If your focus is to be Disney, then I suggest you stay in Disney. This will be by far the most convenient.
If you are on a budget and/or prefer to spend your evenings eating in non-Disney restaurants, etc, OR if your focus is to be mixed with, or even emphasised on, the other area attractions (Universal, Sea World etc) then stay off site.
If staying off site, then may I suggest that you consider shuttles to be a secondary means of "commuting". For almost all hotels, shuttle schedules are limited and hence limiting. And where there is a charge (some hotels do, some don't) they can be quite costly. So, by all means, use a shuttle if it is "free" and convenient.
But for greatest flexibility, provided that you choose your location well, there is a good, frequent and inexpensive local public bus service that you can use to "commute".
The optimum place for a non-driver doing a spread of attractions without driving has to be International Drive. I-Drive is really in three parts each with very different character:
1: South of Sea World......some very new resorts but some can be a long walk from a bus stop and there's a small but increasing level of commercial activity (shops, restaurants) in the area. The area north of Premium Outlets is well served by buses (see below) but south/west of here there is no public transport to speak of.
2: Between Sea World and Sand Lake Rd.......dominated by the huge Convention Centre, this is a lovely tree-lined avenue with well spread hotels and restaurants of all types, styles, standards and budgets, interspersed with some shopping and one or two attractions.
Running parallel with I-Drive between the Convention Centre and Sand Lake Rd (and beyond) is Universal Blvd. Whilst Universal Blvd has no LYNX buses in this area, it's less than 1/4 mile (across a parking lot, usually) to I-Drive so, for all it matters, it's the same place. There are newer properties on Universal and, being a bit further away from I-4, has less traffic noise. This is where I'd look first.
3. North/East of Sand Lake Rd.......this is probably the "old" part of I-Drive. Less attractive, greater concentration of low-end shops, restaurants and hotels. This is probably the area many refer to as "tacky"......so, if you like "tacky", here's where to go.
To get a better idea of the I-Drive geography, take a look at the I-Ride trolley route map here
The I-Ride trolley is very limited in its route, and doesn't actually go to the major attractions so, for that reason I don't recommend it as a means of transport. But the map gives an idea of the locations of the hotels and restaurants in the area so is a good starting point.
LYNX bus (the city bus) services on I-Drive are excellent and will take you to all the major attractions, and other eating and shopping venues, typically with a frequency of half-hourly or better; they run late (into the small hours on some routes) and cost only $16 for a week's unlimited use of the whole system. Some of my forum posts have details.
What about LBV?
The Marriott Village at LBV has an hourly shuttle to Disney in the morning , 10 min walk to the Orlando Premium Outlet mall and 20-30 min walk to Down town Disney.
I would recommend LBV too, somewhere like Sheraton Safari is within walking distance to lots of restaurants and a supermarket, its located just outstide the Disney perimeter and has shuttles to the parks.
Lake Buena Vista (LBV) is very popular, but the local stuff - restaurants, etc - are a lot more spread out than on I-Drive, and so it's actually less suited to a non-driver. Bus services (such as they are) are less frequent and much of the area - including the locations of many eateries - have no service at all. So you walk or take a taxi.
It's true that it's only a 10 minute walk from the Mariott complex to Premium Outlet and the bus terminus there - and I wouldn't find that too onerous. But it's far more convenient to be able to walk right out of a hotel to a bus stop and ride any one of three or four frequent services to a restaurant. Or even, walk to the restaurant with no bus ride.
I still maintain that, for a non-driver and a spread of intended activities (i.e. not just WDW), I-Drive is the best overall location.
We stayed at the Quality Inn International and this was a great location for the I Ride plus there is free transport to Universal Parks. This year we are doing a 2 centre with the first 9 nights at the Quality Inn and then 5 nights at the Animal Kingdom Lodge where we will make use of the Disney transportation.
We stayed at the Rozen plaza on I drive which is at the convention centre location, absoutely fab location , free shuttles to univeral and seaworld, 156dollars each return for disney and a fantastic bus service right out side the hotel. Tons of places to eat and shops within seconds of the hotel.
We didnt drive and didnt need to!
We used the hotel shuttle and I-ride. We used a cab to Universal for less than 10 dollars, and a cab to seaworld once or twice which was inexpensive. Wet and Wild was an easy walk and 5 min stroll to I drive.
We would recommend it!
Can i just ask, if you are staying on i drive and want to get to Disney by bus how do you get there? we will be staying at hampton Inn convention.
Also the Disney transportation, is that the buses that run between the different disney parks or around a single park? Im guessing by the sounds of it its free for people staying on resort? How much, and what is it for those of us that are staying elsewhere.
Your full answer to the I-Drive bus question is in your other thread where you asked exactly the same thing.
WDW buses, generally, run between WDW resorts and WDW attractions. They are free to use for anybody. There are also the Monorail lines (x2) and various boat routes. These are all free to use.
Just to give perspective, WDW is an area of over 40 square miles - bigger then the channel island of Jersey. It contains several theme parks and several resorts (hotels etc) all spread out. 2/3 has nothing built on it.
I cant the thread I asked before on. from memory im sure you said you take the Iride to the end of Idrive and then get a no 50 lynx bus, is that right?
so if you then wanted to get to say Animal kingdom and didnt have a car would you take the 50 to Disney, then what? can you go directly there or is it a case of getting on another bus?
Car hire is starting to look more appertising, even though i would cr*p myself driving over there.