If you don't count a three year stretch when my family stayed at different resorts in the Disney Village Hotel Plaza (on-property, though not Disney-owned resorts) the last time I stayed off-site when visiting Disney World coincided with the time when President Reagan was shot, so it's been quite a while. As a child, I enjoyed my two stays at the Howard Johnson's Main Gate, which was located on US 192, just outside the Disney property line, but being a child I don't have copious notes from those visits. I remember spending a lot of time in the swimming pool, using the putting green, and ending most days in the game room. As a kid, you couldn't ask for much more. As an adult, things like safety, efficiency, quiet, cost, and comfort become more important. I put those to the test with a three night stay at the Clarion Inn Lake Buena Vista early in March, 2015.
WHAT DID I MISS?
You do lose out of a number of conveniences when staying away from Disney property, namely:
• No Disney's Magical Express transportation to and from the airport
• No Disney Resort Airline Check-In / Bag Check
• No 60 Day Window to Make FastPass+ Reservations
• No Extra 10 Days to Make Dining Reservations
• No Free Parking on Disney property
• Limited Bus Transportation to/from the Parks
• No Access to Extra Magic Hours
• No Additional MagicBands
• No Room Charge or Package Delivery to Resort with Disney Purchases
• No Priority Access to the Parks on Peak Days (only applies around Christmas, New Year's, and Independence Day)
WOULD I STAY OFF-SITE AGAIN?