Tots tucked away, adults can play

Special to The Times

YOU watched the Bellagio fountains leap for hours to soulful tunes, stared at the sharks at Mandalay Bay Resort’s reef for so long they seem to have aged before your eyes, circled New York-New York Hotel on its roller coaster so many times that even your kids are weary of it.

What comes next, Mom and Dad? Is there time for you now that the sun has set and the slots and shows on the Strip beckon?

A Mary Poppins-style sitter might be the answer. Depending on your needs, comfort level and budget, sitters are available to come to your hotel room to unleash you for an evening.

“When you think of dropping $50 on a table or $20 into a machine, then $12 an hour is nothing to have someone watch your children,” says Sandy White, a mother of two from Escondido who booked a Vegas sitter for two nights in November. “It turned the trip around for us.”


White searched Craigslist classified ads ( to find Lyndsay Fletcher, a full-time Las Vegas nanny who moonlights as a sitter for tourists. She has references but no specific training, background checks or liability insurance.

“I’ve never had anyone say they needed a background check or ask for more. I’d advise parents to speak with the sitter and follow your instincts,” says Fletcher, 21. “If you don’t feel comfortable, move on. Ask them the questions you’d ask another mother.”

In the same price range, you’ll find 77-year-old “Grandma Dotti” Brooks, a retired hotel waitress who works part time making change at slot machines. She has eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren and runs a baby-sitting business.

“These little people depend on you for their lives and don’t you ever forget it,” Brooks says. She places the highest value on her sitters’ experience with their own children too, but says all have had criminal background checks and some know CPR.


Brooks won’t give references, though, because she considers that a violation of her clients’ privacy. “I don’t hire teens,” she says. “If a kid swallowed his tongue or something, a 13-year-old wouldn’t know what to do.”

Haven’t reached your comfort level yet? Hang on.

If you want a baby-sitter who is backed by six figures in liability insurance, has passed rigorous background checks, can handle an autistic child or a child who speaks only Japanese, Lexy Capp can help you.

Her agency, Nannies & Housekeepers U.S.A.,, charges $140 for a minimum four-hour block. That insurance coverage makes hers the only agency approved by several elite hotels and is the only recommendation you’ll get from their staffs.


“I’ve had some balk at her rates,” says Anne Marie Whitmore-Zepeda, concierge at the Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas. “A guest will call and I’ll hear children in the background. I’ll say, ‘Would you like to consider a night out?’ ”

Capp says most of the hotel nannies she employs are schoolteachers supplementing their income. Her agency faxes a photo of the nanny, who arrives 15 minutes early and wears a uniform consisting of a red polo shirt and khaki slacks. “Being the exclusive agency to many hotels, we’ve never said no to anything,” Capp says. “We always make an impossible situation possible.”

Sarah Lebensfeld of Long Island, N.Y., was wary about leaving 9-month-old Dylan with a sitter while she watched her father play in a poker tournament at the Bellagio. Then, she says, the perfect sitter from Capp’s agency arrived at her door.

“I wanted someone who had experience with young ones, who had a gentle hand but [was] firm enough to handle a feisty infant,” Lebensfeld says.


At the agency Nanny’s & Granny’s,, your sitter won’t be an insured employee, but you may choose her from tiers of classic, VIP and elite rankings. Four hours with those sitters runs $70 to $155, depending on experience and level of training.

All have passed criminal background checks and Clark County Health Department tuberculosis screenings.

The agency’s high-level sitters have completed child-development courses and have cultural training that helps them better serve foreign families.

“I had my only child at 40 and was the most neurotic mother,” says Carol Hale, who has owned the business for 25 years.


“You have to understand the comfort level of both the child and the mother. I get, ‘Don’t send an ugly sitter or don’t send a pretty one because I don’t want my husband flirting with her.’ We get all kinds of requests.”

The best trip is the one that meets the needs of the big people as well as the little ones. Escondido mom White hosted a surprise birthday cocktail party in the suite while her sitter played air hockey with her children in the game room downstairs.

“After that, I had a great dinner out with no one’s fingers in my food,” she says. “My husband and I got to dance together, which we hadn’t done in God-knows-how-long. It changed everything.”



Kids on Board columnist Mary McNamara is on maternity leave.