get a crash course in excavation and start digging and recording their findings side-by-side with archaeologists and geologists. Younger children get to play at a camp, where they get to pick up heavy stone axes and run in chain mail.
Older children will enjoy a tour of nearby Trim Castle, which starred in the movie "Braveheart." Hugh de Lacy and his son Walter began construction of the castle, the largest Anglo-Norman castle in Ireland, in the 1170s. The castle protected the medieval village, once a commercial and religious powerhouse.
"What amazing architects these people were, and how remarkably old this is," says Bellows. "It's the quintessential castle. It's knights, bow and arrows and blood on the ground."
Bellows grew up in Muskoka, two hours north of Toronto in Ontario's cottage country. "This is where kids can really connect with wilderness, even more so than the Chesapeake," he says.
"There are dark lakes and loons at night. You can come out to a fish, flip the canoes and find the air holes underneath."
Almost anyone can rent a cabin in this area known for its more than 1,600 lakes and leave electronic entertainment behind, he says. "It is simple, simple living. You can take off your shoes for days" and simply run around barefoot.
There's no doubt this trip is expensive. People who want to visit the Galapagos Islands have to take approved tours, designed to protect the islands' fragile ecology. This is where Charles Darwin developed his theory of evolution, where nearby islands have different ecologies and animals who have adapted differently to their environments.
"There is no place like it in the world," says Bellows. "I've been twice, and the first time I went, I realized what Darwin was talking about. You see two birds who look the same but they have different vocalizations. It's like two people speaking English but one person is from Brooklyn and the other is from Boston."
The animals have no fear of humans, so your children will swim with dolphins and turtles and play near seals. But it's not all peaceful.
"I saw a seal attacked by a shark and dying, tortoises leaning into each other, both dead," he says. "You're on a beach and you see crabs hatch prematurely in the middle of the day, slowly breaking down. It's Darwin's theory of evolution and the survival of the fittest."
A tough, but essential, life lesson.