Staying off property has never been an option for my family due to the transportation and other perks that go along with staying at a Disney resort. If you must stay off property, one hotel that I would recommend is the Wyndham. Its close proximity to Downtown Disney, incredible pool area, and Disney feel still make you feel like you are staying at a great resort without the additional costs of staying on property.
The Wyndham is just East of Downtown Disney in the cluster of hotels that overlook Downtown Disney's Marketplace. There is a bus that comes right to the hotel for the Disney Parks. It is free of charge and arrives every thirty minutes. Now if you are wanting to go to Universal, it costs $35 per person one way, but I am really not worried about going there yet. The hotel, itself, is even within walking distance of Downtown Disney so you don't have to worry about parking.
The pool are includes a view of a quaint little lake surrounded by natural foliage, a heated “kids” pool with a rock waterfall and water playground, the cold/adult pool that is not as popular, a hot tub, cabanas, and ample seating. There is also a pool side bar, bathrooms, and a sign for a spa that comes to you.
Even though it is not on property, they must have a deal with Disney. First clue is the charge for the drive to Universal. There is a Disney Store in the lobby and there is even a character breakfast at the hotel's restaurant.
I had never considered staying somewhere else when visiting Disney World other than a Disney resort, but now I have a different perspective on the hotels near Downtown Disney. It is close to Downtown Disney, which means close to both boat and bus transportation, free entertainment, and yummy snacks. The pool area and even the view of the lake have some of entertainment mixed with nature feel that I love at Disney Resorts. The fact that some of the Disney magic is still possible at the non-Disney hotel is really nice. The staff, especially the valet person, were helpful and the hotel was surprisingly better than I expected. I would recommend the Wyndham to anyone wanting to stay by and not at Disney World.