1. Variation in behaviours involved in habitat selection is important for several evolutionary and ecological processes. For example, habitat use during dispersal may differ from breeding habitat use, and for dispersers the scale of habitat familiarity is determined by exploratory behaviour. We studied habitat use and exploration of 56 radio-collared juvenile flying squirrels Pteromys volans L. within natal home range and during dispersal, and compared habitat use between juveniles and 37 adults within breeding home range. 2. Before dispersal, young flying squirrels actively moved around the natal site. Surprisingly, long-distance dispersers explored less than short-distance dispersers, but philopatric individuals explored similar distances as dispersers. Females explored less than males, although females are the more dispersive sex in flying squirrels. 3. For most of the individuals the settlement area was unfamiliar due to long dispersal distance. Consequently, direction and distance of exploration were not very strong predictors of settlement location. However, individuals familiar with the settlement area concentrated exploration to that area. Exploration did not correlate with short-term survival. 4. Dispersers preferred breeding habitat while dispersing, but were found more often in matrix habitat than juveniles within natal, or adults within breeding, home ranges. 5. We conclude that familiarity does not determine settlement as much as, for example, availability of the habitat for flying squirrels. Based on our results, it also seems clear that data on adult habitat use are not enough to predict habitat use of dispersing individuals. In addition, our results support the recent view that short- and long-distance dispersers may need to be analysed separately in ecological and evolutionary analyses.