I got the following advice from a travel agent @ the following address:
Bass Travel LTD
1603 W Pinhook Rd
Lafayette, LA 70508
I mentioned to the travel agent that I was thinking about staying off the grounds & she gave me the following advice:
My advice it to stay at a Disney property-there is so much added in when you stay on the grounds,
1. the use of Disney's Magical Express, which will pick you up from the airport and bring you to your resort, they also handle your luggage and it will meet you in your room! And when you are ready to leave they pick you up from your resort and bring you back to the airport.
2. "Extra Magic Hours"-everyday one of the parks will either open early or stay open late just for guests staying at a Disney property, and I can tell you from experience that it is great-no lines, especially during the night hours, (once you check in they will give you a calendar for the week telling you which parks have the extra hours).
3. If you stay at a Disney resort you have round the clock transportation to each of the theme parks from the front door of your resort. Take for instance the Pop Century (been there, loved it) right outside the front door are several bus stops- stop 1 heads right to the Magic Kingdom, stop 2- Epcot, stop 3- MGM Studios, stop 4- Disney's Animal Kingdom, stop 5- Downtown Disney and stop 6 heads to the water parks. And once you are ready to leave the park you head right outside the gates and find the bus stop which takes you right back to your resort.
4. Disney's Dinning Package-this optional package includes 1. one counter service/quick service meal-which includes and entrée, side and drink, 2. one table service/sit down meal-which includes an appetizer, entrée, drink and dessert and 3. one snack-which includes either ice cream, a soda, cookies, popcorn, etc... per day per person and there are over 100 different places through out the parks and the resorts that you can use this plan. The plan is roughly $35/day/adult and $12/day/child, it does seem like a lot at once but anyone who has been to Disney before knows just how pricey the food can be. **I will give you a personal example- before becoming a travel agent my husband and I went to Disney for 5 days, before the dinning plan existed, and we went to a great 4 star restaurant in the MGM Studios called Mama Melrose's (fantastic Italian food). We both had tea, split an appetizer, each had an entrée and split dessert and our bill was well over $120, with the tip. Needless to say that was our only big meal of that trip. This past April we went again with our 18-month old daughter and this time decided to try the dinning plan. We went back to Mama Melrose's and had 2 drinks, 2 appetizers, 2 entrées, and 2 desserts and all we had to do was swipe our dinning card and that was it, even the tip was already built in. This time we ate like that every night because it was included in the dinning plan. Plus we were each able to trade in one of our sit down meals and do a character dinner, Chef Mickey, which our daughter loved. (Chef Mickey usually runs about $26 per person). So that's my personal endorsement for the dinning plan. :-)
Hopefully this helps!