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Reserving point to point train tickets and getting 8 seats together

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I have 3 questions as I start looking into train tickets (see questions at the bottom if you're in a hurry).

I'm slowly working through my planning for our May/June trip. I need to book the following train tickets:
Amsterdam to Paris
Paris to Lucerne
Lucerne to Bregenz
Salzburg to Prague

Our group consists of 2 families with 4 per family (2 adults / 2 children per family, ages 13-18). We've traveled thru Europe on 3 trips previously and the last trip we took the children. Each of those times we purchased some type of EuRail pass. In 2011 when we took the children we purchased the passes about 6 months out and then I called EuRail exactly 3 months out and they made all of our reservations. We sat together on all of our trains and often had groups of 4 around a table, with 2 at the small table across the aisle and the remaining 2 close by. It made those long trips much more enjoyable being able to talk easily and play games along the way.

As I've been doing research for this trip's train ticket purchase I'm realizing that we probably paid a premium in the past to get the passes and I'm pondering getting point to point tickets this time instead. I'm sure I'll be coming back to this forum a lot during this process. But for now I have 3 questions:

Question #1: Is there a way to have as much control over the reservation locations when doing this on my own? Can I call each of the train companies I'll be using and talk to someone about how we'd like to sit? Or do I simply tell them there are 8 in our group and the computer decides where we sit? If that's the case then the passes are more enticing.

Question #2: When we purchased passes in the past the process was that we'd buy the passes at our leisure (step 1) and then wait until reservations opened up. Then we'd call the pass company back and finalize the reservations (step 2). When you're buying point to point can you even purchase the tickets before reservations are opened...or do you have do step 1 and 2 at the same time, and that's not possible until reservations open up?

Question #3: From monitoring a recent thread I noticed that it's now possible to make reservations more than 3 months out for some tickets. Is it certain countries or certain routes that do this? Or do you just have to try and buy each ticket you want and at that time determine how far out you can purchase?

Thanks for digging through all of this.

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