I live in San Diego and just let my pass expire after 4 years.... I used to be able to go all the time, but now I have a full time job and do volunteer work.... On top of it, everyone else I know didn't renew their passes an I need to take a year off to save money, gas, etc. it sucks, but I know I will be back again.
If you ate going the hotel route, I recommend travelodge. They are clean, cheap, and have shuttles directly to the park. I also recommend bringing your own drinks/camelbacks. It does wonders to stay hydrated. If you plan to have dinner at the parks, get the picnic package for WOC. It's worth it. Above all: just enjoy being there! I hope you get all the help that you can from here!