When it comes to Disney though, you can't beat staying on property. Extra Magic Hours, free transportaion, free parking for resort guest, relatively close proximity to the parks given the enourmous size of the Disney compound, and pretty stellar service to boot. I stayed on site for the first time in 2001, then I went back 2 years later with my girlfriend and her family and stayed off site at a Motel 6 I believe. That was the last time I would ever do that. The difference is night and day. As of now I stay at the moderate resorts, which I find to be fairly priced considering the level of theming and amenities they provide. Ofcourse the goal is to experience some of the Deluxe resorts eventually. Maybe next stay at the world.
For Universal Orlando, I found the cost of the hotels to be prohibitively high, so I have never stayed there. We checked out the Hard Rock Hotel's pool and lobby, and they looked fantastic. It was practically freezing outside but the heated pool was full of guests. looked like lots of fun. We stayed in our timeshare in Orlando for that visit.
That having been said, our last 5 or 6 trips have found us staying at Ramada Resort Main Gate West. Price has been good plus the indoor pool is wonderful for days when the weather is bad (which hasn't happened all that often). Lots of food choices along Irlo Bronson help pick the spot.
It adds something special when you stay on-site at the resorts. The early/late entrance and front of the line options are nice, but I love being totally surrounded by Disney/Universal when we vacation to those spots. Even when you're at the pool or in your room kicking back, there's something nice about being immersed in all of that magic.
I stayed in the Cedar Point hotel for a couple of years (breaker's express) because it was nearby and didn't cost that much. But now even booking months in advance is too expensive.
I usually stay at Country Inns, because I do this a lot and I get a lot of points which saves me money, and they have rooms with 2 queen beds in them, which means my whole family can crash somewhat comfortably.
We do timeshares as well, but I rarely stay at one resort area long enough. We did use our timeshare for Dollywood last year.
If you are vacationing at USF, there is no better way to do it than to stay on-site. Between the 5 minute walk to the parks (which allows for better rest times at night) to the express feature of the room keys, there is no better value in the area.