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How Far do you Typically Travel to Shop?

Living in relatively unpopulated rural areas has distinct advantages. It also has a few disadvantages. One of those disadvantages has to do with shopping, such as for food, clothing, household goods, and so forth. As a rule, people in rural areas need to travel farther to do that shopping. How about you?

I live in a small town, though our place is within the town limits. There are fewer than 1,000 people in our entire valley. There aren’t a lot of businesses in town since the population is too small to support many. So we have one grocery store, two hardware stores, two gas stations, a feed store, a small discount store, and a few other small businesses. We have no clothing stores, department stores, no pet stores, and so forth.

Most of our groceries are purchased at our single store, located about four blocks from our home. We would need to go a minimum of 24 miles to get to the nearest other grocery store. If we need to get clothing or what-have-you, we need to go to one of three population centers; Kalispell, Polson, or Missoula. All of these are about 70-80 miles away. This is a trip we make once every couple of months, on average, of necessity.

Some things we can purchase online. The problem with that is that we don’t have rural postal delivery, so we must go to the post office to get our mail. They are limited in the number and size of the packages they can handle. Some things can be delivered by UPS or FedEx, but even they limit what they’ll deliver. Additionally, we can only order things online for delivery when we have a clear-cut idea of what we want. We don’t have the luxury of shopping around if we only have a vague notion of what we want to get. Quite often, we simply do without if we can’t find something in town.

I suspect that many people, particularly those who live in cities and metropolitan areas, would find this situation difficult to deal with at first. Many people have a lot of different stores to shop at within a few miles of home. The notion of traveling 70-80 miles to get to where the stores are might be foreign to a number of folks. What’s more, the prices at our single store tend to be a little high. That is another topic, though.

It is a point of curiosity to me, how far people typically travel to do the majority of their shopping for food, clothing, and everything else.

Note: The picture was taken of the forest fire we had just out of town a couple of years ago. The reason I’m using it is that the view overlooks our town and might give a fairly good idea of how small the town is.

  • Typically, how far from home do you travel to do your shopping?

    • Less than a mile
    • 1-5 miles
    • 5-20 miles
    • Over 20 miles
    • Most of my shopping is done online


What do you think?

11 Points

Written by Rex Trulove


    • I suspect that we will start doing more shopping about 20 miles from here. Actually, 24 miles from here. That is how far away our county seat is, and they have a much larger grocery store there. The prices aren’t greatly different than here, though some things are much cheaper. Still, they have a much larger selection.

  1. I grew up in Southern Indiana where if you wanted something special you traveled! But here is the one difference –

    20 miles on the open road is roughly 30 minutes or less of driving.
    20 miles in DC? that can be up to 2 hours.

    so mostly as long as it is simple, we go to Amazon!

    • I hear that. The one reason I dislike going to Missoula is that the traffic is atrocious. It is worse if it is rush hour or a college sporting event ends. It takes roughly an hour and ten minutes to drive from here to Missoula (~80 miles), but if we go to Walmart there, it can take us an hour and ten minutes from the time we leave the parking lot until we get out of the city. And Missoula doesn’t cover much area, only about 30 sq mi.